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Everton v Barcelona

By Matthew Lovekin :  25/01/2011 :  Comments (24) :
No, this is not some dream I had about the 2013 Champions League final. I have also not gone (completely) mad. Barcelona are in fact the club that we should be aspiring to be.

Ok, it may seem a bit far stretched considering our current predicament, but we need to re-assess the club as a whole now and start a plan for future progress. Aim low and you will be disappointed, aim high, and even if you fall short, progress at least should have been made.

I feel as though Everton are at a crossroads now and a future plan needs to be put in place both on and off the field. Therefore, here are a few suggestions for Kenwright and Moyes to help to make us into Barcelona.

On the Pitch

i. Pressure

Any club can do this. The thing that amazes me about Barcelona is that they pressurize their opponents, no matter where they are on the pitch. Whether the opponents goalkeeper, full-backs, midfielders or forwards have the ball, Barcelona players chase them, hassle, pressure and get on top of their bootlaces. Whether the ball is 10 yards, 50 yards or 100 yards away from your goal, you chase the opponent until they make a mistake and give the ball away. Watching Barcelona, its incredible how far up the pitch they get the ball back, either through a misplaced hurried pass or from a resulting throw-in.

Everton on Saturday yet again gave away a goal due to the opposition being given plenty of time and space to pick out a cross just outside of our penalty area. This time I think it was Bily that stood 10 yards away from the West Ham player crossing the ball, whereas I can also remember Everton conceding at least two more goals this season where Baines has just stood off an opponent to give him plenty of time and space to let him pick his target in the box.

Guardiola would never allow his players to stand that far back from an opponent in the opposition penalty area, let alone around ours. You don?t need to have £m?s to spend to chase down an opponent, and no team is too good to not be able to do it. Barcelona are the only team in the world that I have seen do this all over the pitch, and they are by far the best team in the world. Coincidence? Regardless of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, you still have to work hard to be successful.

ii. Formation

This is purely down to Moyes (or another manager). Whether its 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, both of these tactics are outdated. In 2004/5, Moyes and Mourinho were the first two managers to bring 4-5-1/4-3-3 to this country. Although different because of the difference of quality of each set of players, both tactics were meant to be the same. Everton finished 4th that season with a squad that were favourites to be relegated and Chelsea comfortably won the league because the opposition didn?t know how to compete against this new tactic.

World Cup 2010 saw the introduction (new to this country anyway!) of the 4-2-3-1 tactic. England failed miserably with their old fashioned 4-4-2, whilst all eight quarter-finalists played with this new formation.

In other words, Moyes or a new manager need to keep up with the times, or even better, ahead of the times, finding a tactic or formation that other clubs don?t know how to play against.

Amazingly, Barcelona are one of very few clubs that play a 4-3-3, and the opposition struggle against it because they are not used to playing against teams with that formation. Chelsea did it for two years in this country and dominated English football until Abramovich stepped in and purchased his mate Shevchenko and ordered Mourinho to play him, therefore demanding Chelsea changed this winning tactic.

There is no reason why Everton can?t play this tactic now. A basic four man defence with two attacking full-backs (if you feel adventurous), a three man midfield (right to left) of Arteta, Fellaini and Rodwell/Cahill. Arteta and Rodwell/Cahill can get forward as much as possible ala Lampard and Essien, which would also accommodate Cahill into his preferred attacking midfielder role. Fellaini and Rodwell are going to be two great box-to-box midfielders with Arteta the playmaker. Although Iniesta and Xavi are two playmakers, two box-to-box midfielders will probably be more suited to the English Premier League.

The two wide forwards is probably the hardest part. This is where you play a luxury player, that if they give the ball away or don?t chase back, they are so far up the pitch and with three central midfielders and a full-back behind them, it doesn?t matter as much compared to a traditional winger. This position would be perfect for Bily. Push Bily further forward where he has the quality and can create and score. Play Bily the same as Messi plays, on the right, cutting in onto his left foot.

The other wide forward could be Gueye which would probably suit him more as well rather than playing as a winger, and looks like a player that can score or create. Jose Baxter can also play this role, similar to Joe Cole at Chelsea or when Barca push Iniesta into a forward role. The main striker is obviously Beckford, mainly through default as being the only striker capable of scoring a goal, but also a striker with pace which is needed.

In other words, David Moyes, try to update your tactics every now and again. It?s been six years since you changed formation, surely we?re due a change in style again.

Off the Pitch

i. Heritage

Everton, like Barcelona are very proud of our history, heritage and the region where we come from. Although not quite the same, the Catalans have a massive say in how their club is run. Barca?s fans (members called socis) elect a President to run their club over a certain number of years. In other words, it?s the fans that choose how the club is run.

This would be difficult to implement in this country given the status quo. Could you really see Kenwright giving up his major shareholding to let the fans decide who runs the club? However, the fans are the one stable thing at any club, they are the core and heartbeat of the club and make it what it is. Therefore, the fans should be allowed a decent voice on the board and when decisions are made. For example, why can?t the fans have a 25% or 50% say on all important matters? Or, there are currently four directors on the Everton board, why can?t a fans group be a fifth director?

It could even be a money making idea. All fans that want to have a say in the running of the club pay £100 for an annual subscription (they will receive benefits like 10% off merchandise, etc, etc). If 50,000 fans registered, that makes £5m per year.

All ?Evertonian? players should also be encouraged to play for Everton. Similar to Barca chasing Fabregas and re-signing Pique. Everton have signed Baines and Jagielka over the last few years and they have been two of our most committed players, probably because they love the club as much as the fans do. Once a blue, always a blue has become an unofficial motto. Tim Cahill is now an adopted blue and we should pull out all the stops to sign another adoptee Landon Donovan. A first-team of Evertonians would be excellent. It?s not just Barcelona in Spain that try to sign ?their own? but Athletic Bilbao have mostly Basque players in their squad.

ii. Youth Academy

Most players have a love for their club when they come through the youth set-up. Everton have always been very good at bringing through youngsters and even more money and effort should be placed in this area. It?s easy to say Barcelona are the best team in the world when they have the best players, but out of their starting XI, eight players have come through their La Masia academy. Pique might have been re-signed but as mentioned Everton have re-signed Baines and Jagielka. Messi also went to Barcelona at a very young age but Everton have also signed players like Luke Garbutt when very young and then nurtured them and also Seamus Coleman when slightly older. Therefore, both clubs are not too dissimilar, but a bigger emphasis and more money needs to be placed on bringing through a lot more youngsters like Rodwell, Vaughan, Anichebe, Osman and Hibbert.

This should also free up more money so when a big name signing is required like a Dani Alves or David Villa, then there should be money in the transfer kitty, but the emphasis should be on youth.

The youth set-up should be run in exactly the same way as the first-team and reserves, i.e. pressuring the opponent and playing in a 4-3-3 formation. Therefore when a good 16 or 17 year-old progresses into the first-team, it is run similar to the way they are used to and they don?t have to learn how to play differently in a new formation. Pedro at Barcelona slotted seeminglessly into their first-team from the youth team and became a world class player almost immediately.

In the 30 years since La Masia's inauguration, more than 500 youngsters have left their homes and families to stay at the academy. About half of them were from Catalonia. Of those 500, about 10 percent made it into the first team. The academy is one of the most expensive in Europe, operating at a cost of £5 million a year. The main cost is the dormitory. The minimum age for the youth program is six years. Each year, more than 1,000 boys from the ages of six to eight try out for admittance. The best 200 are selected. The club employs a system in which 15 scouts are deployed in Catalonia, 15 in the rest of Spain and 10 scattered throughout the world. Merseyside is nowhere near the size of Catalonia, but if Everton could produce one player a year to go into the first-team, then it will be worth it.

iii. Finances

Ok, Barcelona may not be the best financially run club in the world, given that the club is roughly £375m in debt, but Everton still need to be run properly and compliant with the new UEFA laws. Everton?s last published accounts (2009) saw a turnover of almost £80m (broadcasting £50m, gate receipts £22m and sponsorship £6m), but wages took 62% of this with the wage bill matching what we received from broadcasting. I feel the wage bill should have a maximum of 50% of the turnover. We should keep to this and other budgets to stop the club going into (more) debt. If a player wants to hold the club to ransom, like Pienaar, then show them the exit door. There is however, plenty of room still available to try to balance the books. Other expenses on Everton?s accounts are £1m for the maintenance of the stadium and £4m interest charges (debt repayment?). Therefore, where is the other £21m, listed as ?other operating costs??

With a first-team squad of 30 players, we should still be able to afford a £40m (50% of £80m) yearly wage bill if spent carefully. For example if (top earner) player 1 receives £40k per week, player 2 £39k p/w, player 3 £38k p/w ?.. player 29 £11k p/w, player 30 £10k p/w then this will add up to £775k p/w or £40m per season. This is only an idea and I?m sure the 30th player on the current squad list (Turner, Mustafi, Wallace or Agard?) are all on a lot less than £10k p/w, meaning more wages are available for the higher earners.

Everton?s finances are currently a joke. There is no money for transfers, the wages are taking over the club and the club at best will just stand still with no available money. If Everton can reduce the wage bill by that extra 12%, that?s another £10m into the bank account each season or otherwise known as a transfer kitty to buy players! Everton should have strict financial budgets in place (percentage wise) based on the previous year?s turnover.


These ideas are just a few basic steps to put Everton in the right direction. Now I don?t expect Everton to change into Barcelona any time soon. However, a future plan needs to be put into place to improve the structure of our club and move it forward. The best role model for this is Barcelona who play the game in the correct manner, encourage youngsters to come through the ranks, are run properly and ultimately win games.

Reader Comments

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Dave Wilson
1   Posted 25/01/2011 at 14:55:46

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Sorry Mathew

Harry Catterick was winning the league with a 4-5-1 formation long before before Mourinho and Moyes invented it
Howard Don
2   Posted 25/01/2011 at 15:06:56

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Interesting stuff Matthew although in answer to your aim high and progress is inevitable I would say only this - Leeds United!

Other than that I agree when you're in our cash starved situation it's vital to make best use of the resources you have and one way to do that is certainly to be innovative. You're right, when we finished 4th Moyes was ahead of the game with 4-5-1, now it's very common and teams will deal with it. I'm not sure I understand totally who plays where in your formation, but we DO have good players and trying to get ahead tactically seems sensible to me.
Jay Harris
3   Posted 25/01/2011 at 15:24:56

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you have put a lot of thought ino this but I have to say with the quality of some of our players we are more like Tranmere than Barcelona.

To play to those standards you need quality players who have good first touch and ball control and we have just lost one of the few players who had that.
Sean Smythe
4   Posted 25/01/2011 at 15:39:44

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Well thought out article.
Gavin Ramejkis
5   Posted 25/01/2011 at 15:49:12

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Jay to expand on that, the European coaching methods are far superior in that skill and flair are encouraged. The UK Howard Wilkinson school of training is percentage football which doesn't encourage the same smart use of the ball or as much intelligent movement off it hence the EPL's greater players aren't from the UK.
Dave Lynch
6   Posted 25/01/2011 at 15:56:17

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English football is shite.

The players for the most part are second rate, it is only the money and hype that sets it apart.

Lee Mandaracas
7   Posted 25/01/2011 at 16:20:02

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Very impressed with the article, albeit a somewhat 'ideal world-esque' perspective. I think there would be incalculable obstacles to much of what you propose as much as I like it.

My only major point would be the pursuit of Evertonian players. Much of what you say would benefit (and already does) the 'bigger boys' as they are more likely to have fans maturing to a decent playing age now due to their successes when these players were younger. That means these upcoming stars would be more drawn to those teams. Our advantage has been the greater likelihood of getting playing time with us.

By the way, isn't Joey Barton an Evertonian? (shudders)
David Hallwood
8   Posted 25/01/2011 at 16:34:12

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Good article Matthew, I must say that the 'new' Barca came as a result of Cruyff's insistence that youth policy being the way forward, unfortunately not since the days of Beckham, Scholes and Giggs has an EPL had so many great home grown players in a team. And we still prefer cheap foreign imports, but if anyone had the time and the board?s patience (and not a pot to piss in)to build an English Barca, it was Moyes-and he didn?t.

Agree on the system too. Baines & Coleman as RB&LB, both defensively not the best (and before someone defends Baines, remembers how many goals against have resulted from crosses form our left), with 2 holders Rodwell & Fellani, and then there would be room for Bily to finally show his potential.

Agree about Barca defending up the pitch as opposed to Moyes maddening retreat to the 18 yd line (even when we score early on). I?ve never understood why more teams don?t keep a high line. Mind you why bother? None of this is going to happen
Jim Burns
9   Posted 25/01/2011 at 16:38:00

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Mathew....a thought provoking and detailed analysis - well done.

Whilst I don't agree with everything you suggest or propose, I couldn't agree more with your first point re pressure on the ball and doing it further up the pitch.

I'm a season ticket holder of many years, and I am constantly baffled/ frustrated/angered/pissed off and dismayed at the number of times players fail to put opponents under pressure when they have possession.

Not only do we hand the intitiative to the opposition, who are often made to look much better as a result - even when they are shite, allowing them to build and threaten; but we miss the most obvious fundamental truth in football - if you dont win the ball back, you haven't got it, to do anything with.

I no this sounds simple - stupidly obvious even - but football is basically simple.

Pressure on the ball does not require football genius - it requires stamina, and is the least we are entitled to from mega earning professional athletes.

I'd go further and suggest that if we got (i) right.......everything else you expand upon, would follow - eventually - ie less opposition pressure leading to goals - more possession for us and therefore more goals ( even with our strike force) - more wins and points - more winnning mentality - more success - more players wanting to join/not wanting to leave - more revenue - more interest from investors - etc etc etc.

Why not Champions League Final in the next few years.

Step up boys and earn your money - we pay it to you.
Eugene Ruane
10   Posted 25/01/2011 at 18:13:08

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Dave Lynch (6) - I could not agree more.

Premier League?

More like the King's new suit of clothes league.

A league choc-full-o puddins on £35,000 a week, who need three touches to control the fucking thing, can't cross a ball and shoot like twats.

I gave up season-tickets two years back and I'm still clean.
Michael Coville
11   Posted 25/01/2011 at 17:37:15

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Excellent article Matthew. I have been watching Barcelona in the States for the last few years on Gol TV and they are fantastic.

Their plan is simple, keep the ball, keep it in the opponent's half, and if the opponents get the ball, harass them incessantly until you get the ball back. Each player works like mad for the team, running into place so they are available to receive the ball. The ball gets moved around from one player to another at a very fast place, mesmerizing the opponents and then they attack quickly with each player knowing what the others are going to do and were they are going to be on the pitch.

As you say they bring most of their players through the youth set-up but unlike us they are able to keep their best youngsters.

We are miles away from Barcelona, scouting wise, coaching wise and player wise. We can only hope but if Moyes is to stay he has to drastically change his tactics. Basically we play far too deep, lose the ball or give it away far too easily and back-off when the opponents have the ball and unfortunately that has been typical of Moyes teams over the years.

It has worked relatively well but for us to make the move into a great side able to take on the likes of West Ham let alone Barcelona we have to change the way we play and even though good players make a difference I don't believe it is the whole answer.

Just look at Man. City, hundreds of millions of pounds spent and still nowhere near as an attractive side as Barcelona.

Larry Boner
12   Posted 25/01/2011 at 18:34:33

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Sorry mate, but this was a 4-5-1
West; Wright, Newton, Labone, Hurst; Kendall, Ball, Harvey, Morrisey, Husband; Royle.
Nothing is new, its just recycled.
League Champions 1969-70.
Larry Boner
13   Posted 25/01/2011 at 18:41:47

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Furthermore, as regards players, Nobby Stiles won a World Cup winners medal, he had zero skill, what he did have was 100% commitment and supported the skilled players, such as Charlton, Peters, Hurst within the team.

Alan Ball had all the skill in the world, but as much commitment as Stiles, as did all the other players in that squad, which is why England won the World Cup in 1966. All winning sides have the skill and the commitment, allied with the coach who will bring it out of each player and manifest it on the pitch.

Gerry Allen
14   Posted 25/01/2011 at 19:41:15

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Bilbao only sign players from the Basque country and are thus different to Barcelona. It's an anti-Spanish, slightly racist way of demonstrating to people how different you are.

Good article overall though Matthew. Just remember that for every Messi or Pedro - taken from their homes in Argentina and Canarias respectively - there will be a dozen or more cast on the scrap heap. Barca do appear to be more benevolent and supportive than many English clubs, however, so some credit is due. Arsenal's conveyor belt of young talent from Africa is coming at a cost of ripping young lads from the support of family. Except this is filtered through "feeder" clubs in Belgium so Arsene-W is always seen to be above the dirty business of finding talent.
Kevin Clarke
15   Posted 25/01/2011 at 23:45:44

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This is spot on. I talked with an Evertonian about this recently who lived in Spain. My point was that I'd stopped going to watch Everton because I was tired of getting served up the same old dirge. For half of what my season ticket cost, I could go to the Camp Nou & see a team play football, on the ground, with style, simply, ALL the players worked their arses off.

I've done this for the last two seasons. I love Everton, but I'm tired of the being fobbed off with stupid excuses: we're skint; there isn't any players out there; we're even more skint; etc. This a load of bollocks.

Kevin Clarke
16   Posted 25/01/2011 at 23:53:37

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Hang on, I wasn't finished. Eight of the players that started the game, v Malaga, came through the academy. Not one pass was more than 20 yards; when they lost possession, they surrounded the opposition. It was so simple because the entire team played as a unit. I'm sure that playing football this way 'might' catch on at some point, or am I being deluded?

We give extended contracts to players that are, well, shite. No movement, no invention, they just give the fuckin ball away! Yes, Barcelona have some of the best players in the world, but they work hard & they have a coach who MAKES them work hard.

What have we got? Professional players who can't keep control of a ball, hit balls forward in a hit & hope fashion & are an embarrasement to football when compared to Barcelona.

Light years away, shite, Guardiola was 3rd team coach, the club took a chance & now they are the best team anybody has ever seen. Because they work so hard every game. Every match is treated the same.

Wake up, football in this country is a joke. Everton have got a lot in common with a lot of teams, not just Barcelona; sadly we've got a situation that won't dare try.

Laurie Hartley
17   Posted 26/01/2011 at 05:10:41

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Great article Matthew - I really enjoyed it. You have a vision for our football club - I wish we had a few visionaries running it.
Liu Weixian
18   Posted 26/01/2011 at 06:10:35

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It is obvious that lots of thought and effort were put into this article - well done. I totally agree in principle with what Matthew wrote about pressuring opponents and team formation. I have no doubt we would be higher up in the table if Moyes applied these ideas.
Stephen Kenny
19   Posted 26/01/2011 at 07:25:42

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I agree with all your sentiments and I'd love to see something of a similar ilk put into practice at Everton. The only way that could happen IMO is if we were at the top of English football.

As with everthing in football these days it would boil down to money.

Barcelona have a 100,0000 capacity stadium, are one of the biggest clubs in the world and make a fortune commercially, yet they are in all kinds of debt. This unfortunately casts a big shadow over the viaability of following their business/footballing model.

The reason they have been able to build and retain a squad of such great players is because they pay the going rate, as we have seen so often recently we do not.

In a real sense this means that when our Messi or Xavi come through they need to be put on a big contract. based on your 50% wages to turnover ratio we cant do that unless we improve commercially. Although it looks like Barcelona cant either. Sadly we both know that improvement is not going to happen with the current incumbent.

On the playing side we would need to find a Wenger style manager who has an ethos the fans would accept. Moyes is certainly proving this season that he's definetely not that man.

If we could find that person I.e. the next Wenger I think we would have a real chance of getting back towards challenging for the league, and putting a real Evetrton way into practice. Especially with these new UEFA rules coming into play in the next year or two.
Duncan McDine
20   Posted 26/01/2011 at 09:58:55

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Well written article Matthew. I honestly think the reason we have faired well against the bigger teams this season is due to closing them down quickly. Against the lesser teams we have let them have the ball and showed no respect whatsoever to them. Our gifted squad of players need one hell of a kick up their lazy arses, and must be dropped if they don't hassle the opposition for 90 mins.
Robbie Muldoon
21   Posted 26/01/2011 at 12:36:12

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Great article, that's the kind of ambitious Evertonian I like!

Unfortuantley the people who pull the strings at the club aren't going in this direction.

Anyone got Moyes's e.mail address?
Michael Brien
22   Posted 27/01/2011 at 13:02:42

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A very interesting article and whilst I didn't agree with all of your points, I do agree that we should be looking to emulate a club like Barcelona in terms of bringing through young players. I would also add Ajax as a good " model". There are several players in the Barcelona squad who have come through the ranks, as is the case with Ajax. I do feel that both these clubs have quite an advantage over us in that, at "second team" level, both Barcelona and Ajax teams play in a better organised league than Everton's Reserve team.

I find it quite strange, to say the least, that whilst the organising of the junior teams/teams below Reserve team level appears to be quite good, the Reserve Team League leaves a lot to be desired. Over the years there has been too much change, what was wrong with the old Central League & Football Combination set up? What has replaced these leagues is rather poor in my opinion. It is little wonder that Barcelona and Ajax can develop their own players ? the league structure is far better at second team level in both those countries.
Michael Brien
23   Posted 27/01/2011 at 14:04:27

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I have just had a quick look at the Barcelona website - their second team, Barcelona B, are currently 7th in the Spanish 2nd Division. I think Villarreal's second string are just below them. Real Madrid's reserve team Castillia play in the 3rd Division. A rather stronger level than Premier League Reserve teams play at. This is surely a great help to the young Spanish players in helping them through to first team level.
David Israel
24   Posted 28/01/2011 at 23:55:30

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The reason it's the fans who control Barcelona, Matthew, is that they are not a limited company, they're actually a club in the original sense of the word, run by a committee, elected by the club's members. Real Madrid operate in the same fashion.

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