Everyone has that colleague at work. Highly competent and even confident when doing their job but, if Maureen from accountants goes sick and they ask this person to answer a few phone calls or do something a bit different, they seem to fall apart as a mass of nerves and panic..
This is the best way I can describe the difference between Everton Football Club at Goodison and away from it.
At home, we are seasoned professionals, knowing our job and – more often than not – executing it.
We feed off the crowd and normally turn over all but the best opposition. This is born out statistically which shows that, since 2004, we are expected to win just 5 times on the road out of 19 opportunities.
Given that, in the last 10 years, our mean position has been 7th, this means that, out of the 13 teams that have finished below us each season, we have beaten approx 35% of those teams away from home.
As any match-going Toffee will tell you, at home we are a completely and utterly different prospect. Victories over Manchester Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea last season and historically a place where we might lose one game or two a season out of 19.
So what’s the difference?
Here are a few things I have observed:
- A lack of a General type leader. Growing up watching Man Utd dominate World football, no-one can tell me they played beautiful football always because sometimes they were terrible. What they did have was Roy Keane, who seemed to instill a winning mentality and a never-say-die attitude amongst his troops; more often than not, this worked. We don’t have this and haven’t for a long time.
- Wrong Formation. Since Roberto turned up in 2012, it seems that we can only play 4-2-3-1 in every game, home or away. I don’t like this formation away from home as I think the 2 in the midfield tend to get rolled over easily. I also think, if the opponents play with 2 strikers, then both our centre-backs are occupied and a No 10 can exploit space in the lines. I would rather see a 4-4-2 Diamond away with a sitting midfielder at the base and 2 box-to-box players as the next 2 to give energy and vitality to the middle of the park.
- Goodison Atmosphere. Without doubt, when we are roaring, it inspires our boys and intimidates the referee. Loads of refs have spoken about this.
- Playing our own game, not the opponents. Too often I have thought that, by trying to play like we are at Goodison, we have played right into the opponent's hands by committing full-backs high up the pitch.
- Players’ mental fragility. Enough said!
- Putting too much faith in youth. Mostly this is a good thing in football but you know, when you’re away mid-winter at some rough-arse team sometimes, it’s better to have seasoned professionals who can handle themselves and the match.
- Seen as a big scalp. We are seen as a big club to others in the Premier League, so they value beating us, and raise their game. I see that we raise our games massively when playing Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd etc… but do we raise it when playing Watford or Bournemouth or Crystal Palace or Norwich away? On the current evidence — No.
- Only had two ruthless strikers since 1991. Only Rooney and Lukaku are the sort of players who genuinely could have one chance, one goal. Other than these two, we have had a series of middling to good strikers but none who could give you that skillset. As a result, when chances come in away games, if we don’t take them, then we are liable to get punished — and this seems to happen frequently.
These are my thoughts. I would be fascinated to hear yours.
Reader Comments (38)
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1 Posted 19/09/2019 at 09:37:45
The lack of a leader on the pitch is crucial and also from what I am seeing the lack of a motivator off it too!
We have been unlucky with strikers. Yakubu was lethal until his injury in 2009 as was Jelavic in his first season. (I'd still love to know what went wrong with him.)
A pretty accurate assessment.
2 Posted 19/09/2019 at 10:30:00
I also think that the very poor away form is self-perpetuating, teams look at the vulnerability of us and attack us more, start the game with more confidence. They know we will crack at some point.
No 1 issue: I think we have a quiet team, no on-pitch organiser giving the orders and reminding players of their positions and responsibilities. Constantly motivating and demanding focus.
Even the manager doesn't seem vocal or motivating enough from the sidelines. Some managers are like a 12th man.
This in-game leadership on and off the pitch needs to be much better.
3 Posted 19/09/2019 at 10:39:58
4 Posted 19/09/2019 at 11:13:16
Wrong formation? You then go on about a 4-4-2 diamond. There is very little difference from a 4-4-2 diamond to a 4-2-3-1. The main difference is an extra striker and one less midfielder. The reality is that you have a passenger in the side unless one of the strikers drop deeper and so your 4-4-2 diamond quickly resembles a 4-2-3-1 in reality. 4-2-3-1 is the successor to the 4-4-2 as it removes the "passenger" centre-forward who does nothing but score and gives you an extra worker in midfield to control the game.
The Goodison atmosphere has been brilliant since the Goodison derby. but it was terrible, toxic under Allardyce and the end of Koeman's reign. Yet we have been much better at home than away even without this atmosphere. Under Martinez in his final season we were slightly better at home than away, this had the effect of having us as one of the best away teams on points and one of the worst home sides on points. The lack of home form was a contributing factor to him losing his job as the crowd made their feelings known. A few more home wins and a few less away wins might have helped him.
Playing fullbacks high up the pitch is a hallmark of Silva's tactics. If we played your 4-4-2 diamond, then it's even more of a necessity. Your formation does not work at all without the fullbacks providing the width.
What we need is a younger Seamus Coleman with more energy to get up and down the wing like he used to. Sidibe could well be that man as he was in 2017. However, Coleman is retained for his captaincy. As for playing our own game, we really got at Bournemouth and the game plan was working brilliantly until individual errors, both in attack and defence, ultimately cost us.
Too much faith in youth? I keep reading Silva is not putting enough faith in youth on other threads. The team against Bournemouth had Sigurdsson, Schneiderlin and Delph in the engine room, all 29-30. The defence might be a relatively young age but none of them are youngsters. The attack is where we were young, 21, 22, and 23. I don't think that's excessively young and Silva moved away from the 19-year-old.
Seen as a big scalp is our biggest problem. The bottom half sides raise their games considerably against us. The top sides see us as a good enough team to play their best players. We don't get the rotation sides of the big 6 that the bottom half sides do when they pull off shock results. The likes of Bournemouth come out fired up thinking we are beatable but only if they play their very best. This is what it is.
Two ruthless strikers? I wouldn't say Rooney was – he missed too many chances. Yakubu is the one I would replace him with and agree with you. However, why do we need a ruthless striker? What did we win with Lukaku or Latchford top-scoring?
We need goals, we don't need a 30-goal-a-season striker. Who's the best striker ever in the Premier League? Alan Shearer right? How many trophies did he win? Goals win games, not strikers.
I left mental fragility to last because that is the biggest problem. The side really does struggle in times of adversity. This is something that needs to be addressed and perhaps leaders can start to emerge. We have some characters in the dressing room, such as Mina and Delph. Mina is restricted due to language issues and his own form. If Mina can sort himself out and learn English fluently (he's coming along to be fair to him) then he will be the leader of that side.
5 Posted 19/09/2019 at 11:16:56
It was quite simple, block the shot, make him take a touch and then what else has Jelavic got? He was very slow, he didn't have tricks. His quick feet were good for shooting, but not for beating a man.
6 Posted 19/09/2019 at 11:37:17
We need to reboot. It's a massive job and, if it is ever going to be done at all, it will require something and someone extraordinary to redefine us, and a happy combination of circumstances (otherwise known as luck).
7 Posted 19/09/2019 at 11:50:28
In order to cure ourselves of being mentally fragile we simply need to win. David Moyes's side was not mentally fragile. Quite the opposite. It was full of players who had gained the experience of battling hard and overturning scorelines. They didn't come as winners, although Moyes said he chose players carefully based on perceived attitudes. Brands says the same thing.
If you look at our players, there are players there who can be mentally tough. The likes of Richarlison have come a long way in life to be where they are. He was never the golden boy growing up and surprised many experts with his progress. There's a fierce determination there that just needs that experience and know-how of how to grab the game by the scruff of the next and change it. There's others there too.
Then you have the likes of Schneiderlin who lacks that know-how. He is a very good player who needs to learn how to battle. His idea of battling seems to be to launch into reckless tackles rather than go in hard but fair.
It needs us to win a game when we are behind, and then another, and another. And then we gain the belief and the experience to come from behind.
8 Posted 19/09/2019 at 12:07:49
I'm with you in hoping that Silva can turn us around but we must become tougher and stop basking in a few victories and gabbing shite about it. I'm as guilty of that as anyone. As you say, and as Delph has said, we have to go for every single game. Every one.
9 Posted 19/09/2019 at 12:45:02
On away form – having been to a reasonable number the last few years, it's clear to me the team also folds under pressure! It's in the Everton genes! I think they give teams too much respect and stand off and invite the opposition to score.
Having said that, the lack of a goal scorer who can convert the few chances we get away from home is a real issue.
10 Posted 19/09/2019 at 16:08:02
11 Posted 19/09/2019 at 16:30:44
You always give a solid opinion backed by good analysis and I agree with most of what you say.
The big question I still have, and I have it for every manager who has had a team relegated, is whether the manager has the mental steel and ability to motivate the team and make the correct changes at the same time.
There is a belief that Silva is a one-trick pony and cant improvise during a game. The jury is still out as far as I am concerned.
12 Posted 19/09/2019 at 16:54:11
Ergo, rollocker things "WTF" and instead decides to do the minimum for the most money they'll ever earn, like almost everyone else in the squad.
Too few players "man up" these days IMHO (and sorry if that phrase is un-PC).
13 Posted 19/09/2019 at 17:07:56
I agree that a diamond formation, one that I have wanted us to try all season, would suit the players we have. He doesn't know what ti do with the players we have. A diamond encourages a compact middle, encourages our full-backs to go forward and allows two strikers to pull the opposition defenders with space for our midfielders to run forward. We have the players for this.
Let's see what the likes of Bernard, Siggy and lwobi can do with players around them instead of being spread about. Richarlison wide right and in our own box kills me. Then we have Digne who looks so much better with Bernard ahead of him. Yet l like lwobi too, so let's play our best players in a formation that brings the best out of them.
Of course... it won't happen under this manager.
14 Posted 19/09/2019 at 17:10:20
He may well be an excellent coach at the training ground.
He may well improve individual players, both young and old, as some claim (although this is nigh impossible for any outsider not privy to training to measure).
What he hasn't demonstrated to date is an ability to influence games and change things for the better in-game. And we have a considerable body of evidence of that going back more than 12 months since he joined us.
He is closing in on 50 competitive matches as Everton manager. Make that closer to 60 with friendlies... yet under his stewardship, we have yet to win a game from a losing position having lost the opening goal. Conversely, we have drawn or lost a game having taken a two-goal lead on more than one occasion.
So on the one hand, we are totally unable to turn a game in our favour when losing the opening goal, and on the other, we cannot defend and retain a healthy advantage. Not a happy combination.
We are told by some that he is not a one-trick pony, that he can and will switch formation, tactics and personnel depending on the game situation.
Again, the body of evidence weighs against such claims. What we often see when losing a game in the second half – and all the more so on the road – is an untimely and random throwing on of forwards and a withdrawal of both midfielders and defenders. The result is often an even more unbalanced side that was already struggling in the game. A defeat becomes almost inevitable.
The players are culpable also but, for me, these failings fall primarily into the domain of the manager. And there is no evidence as yet that, more than a year on, Silva is getting to grips with those failings.
15 Posted 19/09/2019 at 17:59:41
I'm pretty sure Silva would want a 30-goal-a-season striker at his disposal.
16 Posted 19/09/2019 at 18:11:15
I definitely see mental fragility as an issue but don't see it as being related to having a 'young side'. The main culprits are Keane, Gomes, Schneiderlin and Sigurdsson. Three of whom have talked about confidence, depression and/or anxiety publicly, the last of whom is the first to go AWOL when the chips are down. That quartet are all aged between 26 and 30.
In contrast, Calvert-Lewin seems nothing if not self-assured. Kenny had good games and bad but never seemed to lack confidence. He would just dust himself off and have another go. I'd say Pickford and Richarlison are somewhat petulant but that's a maturity issue rather than a mental fragility factor.
17 Posted 19/09/2019 at 18:56:16
We're mentally weak as a club, because we redefined success downwards on a regular basis. Moyes's team had mental strength to complete some marvellous backs-to-the-wall 1-0 victories, but when it really mattered, when expectations were high, that mental strength disappeared.
The thing with mental strength is that it's hard to measure, so some disregard it. For all the baffling irrelevant stats about how far teams run, how many inconsequential passes are completed, one of the main areas of any manager/leader is their human management, their ability to get the maximum out of the team and every individual within it.
Silva's team doesn't come from behind. It wilts. It lacks leaders, though Delph looks promising in that regard.
Weak as a wet Echo. Nothing will change till that changes. That's Silva's job. His future rests on it. I tend to revere managers who win things rather than managers who 'improve' players.
18 Posted 19/09/2019 at 19:13:44
19 Posted 19/09/2019 at 20:19:09
I posted the other day that at a Q&A they asked Gary Neville about Everton and he said they look fragile and lack belief. I agree with both those sentiments, but the question is who is responsible and, moreover, how do you put it right?
Belief, well that can only come with winning on a consecutive basis, and is that an individual thing or a collective thing?
Fragile, how do you get players to be mentally tough? Is it the manager's job or a job for a specialist coach, like Steve Peters who worked with Liverpool, and for the last few years, Ronnie O'Sullivan.
20 Posted 19/09/2019 at 20:43:41
The Bournemouth game completely changed my view of Delph as regards leadership.
Good leadership is encouraging others to do better not telling them "You're all shit" while playing shit yourself.
Seamus is, to me, the only true leader with Mina not far behind.
Delph has lost a lot of brownie points with me and I'm sure his teammates for that stupid utterance.
21 Posted 19/09/2019 at 21:12:26
You say Silva is closing in on 50 competitive games for Everton, and has yet to win a game from a losing position, having lost the opening goal.
Now I know this was only about three weeks ago, and it was only Lincoln City, but surely your memory is not that bad?
22 Posted 19/09/2019 at 21:14:47
23 Posted 19/09/2019 at 21:25:21
Jay #20, fair point, that kind of outburst is more for the dressing room than the pitch.
24 Posted 19/09/2019 at 21:26:32
I can only think of the Southampton game in the Carabao Cup last season, where we were behind, but only drew the game before losing on pens.
Rotherham, Lincoln and Millwall in the other cup games last season we scored the opening goal. However, it's not a good record to have.
25 Posted 19/09/2019 at 21:45:00
26 Posted 19/09/2019 at 22:06:43
It was when just before they scored their winning goal. Liverpool get a free kick in their half, Van Dijk goes to take it. Richarlison stands in front of him, then Van Dijk grabs him and basically said something to the effect of "Get the fuck out the way!" and pushes him aside, takes the free quick quickly, and they scored.
Richarlison, instead of standing his ground and having the balls to say "Fuck you, I'm standing my ground and you'er not taking this free-kick quickly." He decided instead to hit the deck, trying to get a free-kick. They didn't score directly from the free-kick but it resulted in the next play from which they did score.
I don't know if it's the School of Science legacy that we play nice football or the nice "It's a grand old team to play for." The top teams, and especially are neighbours, have a street sense and arrogance about them, they will not be pushed around and they will not let their teammates be intimidated. That's Everton's problem and other teams know this: as soon as you get on top of Everton physically, mentally they fold.
27 Posted 19/09/2019 at 22:37:50
As you yourself note, it's not a good return on Silva's watch. As someone who gets to all away games Rob, what's your and the away support as a whole reading of our away form? And at the game is there a feeling of impending doom that the game is gone as soon as we go a goal down?
On a happier note, good to see the Red Rose county come back strongly today to remain unbeaten and show just why they are champions this season. Just bottom side Leicestershire, to finish the season off without a loss now.
28 Posted 19/09/2019 at 23:13:01
It's early days, but at the end of the Bournemouth game, there were a few angry people who would have liked to have got hold of one or two players and throttled them. When players don't come all the way over to the away section, they know the supporters aren't happy. They can hear the anger and insults being thrown at them.
Regards Lancashire, yep been a great season. Fully expected them to get to the T20 Finals day, as they are very strong in the shorter version of the game. It was not to be though; they suffered a shock defeat to Essex in a "home game" played at Durham.
29 Posted 20/09/2019 at 00:15:41
And with reference to having had to go to Durham for a T20 "home" game, he lambasted the cricket authorities, including the Lancs county itself, for their short-sightedness.
30 Posted 20/09/2019 at 04:58:32
I've always been a bit of a skeptic. I always believed you were either born with a winning mentality or you weren't... but I've heard a few compelling arguments recently. An article would make for an interesting read.
Interesting comments and a good attempt to examine why our home and away form differ to such a degree. This is something which has troubled me for a long time.
For 40-odd years, I was a regular at away games. I never realised how difficult it was to get a ticket. I was "in". If I couldn't source tickets for a particular game, I always knew someone who could.
For various reasons, I had to knock it on the head. It was only then that I found out just how many people want to watch this team play away. My absence (quite rightly) sent me tumbling down the pecking order for tickets. If I want to go to one of the bigger away games, I have to do some serious chasing and ringing around. Often without success.
Every club claims their fans are "The Best". They can point to their attendances, the number of shirts they sell, the waiting list for season tickets... but I swear the travelling Evertonian has a love and a passion for his club which makes the fans of other clubs look like they are merely pursuing a hobby. They're absolutely irrepressible.
Sunday's weak-arsed show at Bournemouth was just the latest. For years, this club have stunk out stadiums up and down the country, but still the Rob Halligans of our parish follow. There will still be thousands of disappointed Evertonians who won't be able to get a ticket for the Burnley game.
I'm at a complete loss when I try to understand why successive Everton teams fail to respond. Why don't they ever put their heart and souls on the line too? If you can't play with all of your heart for these fans, who the fuck can you play for???
Something has just occurred to me as I type this: I'm actually prouder of our away support than I am of the team. They deserve so much more. The keys to the kingdom await the guy who can give it to them.
31 Posted 19/09/2019 at 09:01:18
It's easier for players to get motivated playing in front of their home fans, or playing against the bigger teams and we generally do well on those two occasions.
The derby is another example. I thought we were excellent in the Anfield derby last year and pretty good at home, but it's easy to get motivated playing your neighbours.
We are an incredibly fragile team, as you mention, Brian @19.
You can see us growing when things are going well but as soon as we have a setback we hit rock bottom. I just don't see us changing under Silva. He looks a pretty fragile individual himself and, when things go even slightly amiss, he looks like his dog just died. Better managers will try to remain positive
32 Posted 20/09/2019 at 09:30:08
I think you would be amazed at how many mind coaches are used in all forms of sport. Many years back, I (like you) thought you were either born with a winning mentality or you weren't, but so many top sports guys use these coaches. I am a golf nut and you would be really surprised that nearly all the top guys have coaches who just specifically work on their approach to the game, and also build in mechanisms to help when things are going wrong.
But in football, that doesn't seem to be the case, and it baffles me that all these other sports use these specific coaches yet football bye and large ignores them. Even the most naturally gifted golfer, Seve Ballesteros, used one. He said of his mind coach but what you are telling me is just common sense, to which the mind coach said that's correct, but how often do you apply common sense to your game when under severe pressure.
Well, our club has been associated with many firsts in football so maybe employing a full-time mind coach might help our away blues.
33 Posted 20/09/2019 at 10:08:38
Likewise Kendall's team- young and prone to being overpowered and couldn't score a goal. Enter Reid and Gray and suddenly Sharp started to bully defenders, Ratcliffe became a very hard centre-back aided greatly by Psyco and Southall found his confidence to become a real winner with no respect for opponents (or most likely anyone else).
It needs a catalyst or two who can drag the rest with them. Delph is the obvious one – his outburst last week was clearly frustration possibly at the shambles he was seeing and no one doing anything about it but I'd give him the armband and therefore the responsibility. Mina is another one and even with limited English he should know enough to boss the defence and drive the team forward. Tom has these qualities too as does Pickford and after that, I am struggling.
Clearly it was easier to motivate guys thirty years ago compared to now but the RS have done it and what have they got –an inspirational manager!!! Where is ours??
34 Posted 20/09/2019 at 10:44:36
Gone are the days of a Roy Keane type figure cajoling the troops, or going ever further back to our teams of the '60s/'70s where it was pretty commonplace for there to be players in teams who weren't that good, and needed a gee-up to get up to speed with the better players. It is not the '70s anymore (this is a symptom of being an Evertonian stuck in the past – no offence).
These people are adults, who should be able to take responsibility for their actions as professional sportsmen – they don't require a chaperone on the pitch to tell them what to do. That's what coaching is for.
35 Posted 20/09/2019 at 12:26:15
I forgot to add my praise and respect for your own efforts in getting down to Bournemouth so soon after returning from abroad. If only our own players put in half as much dedication to the cause as you do, we would be world champions!
And thanks for the news about Lancs. I tried to get a feed to watch the T20 game against Essex, but couldn't even get a BBC text feed or radio coverage from Radio Lancashire so was reduced to following the very basic text feed on the Cricinfo site. I know it was played close to the finish of the Old Trafford test, but I didn't realise until you mentioned it that we played our 'home' tie in Durham! I (wrongly) presumed we relocated to a ground in the county.
A really annoying loss as Essex qualified with the poorest record in the league format and we were head and shoulders the best team up to that point. He's had a great season, but it appears Villas made the wrong call at the end with his death bowlers.
The Blades at home tomorrow is going to be an interesting watch. I hope the Blues put on a show for you.
36 Posted 20/09/2019 at 18:35:41
Dowell is a prime example: he needs a teammate to drive him on and get the best out of him. He hasn't got one and we are in danger of losing what potentially is a great talent because he drifts and doesn't impose himself.
37 Posted 21/09/2019 at 08:23:33
38 Posted 21/09/2019 at 08:33:02
I haven't had the chance to do that since the 80s when I travelled all over London watching the Blues. It was fantastic then, seeing so many victories and even when we lost, the scouse gallows humour kept us entertained.
There was one game at the old Plough Lane where the football was so horrible I can't even remember the score but the running commentary from those around me regarding the top deck of the buses you could clearly see from the terraces made you feel as if there had at least been some form of entertainment.
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