The end of the season is nigh. With it comes relief and trepidation. What will the summer bring? What can we expect of the new season. All to be discussed, at great length in pubs, forums, workplaces and of course, the internet over the coming months.

So, what is the plan? To be successful, in anything, you need to have a strategy. In football, there is one, of course: be the best football team around. And while this shall forever be our ultimate strategy, we must develop a secondary one.

Many will say that would be to enter the 'top-4'. While this would be ideal, personally I believe that to be a more long-term aim. Arsenal and Manchester United look like they are returning to their previous heights, with big money for further investment available. While Manchester City are likely to invest big and Chelsea have Mourinho, money and the best squad in England. Barring a miracle, that top-4 is currently unbreakable.

That, therefore, leads me to the conclusion that, over the next 3 years, our strategy should be consolidade ourselves as the best of the rest ahead of Liverpool and Tottenham.

To do this, we must plan strategically. This means developing a style of play that can reach our objective. All aspects (coaching and transfers) must come with such a style in mind. And we must stick to it (that doesn't mean being inflexible tactically; the team needs an identity).

Martinez has a strategy. 'Tika-taka' is its popular name. However, it has a big flaw. Such styles need very specific types of players. It is a desirable style, but is it achievable? I have doubts.

Currently at Everton, the best two young players are Barkley and Lukaku. Despite their poor seasons, I believe we should build a team around them, and build to their strengths. Tika-taka does not do this. They are players who like to exploit space, they are direct and powerful rather than elegant and technical.

Both would suit ideally from a counter-attacking based system. Lukaku up top and Barkley just behind him, with two lightening fast wingers. A centre-mid with vision and range alongside a terrier (McCarthy or Besic) and a solid, organized defense. Then fill the squad with our young players (Long, Ledson, Henen, Galloway...) and build around this system.

I feel this strategy is much more attainable to tika-taka.

Get the best from Lukaku and Barkley and we have a chance at 5th. Get to 5th, and we can start thinking about what's next.

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Reader Comments (30)

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Chris Gould
1 Posted 20/04/2015 at 22:09:03
There is no point in setting unobtainable goals. But with RM in charge what would be a realistic aim? He doesnÂ’t do pre-season or fitness. He doesnÂ’t work on defence or corners. He doesnÂ’t like crosses or pacey attacks. He allows the players to decide who takes the penalties depending on who feels like it at the time. I donÂ’t get the impression heÂ’s big on strategies. Unless his strategy is to bore the opposition into submission and scrape a 1-0 win.

Our strategy should be to find a disciplined manager who commands respect from the players and plays them to their strengths. Only then can we dream of being the best of the rest.

Ray Robinson
2 Posted 20/04/2015 at 22:24:46
Fran, I sort of get what youÂ’re saying but we were 5th last season. So our strategy is to get back to where we were already? Martinez doesnÂ’t seem capable of short term planning let alone long term strategy.
Patrick Murphy
3 Posted 20/04/2015 at 22:37:42
Ray (2) That is what is so disappointing about this season, when Roberto arrived at Goodison I was certain he would have a long term strategy to take the club forward, he didnÂ’t rip up everything that had been built and added to what we had.

However, we have fallen back to where we were a couple of seasons ago, altering formations for the sake of it, trying to insert players into unfamiliar positions, persevering with players who arenÂ’t 100% fit or are out of form or as some allege playing his favourites. There has been little seen of many of the younger players even though none of them chosen did anything wrong when they have briefly taken to the field.

The problem from a supporters point of view is that we canÂ’t honestly know which players will remain at Goodison for the start of next season and no matter what assurances the manager makes in the media, we really donÂ’t know how many if any are unhappy with his managerial ability. We also donÂ’t know whether the players that he will bring to the club will be a vast improvement on what we already have, although transfers are always a gamble, regardless of who the manager is and how much the club pays out in transfer fees.

I just hope by the start of next season, the players are all onside, fully match fit and ready to do battle on behalf of the supporters and a good start is imperative for the club and of course for the manager.

Michael Winstanley
4 Posted 20/04/2015 at 23:17:54
Good article Fran. I believe Martinez does have a plan and yes it and he did come unstuck this season on the pitch. The net result is we have players who are comfortable on the ball in most situations.

It has been a pleasure to see a few agriculturals launched these last few games, sorted out (bar Seamus) the individual mistakes which has seen us keep more clean sheets.

I think Lennon has balanced the team, very much like Duelofeu last season. I think two pacy wingers are a must as IÂ’m not convinced by McGeady, Pienaar is getting on and I think Mirallas can do one.

I think weÂ’ll have to invest in those players as bringing through an attacking talent from the academy is the holy grail and we have that with Ross Barkley.

Keeping McCarthy, Coleman would be high on my list of priorities this summer.

Roberto said he aimed to produce a system whereby at least two academy players progressed to the first team every year. Next season seeÂ’s the start of that plan.

Jay Harris
5 Posted 21/04/2015 at 05:31:38
Good post, Fran, but Tika-taka doesn't even work in Spain anymore now that they have upped the pace of their game and physicality.

Michael, what are the two academy players he has brought through this season and please bear in mind Garbutt is out of contract shortly and we are not making any effort to keep him so he will more than likely be off.

Ross was already in the first team squad when RM got here and I would argue he has ruined Barkley not developed him.

Terence Leong
6 Posted 21/04/2015 at 05:53:30
While I am all for catering to playersÂ’ strengths, I am not so sure about taking a predominantly counter-attacking philosophy. I remember years ago, when Houllier was first appointed to Liverpool, one player spoke at length about how Houllier took pains to convince the Liverpool team to play that kind of football.

Apparently, he gave evidence that most goals were not scored after 26 consecutive passes, but within 3 to 4 passes of a move. It does sound compelling, but back then, I too wondered if that is too one dimensional as well.

It seemed to work for Liverpool for awhile (they had their treble of cups), but mainly relying on Michael OwenÂ’s scorching pace to get them those goals. When you look back at those highlights, you noticed the very "raw" and "rudimentary" ways of Liverpool scoring. Fast break, Owen outrunning someone else, and then "bam!" goal.

Look at what happened to Owen after a few years. And inevitably, Liverpool got found out, because not every team will take the game to them. You can do a counter-attacking game well if teams take the game to you. If not, and they "park the bus", which teams are doing when we play at them Goodison, then the counter-attacking breaks down.

Ultimately, you need more than one approach/game plan, amidst your main gameplan eg, pressing, go direct, counter attack, soak and strike, retaining the ball etc. I just donÂ’t think that having the soak and strike/ counter-attacking approach as the main strategy is going to work.

One thing for sure – we don’t press enough/ harry the opponents off the ball sufficiently to disrupt their rhythm. That is needed. Ultimately, you need a good deal of guile to break teams down/ split defences. To me, that is best done through retaining more possession, so that you can control the when and where and the how of execution.

Tika-Taka of Barcelona was fundamentally accompanied by the harrying of/closing down of players when the Barca players lost the ball. That is as critical as the slick retention that we seem to pay more attention to. The Â’Dogs of WarÂ’ during RoyleÂ’s time and the Reid/Bracewell (hunting in packs) during the 80s demonstrated that you need that fundamentally.

Kunal Desai
7 Posted 21/04/2015 at 06:56:54
I think those days of finishing 5th and 6th are long gone under Martinez. Whilst he is in charge making it in the top half he will tell you is a phenomenal achievement. There is no strategy or Plan B under this man.
Trevor Peers
8 Posted 21/04/2015 at 08:15:23
Roberto has changed his strategy no matter what he says publicly, and I think a lot of what he says in the press is off-the-cuff and shouldnÂ’t be taken too seriously.

I definitely think he took on board the massive amount of criticism that rightly came his way: this should be evident next season providing he makes the right signings. That’s the crucial part; signing Lennon was inspired – a few more in the same mould should seeing us having a good season. Expectations can’t be any higher than that under the present owner, I’m afraid.

Adam Luszniak
9 Posted 21/04/2015 at 11:50:10
Trevor I think youÂ’re right. Martinez has changed his tactics to an extent. He had no choice given the horrendous amount of goals we were conceding. IÂ’m really really hoping he can learn from this season and adjust the game depending on the opponent. What this season has proved is that we do not have the guile in our current squad to break down teams who will just sit and wait for us to score. We are not creative enough in possession to do this. For this strategy to work we need Gibson fit, or in reality we need a midfielder who has his range of passing, and can stay fit for a whole season.

Counter attack will work for us on occasion, and we are probably better equipped squad wise to play this way, given the pace of Lennon, Barkley, Mirallas and Lukaku. That said, this strategy requires people to take risks, to run at players and take them on. It also requires a killer pass here and there. Both have these have been missing for most of the season.

I also agree with Terrence that our pressing is non existent which is ridiculous for a Â’possessionÂ’ team. If we lose possession we should be pressing and harrying to get the ball back immediately. Defend from the front.

Michael Winstanley
10 Posted 21/04/2015 at 11:29:14
Jay @5.

When Martinez first arrived, he said he wanted to see progression from the academy to the first team squad. He said it would take two years to get to that position, weÂ’re coming to the end of those first two years so I expect this summer to see the start of this conveyor belt.

As for him ruining Barkley, I disagree. There is enormous pressure on Barkley this season, his performances have hardly stood out as weÂ’ve struggled. The experience of playing games will help Barkley in his progression, it might take him a few seasons to develop his consistency but once he gets to that level then weÂ’ll have a problem keeping him.

John Keating
11 Posted 21/04/2015 at 11:56:05
ItÂ’s all well and good having a strategy but teams will always counteract it. Look at us!

Flexibility is what every top team needs. Flexibility to change the way you set up before the game starts and more important as the game goes on. Unfortunately, you can have the best players in the world but – unless you are Barcelona of a couple of seasons ago – you have to adapt as the game goes on.

This season, if we have learned only one thing, is that Martinez will not adapt. The reason we have altered our style the last couple of months is down to the fans showing their displeasure and the players to a certain extent forcing the issue.

Dick Fearon
12 Posted 21/04/2015 at 11:24:56
Trevor, (#8), I agree that Martinez changed his tactics but that begs the question of why it took him so long to see he was leading us to relegation. The king's ransom he collects is supposedly based on his all-round knowledge of the game yet he seemed totally blind to the fact that his so-called 'philosophy' was a failure.

To hell with the usual cries of ’Be careful what you wish for’ – We have been bloody well careful for decades and the trophies we won in that time are testament to it. At the same time, I believe we have a side built around Stones, Coleman, Garbutt, Lukaku, McCarthy, Barkley and Besic with a few additions can only get better... but under a different manager.

Ross Edwards
13 Posted 21/04/2015 at 12:04:28
The tactical changes youÂ’re talking about have come far too late. WeÂ’ve had to wait until the final 8 games to get successive wins for the first time all season.

As for organisation and strategy, I donÂ’t see one. I canÂ’t see what RM is implementing long term. He's 2 years into his tenure and he still doesnÂ’t know his best team.

Paul Thompson
14 Posted 21/04/2015 at 12:34:37
Some good observations, Fran, but I think you are confusing strategy for the club, game plan and recruitment options.

Strategy for the club involves plans for sustainable financing, range of activities, extent of investment in an academy system etc. As remarked above, IÂ’m sure that the club expected Martinez to be a long-term appointment and develop a conveyor belt of young talent that would save then bring money in.

The problem is that RMÂ’s on-field problems with gameplan means that his medium-term position is in doubt. What he changed by the way was tactics. His challenge over the summer (because he ainÂ’t getting sacked until at least Xmas) will be to buy the kind of players that can enhance his (hopefully modified) game plan or system. Given his at best mixed record in the transfer market so far, IÂ’m not wildly optimistic.

Clarence Yurcan
15 Posted 21/04/2015 at 15:54:52
WeÂ’ll get Klopp.
Tony Ateman
16 Posted 21/04/2015 at 16:07:37
Thanks for the warning Clarence. IÂ’ll get some ointment for it.
Nick Entwistle
17 Posted 21/04/2015 at 18:23:20
I said on another post that any team below Liverpool and Spurs, the bottom 14, are all relegation candidates when the season starts.

Leaving Martinez aside, I donÂ’t see us any more likely challenging for 5th than other teams. Not leaving Martinez aside, I donÂ’t see us any better off next season.

If you look down the table, there are more teams than not in the bottom 14 who will be more excited at the thought of next season than we are.

Peter Mills
18 Posted 21/04/2015 at 18:35:21
Very good Tony!
Ray Said
19 Posted 21/04/2015 at 19:32:44
It's the board that need a strategy. That needs to be separated from the manager so the long-term interests of the club are not confused by the self-interest of any employee – even a successful manager.

The long-term interests of the club are things like having the best ground we can to increase revenue, increasing the number of fans, making the best of the youth facilities, getting as high a position as possible etc.

Those sort of long term aims then are turned into actions identified to achieve them and that leads to the organisation of the clubÂ’s resources including its employees. The manager is then employed to achieve his limited bit of the bigger picture.

We will fail and fall further behind because the board don't grasp this. ArsenalÂ’s board grasped it, LiverpoolÂ’s board grasped it. Our lot could not find a strategy if you tattooed it onto them.

Eugene Ruane
20 Posted 21/04/2015 at 18:56:23
Part of supporting a team like Everton these days is that you must dismiss Â’reality.Â’


Certainly, but once you start applying reality, youÂ’d probably never go again.

Reality – "Why would I pay for a season-ticket, to see a team compete in a league it has absolutely no chance of winning?"

The OP states – "Barring a miracle, that top-4 is currently unbreakable."

This is reality.

Tika-taka, counter-attack, long ball aren’t the key – money is.

Money may not be a cast-iron guarantee of success, but the amounts spent by top four sides tell us that our chances are extremely limited to say the least.

Teams with loads of money donÂ’t spend it to finish nowhere - they are the teams who usually win trophies and finish top four.

The success-for-pounds-spent figures donÂ’t lie - Link

ItÂ’s right that we donÂ’t throw the towel in and keep our dreams alive etc, but in (that word again) reality, seventh/eighth/ninth is, from a financial perspective, where we should probably be.

Last year, pound-for-pound we overachieved, this year, though weÂ’ve been frustrating and incredibly disappointing, we could still finish 8th/9th.

Not an exact science I admit but... you get the idea.

Patrick Murphy
21 Posted 21/04/2015 at 21:05:37
Eugene, using the wage figures that somebody else provided earlier on this thread, I believe from the Daily Mail, so far each point that Everton have gained has cost ٟ.68m whereas each point gained for the two Manchester clubs has cost over ١m

Pos Club (cost)m
1 Man Utd ١.31
2 Man City ١.20
3 QPR ٠.88
4 Chelsea ٠.54
5 Liverpool ٠.53
6 Arsenal ٠.52
7 Sunderland ٠.34
8 Aston Villa ٠.16
9 Tottenham ٟ.84
10 West Brom ٟ.83
11 Newcastle ٟ.71
12 Everton ٟ.68
13 West Ham ٟ.49
14 Hull ٟ.39
15 Swansea ٟ.34
16 Stoke ٟ.33
17 Southampton ٟ.12
18 Leicester ٟ.07
19 Crystal Palace ٞ.90
20 Burnley ٞ.62

Like you say, it isnÂ’t an exact science but it does seem you get what you pay for.

Patrick Murphy
22 Posted 21/04/2015 at 21:43:17
Everton Shareholders' Association have organised for experienced business chief executive Joe Beardwood to give a talk.

Joe doesnÂ’t believe that Everton FC require a new ground and believes that Walton Hall Park is probably as ill-advised as Kirkby was. My concern is that Liverpool Council, Everton in the Community and Liverpool Homes are not the ideal partners financially. Joe also states that EvertonÂ’s revenue growth outside of media earnings is a paltry 0.5% per year for the last decade.

Strategy what Strategy?

TV Money and income

Iain Love
23 Posted 21/04/2015 at 21:52:38
I thought that Athletico Madrid did well in Spain? Without breaking the bank.
Dean Adams
24 Posted 21/04/2015 at 22:18:11
I thought that Stones and Besic were our top young players too!!
Paul Ward
25 Posted 22/04/2015 at 05:23:54
Fran’s headline: "A Question of Strategy" – It is presently non-existent at this club.

The logic Fran suggests for the future, starting with building the team around Lukaku and Barkley, maybe a failure from the start. Lukaku is likely to take heed of his agent's advice and leave sooner than later.

That leaves Barkley. Ross has had every chance to show his promise is translating into ability but he has failed. Being played out of position has not helped, but I have as much faith in Barkley as I have in this failed manager.

I also respectfully disagree with a couple of posterÂ’s that say Martinez has changed his style. I feel the players have changed the style to a random style on any given match day. This team will continue to play like a rabble until there is a change of manager.

Clarence Yurcan
26 Posted 22/04/2015 at 16:26:37
Good one, Tony.
But Klopp is something I donÂ’t want a cure for. HeÂ’s infectious and successful.
Denis Richardson
27 Posted 22/04/2015 at 16:48:20
So, what is the plan?

Well if youÂ’re BK the plan is simply to stay in the premiership and try and finish as high as possible. That is it.

Martin Mason
28 Posted 22/04/2015 at 19:55:00
For many clubs staying in the Premier League is the only strategy and any other, such as getting into the CL positions, is unsustainable and unachievable. I hate to say it but, realistically speaking, I class Everton as one of these clubs. We canÂ’t compete with the top clubs on commercial income, we have no more assets to sell other than players and we do not have anybody to donate large amounts of money to the club with no hope of return. BK may be reluctant to sell but nobody would buy anyway. We need an Abramovic? Yes but do we need a Mike Ashley? No thank you for me.

This season was where we reverted to form after an incredible last season which was an unsustainable one. We may have a better one next year but as we improve over summer then so will the others as they did last summer as we fucked about. Are Palace as good a team as us? I know your answers but does the table lie? How about Stoke? WeÂ’re financial pygmies now and they are our peers or can anybody see another way that we can gain an advantage over them when they get the same income as us. League position is determined by wages so to increase our position we need to make Everton attractive to come to. How do we do this?

Mike Childs
29 Posted 24/04/2015 at 10:37:54
The more I think about last season's success, as someone else has pointed out, it was due to our players needing to show form for World Cup spots. Just like the recent change to a more direct style was the players answering to the fansÂ’ disdain raining down from the stands.
Mike Childs
30 Posted 25/04/2015 at 14:54:27
Just heard the NBC pundit Robbie Musgrove talking up my boy Jamie Vardy. If they go down, we should pick him up. Yes he isnÂ’t top notch but neither is our boardÂ’s idea of investment. Pace to burn even more important flat out desire.

The kid has risen from playing for the local pub team to the EPL. IÂ’d rather have a kid with heart then an overpaid player wasting his superior talent by dogging it.

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