Meritocracy

Paul Columb 22/10/2019 43comments  |  Jump to last

This weekend’s uplifting result and performance has, if nothing else, bought Marco Silva more time with the fanbase to add to the credit he holds with Farhad Moshiri and the playing staff, as demonstrated by their solidarity at Goodison Park on Saturday. What comes next will hopefully see a return to the feeling of unity experienced during last season’s run-in and demonstrate that this manager is capable of building a foundation on which we can progress. Define progress as you wish but, for me, it means an end to a 25-year trophy drought and a perennial place at the Champions League feeding trough. Nil Satis and all that……

After the match, I called the Church of Football’s Reverend Mike Gaynes to shoot the breeze about the game and life in general. We were both in high spirits, buoyed by the slick performance and I threw in a comment that the players’ response might spark a return to Silva’s meritocracy in selection moving forward. I’ll paraphrase here with the response: “Um… what meritocracy?”

When the newly-appointed Silva first took command of a ramshackle squad and commenced weeding through players prior to planning transfers with Brands, two words described my initial impression: 'fair' and 'thorough'. He seemed to give each player a good look, then a second… and players seemed to rise to the occasion – albeit on the platform of a very ‘Everton’ pre-season in terms of planning. In short, the seeds of a meritocracy.

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One could forgive a new manager, particularly one selecting from a group of players assembled in the manner of his inherited squad, for chopping and changing as the season commenced. For me, I felt as though his selections in the early stages of last season largely reflected each player’s performance-to-date with wiggle room for the nebulous ‘what they’re doing on the training pitch’ factor. On reflecting following my chat with Mike, I’ve come to realise how quickly thereafter Silva became embedded in selection of favourites and persisting with a formation and strategy which yielded little on the park.

Moving into this season, and with a squad increasingly tailored to his vision, it seems little had changed prior to Saturday, with Silva’s selection policy and lack of tactical flexibility. ‘What meritocracy’ indeed! What seems clear to me at this juncture is that, moving forward, the manager simply must select based on performance and with a formation and tactic just as rooted in merit. It’s somewhat unfortunate that we are now facing both a league and cup fixture within days of each other – both of which, depending on whom you poll – are ‘must wins’. Unfortunate in that, if Brighton was our sole game of the week, Silva would be a very brave or stupid man to change anything about Saturday’s team. The cup game may give him some wiggle room and thus it might be difficult to evaluate what he has learned or conceded from the West Ham performance.

For me, the side must remain unchanged for Brighton. Yes, that includes Davies even if Delph proves fit. Sidibe should retain his place and be provided the additional cover that Walcott offered in tracking back (gulp!). Iwobi should remain behind the unchanged front three who should be allowed to resume the fluency and interchange of our last fixture. This, in my opinion, is ultimately what Silva is looking for in terms of offensive tactics moving forward in any case, which brings me to my next point.

We simply have to settle on an effective style and strategy of play… an identity. For too long, we have been first and foremost a ‘horses for courses’ side, reacting to how the opposition sets up and not taking the game to them but rather trying to negate their strengths. Fair enough, that’s a huge part of the modern game and tweaks have to be made to personnel and tactics but surely these should be subtle tweaks to a primary ethos of play.

You only get good at what you repeatedly do well – a somewhat depressing reality of life. If we have any ambition to return to the big time, we need to take it to them, week-in & week-out, and ask them to compromise. Do we have the tools right now to do so?! I don’t think we’re as far from it as many might think but it depends where you set the benchmark. I’m just hoping that Silva demonstrates sufficient flexibility and intelligence to select his strategy, formation and players on merit and build on the glimmer of hope that was our best performance to date under his stewardship.

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Derek Thomas
1 Posted 23/10/2019 at 09:50:18
Meritocracy? Saturday's 11 should be there at Brighton on, on well merit...they did the biz.

Eight games worth of crap and only 1 goodun, Hmm?Nowt but a fool would change Saturday's starting 11, except for injury or suspension.

Any temptation at all to to go into full Ranieri / Tinkerman mode for the Watford cup game should be resisted...Bernard, Walcott, Iwobi, Davies, Gomes and Sidibe, have hardly kicked a ball for 4 weeks and our next few games are well spaced.

Silva has found something that works. If he worked it out himself, finally, what took you so long? - all well and good.

But any changes to that basic 11, that really, really, don't have to be made, just tell me he has no clue and mystic meg picked the team numbers out of a hat, like a garden fete lucky dip draw.

Meritocracy? to the 11 who 'should' start on merit this weekend. You're only as good as your NEXT game...same for you Marco.

No, I'm not convinced yet.

Michael Lynch
2 Posted 23/10/2019 at 10:33:02
Although I'd love to see the same team again on Saturday, I would hope that Silva will always use his tactical brilliance (cough) to come up with a side that he thinks suits each game individually. So, if he thinks Siggi would be a better option for Brighton, he should pick him. If he's picking teams to keep the fans happy, then there's no point in him being manager.

I'm sure I wasn't the only blue to look at the team selection before the West Ham game and wonder if he'd been bounced into making such dramatic changes, or whether he really believed in the mass shake-up. If it was the latter, why has it taken him so long to realise what the rest of us saw weeks ago? If it was the former, then he's lost control.

Paul Columb
3 Posted 23/10/2019 at 11:28:12
The two omissions from the team sheet on Saturday which for me were overdue we're Siggi and Schneiderlin. The latter should be a squad player to be employed on the magical 72nd min to shut up shop, nothing more. He offers nothing else.

At this point our most expensive acquisition needs to be recast in a deeper role as 4-3-3 evolves. He just slows play down in the 10 role and lacks the fast paced, penetrative pass required. Scoring a world class goal when introduced on Saturday shouldn't detract from the impact Iwobi had in his place IMO.

Simon Smith
4 Posted 23/10/2019 at 11:44:52
If he reverts to type and goes back to his “favoured” line up, then it will be idiocracy!
Andrew James
5 Posted 23/10/2019 at 14:40:47
Had a similar discussion on another thread but my issue is when coaches (Silva and Koeman most notably) give certain players more "wiggle room" than others.

Schneiderlin has been very poor for sustained periods under multiple coaches but it takes an age for him to be dropped despite there being other options.

Tom Davies or Bernard have an average game and they're benched.

Gylfi and Rich basically don't do anything for 3 or 4 matches delivering 5/10 performances but retain their places presumably based on past glories. I felt that dropping Gylfi and bringing him on from the bench was a good move but it should not mean he starts next time. It merely means he can be very useful from the bench when the opposition are tired and space is available.

I dearly hope Silva doesn't fall into the trap of bringing Gylfi straight back in because we are a better team without him - not that he doesn't have a role to play but for the fluidity of the side for the majority of game time, we might be better without him.

Kieran Kinsella
6 Posted 23/10/2019 at 16:00:43
Lack of meritocracy killed Joe Royle IMHO. I wrote him a letter after we beat Soton 7-1. I pointed out I had earlier been at Selhurst Park when we lost 4-0, playing dire long ball football all based around Fergie. During the 7-1 win, we played scintillating football based around Barmby, Speed and Kanch. However, towards the end of the game, Fergie came on as a sub back from injury or jail. I begged Royle to keep things how they were and not bring Fergie back. I don't imagine he cared much for my view or even saw the letter. But just a few weeks later I saw Everton again get thrashed 4-1 by Newcastle. No scintillating football, Fergie up top as the sole attacking "outlet" Barmby on the bench. I always wonder how we might have done if Royle resisted the urge to go back to his familiar long ball game.
Mike Gaynes
7 Posted 23/10/2019 at 16:09:22
Paul, enjoyed the conversation the other day, but you mixed up my title... should be Rabbi rather than Reverend, remember?

On the meritocracy question, I'm with Michael #2 in feeling that Silva only deserves partial credit for the Saturday shakeup -- yes, he did make the appropriate change of Iwobi for Siggy, and he did go with Richarlison up top instead of DCL, but Schneiderlin was unavailable, not dropped.

I would also point out a key question that we didn't get into (because we veered off onto Uber, the Klan and barbeque sauce), and that's the delineation between the meritocracy issue and the Silva stubbornness issue. His adherence to certain players and his adherence to the 4-2-3-1 are two separate problems in my opinion. He did, apparently grudgingly, change his lineup. He did not change the formation, and I continue to believe it's because he can't -- he's simply not capable of coaching a different alignment.

As I mentioned to you on the phone, what made me the most happy Saturday was the sight of Iwobi and Davies (and occasionally Sidibe) galloping up the middle of the pitch with the ball, taking on defenders rather than stodgily playing the ball out to the wings every time. We got our chances from actually attacking, rather than just overlap-cross-and-pray. Whether this was a strategic shift dictated by Silva or simply the tactical result of the lineup changes, I don't know. But I loved it.

Jay Harris
8 Posted 23/10/2019 at 16:19:51
Saturdays team may have played well but they didnt score the decisive goal until Siggy came on.

Brighton will not be as poor or as generous as West Ham so we need to be more clinical and that means putting goalscorers on the pitch.

Mike Gaynes
9 Posted 23/10/2019 at 16:32:40
Jay, Siggy's goal may have been key to allowing our bodily functions to operate again properly, but the decisive goal was Bernard's.

So do you advocate starting Siggy at Brighton? And if so, for whom?

Dave Abrahams
10 Posted 23/10/2019 at 16:46:17
Mike (7), as the lead singer in a choir I think you should be called a cantor rather than a rabbi.
Paul Columb
11 Posted 23/10/2019 at 16:49:04
Mike Rabbi... enjoyed the chat too, as always. Agreed in that Silva may have stumbled on a formula which worked against a side which performed poorly. His hand was also forced with Coleman, Schneiderlin and perhaps Delph unavailable. And yes, he persisted with 4-2-3-1. Where credit is due is with the dropping of Siggi, the overdue reintroduction of Bernard and the front line fluency of interchange.

For me Gomes and Bernard introduce a pace and urgency which has been sadly lacking. Davies added in spades to this. And so whether he is 30 or 50% responsible for the outcome, he's 100% responsible to sit up and take note. Only Saturday will tell.

Andrew Dempsey
12 Posted 23/10/2019 at 16:52:17
I think we all know Silva will make changes for this game, you can just feel it.
The most anticipated lineup in his tenure, TW will explode in vitriolic anger if there’s even one change to the side.
But what happens if we then go on and win? Humility? An acceptance that he might be a really good coach, like Dixie Digne says? I doubt it.

A lot of hypotheticals there.
Keep it simple, Marco, pick the same side for Christ’s sake.

Brian Harrison
13 Posted 23/10/2019 at 16:54:51
I think just from reading the small number of threads so far how difficult it is for a manager. As for meritocracy well as magnificent as he was on Saturday what merited Tom Davies to start. Same question about Walcott what has anybody seen this season that warranted him to start. Silva also made 2 positional changes in Iwobi in Sigurdssons position and Richarlison up top.

I don't think there is anything wrong with a 4-2-3-1 formation, its the personal you deploy in those positions that change the way the system works. On Saturday he employed 2 attacking players to play in front of the back 4 and they both moved the ball forward and quickly. As opposed to Schneiderlin and Delph who are defensive by nature and often look for the safe ball ie back to the back 4 which allows the opposition to get back in position. So when the ball was played early to either Iwobi or Walcott or Bernard they had space to attack, which created problems for West Ham.
Now I know West Ham werent that good but because we didnt start every move with the back 4 exchanging 6 or 7 passes before we move the ball forward, they struggled to cope with our pace and movement which resulted from playing it early from midfield to forwards.

Christy Ring
14 Posted 23/10/2019 at 16:57:08
Mike @7 Good post. Our tactics were totally different, with Gomes and Davies together, the energy, speed, and midfield playing higher up the pitch, instead of our slow pedestrian play, in front of the back four, and Iwobi a lot more of a threat going forward.

I was impressed with Sidibe, and even though I totally disagree with the comments, that Seamus is gone too slow, and the crap that he's not able to get up and down the pitch, the team shouldn't be changed for Brighton.

I hope Silva was impressed with Davies's performance, considering he was a last resort, with Schneiderlin injured.

Mike Gaynes
15 Posted 23/10/2019 at 16:59:47
Paul #11, absolutely. the vital word there is "urgency" -- the most striking difference in our performance Saturday versus the Burnley horror.

Dave #10, ;-)

Brian Hennessy
16 Posted 23/10/2019 at 17:27:53
I think, baring any injuries, Silva will go with the same team against Brighton. Not to do so with be just ridiculous and the fans quite rightly will go ballistic if the result and performance is not the same as the West Ham game.

But my worry is if we don't get a good result he will quickly revert to type and pick Schneiderlin and Siggy again. Schneiderlin in particular has been given multiple chances and I really hope Silva now offers the same opportunity to Davies and Iwobi over a decent run of games - not just Brighton.

Ray Roche
17 Posted 23/10/2019 at 18:01:09
Lookman is playing for RBLeipzig v Zenit if you’ve got BT
John Pierce
18 Posted 23/10/2019 at 18:05:44
A very good performance Saturday which, I think, oddly ramps the pressure up more on Silva. That is the bare minimum I want to see.

The main things were tempo and ball pace, we created a number of ‘grade A’ chances but were wasteful, we played in their half (albeit with a frighteningly high line) and a alternative to manage the game when we run out of steam.

I’m still an advocate of 4-3-3 and he has to transition there at some point, but if we play at tempo and squeeze the opposition then 4-2-3-1 will work for now. I’m even happy to accept the highest of back lines if we can take our chances and put a game to bed. There’s no escaping that one ball over the top will kill us.

As to personnel, it’s obvious to all who he retains and if he chooses to revert then he clearly is angling for the sack!

I think Mina won’t be fit and even if he was I’d sacrifice Keane for Holgate. Simply because if we do most the attacking we only rely on Holgate to cover the 1v1. Mina’s injury might be another blessing for Silva?!

I’d also bring Kean in for Walcott. Let’s not sugar coat this, one decent game does not detract from a player who is trending downwards in his career. Playing Kean as an inside forward will offer the same pace as Walcott and he has more upside. It’s gives him a graded introduction without the burden of being CF. I get Walcott (work rate) protects Sidibe but if we are to progress both are going to have to learn some positional discipline.

The hole Silva has dug for himself means no less than three points will do and it’s needs to be done with more than a laboured 1-0. A touch of panache please.

We want verve and vigor, not sideways and stolid! UTFT!

Tony Abrahams
19 Posted 23/10/2019 at 18:47:56
I’m watching Ziyech playing against Chelsea, Ray, and it’s been a good game to watch up to now mate.

A goal ruled out by VAR, offside by millimetres, and with the cross taking a deflection off a Chelsea defender I was wondering if they’ve got the decision wrong?

Kim Vivian
20 Posted 23/10/2019 at 18:56:57
If Silva makes unforced changes to last weekend's team he's got to be shitting himself. A poor display from the usual suspects against Brighton and he must surely be walking, or going into a room by himself with a sword and not coming out again.
Kim Vivian
21 Posted 23/10/2019 at 19:14:41
Lookman making himself busy and Liepzig just scored one of the best goals we will see this season. Sublime (if he intended that, and I think he did).
Mike Gaynes
22 Posted 23/10/2019 at 19:38:03
Tony, Promes was in an offside position when Ziyech's shot was taken, and the fact that the shot was deflected doesn't change that. VAR got this one right.

Christy #14, agree with you on Seamus... glad there's someone besides me going against the "slow/lost it" consensus. But Sidibe does bring something Coleman can't, and it's something the side needs right now.

John #18, there's no scenario in which I could view a potential Mina absence as a "blessing"... he's been our best defender. But I agree on Kean -- I'd enjoy seeing him in the role Theo played last weekend.

John Pierce
23 Posted 23/10/2019 at 20:16:54
Mike, Mina has grown for sure, something I doubted and the cloud over his ability to stay healthy definitely hangs heavy. I do wince when he bulldozes into challenges. 😳

I think if we play how we played on Saturday you simply cannot play both Mina and Keane.
I guess what I’m hoping is Silva might be forced into picking Holgate (Mina injury from Sat) and then can see the balance it will bring. Eventually Holgate and Mina based on that outcome.

Mike Gaynes
24 Posted 23/10/2019 at 20:46:21
John #23, anything's possible, and I agree that combination could be a strong one. But I think given Silva's longtime preference for tall CBs, his clear affection for Keane -- he's picked him for every game he's been healthy -- and his obvious distrust of Holgate, I think it's a very unlikely scenario.

I think if the impending Tomori loan had come through back in the summer, Holgate would have been sold.

Eric Paul
25 Posted 23/10/2019 at 20:58:57
If it’s true that silva prefers tall central defenders,which I’m not sure he does.Why prefer a player based on height over ability when the best forward lines they will come up against now are like the ant hill mob
John Pierce
26 Posted 23/10/2019 at 21:12:26
Mike, maybe Silva has to ditch some things he has long held to be true or preferences in personal.

I think in the modern game so few teams are built around massive players, the traditional center forward has long waned from the game. I think the more progressive managers focus the players ability with the ball at their feet, even at center back.

Speed is more important than aerial presence, as more forwards are quick, small and very good at changing direction.

Whilst Holgate might no be the answer is best qualities blend better with Mina or Keane. Most pertinently are more suitable to the high line.

Marco, time to change what you believe to be true and try some shit.

Joe McMahon
27 Posted 23/10/2019 at 21:30:17
John, on the subject of pace I see The Ox has 2 tonight.

Wouldn't it be great just to see us play Champions League games?

Tony Abrahams
28 Posted 23/10/2019 at 21:40:56
Thanks for explaining that Mike, I don’t like VAR, and such a tight — shite decision for Ajax, got me forgetting the rules about when the ball is kicked.

Brighton looked like they had some little fast forwards when they played at Villa, and I hate watching Michael Keane trying to defend against this type of player, so hopefully the best form of defence on Saturday, will be to attack!

Holgate will probably play against Watford, but I can’t believe we are short in such a key position though?

Tom Bowers
29 Posted 23/10/2019 at 22:04:08
What you need in central defence are 2 players who are tallish, quick and who compliment each other. At the moment Everton don't have that combination and require 4 at the back including two adept full-backs.

Seamus is not what he was so I would like to see Sidibe in for a few more games with Digne continuing his fine form.

Holgate will never be the commanding centre-back we would like to see and will continue as a bit-part player much like several others.

One would like to see some trade-outs come January and a couple more solid signings.

Steve Ferns
30 Posted 23/10/2019 at 22:14:21
John, Silva has favoured smaller players like Bernard. His midfields are all usually built on pace and play like we did on Saturday, which is one of the most Silva-esque performances we have had, up there with the Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal games.

Where he likes height is in defence, the two centre-backs and usually a third guy from midfield. He likes a tall keeper too. This is all for zonal marking reasons.

Big units like Doucouré are not the norm and he was signed for Silva by the Pozzos and not by Silva himself. Although, Silva clearly loved him and wants to bring him here. Presumably so he can use his energy to go box-tobox alongside Gomes.

Silva's best teams have all been underpinned by their pace on the break and it's no surprise that we have been signing so many quick players. Other than the centre-backs (and don't forget Mina is not slow and Zouma is the only other one signed and he is quick), nearly every player we have brought in has decent pace, even Bernard, the only exception I can think of is Gomes.

Andrew James
31 Posted 23/10/2019 at 23:05:21
Kieran,

I was at that Wimbledon game. All I remember is the likes of Marcus Gayle running riot against our slower defenders.

You are right though. I remember that side could really play hence thrashing Spurs at Elland Road and, with more silky additions, turning Saints over 18 months later. Royle just could not quite make the leap either at the back where he liked headers of the ball as opposed to ball players (Craig Short) or up front given Amo was never trusted and he was determined to always lead with Ferguson or Rideout.

Mark Guglielmo
32 Posted 23/10/2019 at 23:10:21
John @18

We played a 4-3-3 on Saturday far more than we did a 4-2-3-1, regardless of how the pre-game infographic lined them up. When not trying to move the ball around and create space, Iwobi spent a lot of time between Gomes & Davies. Walcott - when not helping cover for Sidibe - and Bernard were up on the front line with Richarlison. We definitely didn't play the lone striker. Teams can and do morph their formation in the middle of games.

Also, regardless of your personal thoughts around Walcott (and mine likely mirror them), he did not one single thing to say he shouldn't in Satuday's starting XI. I want Kean on the pitch arguably more than anyone, but you yourself pointed out that Walcott was invaluable in helping protect Sidibe. Who incidentally plays forward more than any RB I've seen. If you think Kean can play that role, I'd put forth that you've never seen Kean play. It's not what he does, so asking him to do so would be idiotic.

Let's just see what the team who played so brilliantly against West Ham can do again.

Stan Schofield
33 Posted 24/10/2019 at 10:10:06
We've been beset with injury issues this season, plus we lost Gana and Zouma, and never signed an experienced striker. It's not surprising if we've struggled!!!

We've finally got to a point in this season where there are signs that that original disruption to the season might be being overcome. It's all very well apportioning blame to Silva and/or individual players who might just be off form to add to the injury woes, but I would suggest it's a tad naive.

Last Saturday the side gelled. It does not mean that that same side should be played every game. There is a squad, to handle the pressures of the season and ranges of opponent.

Tony Everan
34 Posted 24/10/2019 at 10:19:35
If there is any meritocracy at all the team that started against West Ham starts against Brighton. It is fresh, confident and will be too much for Brighton to handle. Changing it for any reason other than injury and Silva is putting his head in the Lion's mouth.

Just tell them to finish better.

Dave Abrahams
35 Posted 24/10/2019 at 10:59:42
Stan (33), I'd say the side gelled because they played differently: physically, mentally and tactically.

Yes, you are correct, the same team doesn't have to play every week... but it does have to play with the same tempo and forward movement — especially movement, that was one of the key elements of the improvement.

Stan Schofield
36 Posted 24/10/2019 at 11:04:05
Dave, agree totally with you.
Andrew James
37 Posted 24/10/2019 at 12:45:08
Dave

Agreed, our major problem has been an inability to move quickly through the middle. We can get down the sides but some opponents take pride in defending against that whereby they remain compact so spaces don't emerge so our crosses have to be pitch perfect and their defenders need beating.

I think the pace through the middle has been restricted by Sigurdsson and Schneiderlin who, at different points, slow things down.

If Iwobi, Davies, Gomes et al charge through the middle and draw players towards them, the likes of Richarlison and Bernard can peel off and find space.

Tom Bowers
38 Posted 24/10/2019 at 12:50:16
After the Hammers game, we can be forgiven for feeling optimistic if only for a week.

However, as fate has shown, one swallow doesn't make a Summer and Everton need a whole flock of swallows to gain back the confidence in we long-suffering supporters. especially as to what's going on across the park these days.

The Brighton game is, as it always seems, another banana skin and will present a stern test for Silva's ''unworried'' demeanour.

We would like to see the exuberance, particularly on offence emerge early in this game to quieten the crowd and knock the Seagulls out of their stride.

Mark Guglielmo
39 Posted 24/10/2019 at 14:39:37
Tom, wait until we go down 1-0 and ToffeeWeb explodes! That'll be a hoot.
Nicholas Ryan
40 Posted 24/10/2019 at 17:59:44
I've never understood why Defenders need to be 6'5" …. perhaps it's to deal with 'giants' like Messi, Bernard and Aguero!!
Brent Stephens
41 Posted 24/10/2019 at 18:04:23
Mark #39 ToffeeWeb never explodes. It calmly moves into polite discussion mode - especially on the Live Forum.
Jerome Shields
42 Posted 24/10/2019 at 21:20:47
In the game against West Ham, Silva not only chose to change players, he also chose to tactically speed up movement and passing in midfield.

This was helped by the open way West Ham play. It might be that, against sides that are not so open, players like Schniederlin and Delph may be better suited, if Silva continues with these tactics in midfield. They have not been given the chance most matches to play in such a tactical midfield.

We have to be careful judging players in a game which actually suited them. To start to apply templates and stereotypes is jumping the gun.

Joe McMahon
43 Posted 26/10/2019 at 07:02:24
Wow, I didn't know last nights result. I think it's fair to say we have also lost ground on Leicester City (not evening mentioning thier premier league title). I do like their manager, but of course many Evertonians don't want ex Liverpool mangers who have won trophys. Too late now anyway.

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