Succession Planning

Robert Tressell 02/04/2021 28comments  |  Jump to last

The Summer 2021 Transfer Window has been hotly anticipated for some time. It’s the end of the road for a lot of the deadwood, a reduction in the wage bill and an opportunity to move forward. As with last year, we’ll probably make about 6 signings – 3 first teamers (as predicted by both Ancelotti and Brands) a reserve goalie (Olsen or AN Other) and a couple of prospects like Nkounkou and Jagne.

There’s a good chance that our first 11 will be very good indeed by the start of next season, perhaps the best ever in the Premier League era. However, that quality could be short-lived unless we turn our attention to succession planning. That’s because of a potential exodus of attacking talent at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Proper businesses that are not football clubs spend a lot of time thinking about succession planning to guard against dips in fortune, under-resourcing and the high cost of lateral hires (agent fees and wages). Football clubs may think about this too, but most give the impression they do not. The best example of strategic succession planning I can think of is the acquisition of Soyuncu by Leicester the year before Maguire was sold. That allowed them to splurge all of the sale proceeds on a good core of new players without missing Maguire at all. They are reaping the rewards now on the pitch for this foresight.


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If you don’t do this, you’re at the mercy of a market that knows you have money in your pocket and a desperate need to fill a position. By way of example, we were quoted £20M to £30M for Kenneth Zohore (Who’s he? Exactly!) the summer we sold Lukaku. Fortunately, we didn’t proceed with that one but we did squander a lot of money. Similarly Spurs and Liverpool squandered a lot of money with the Bale and Torres money respectively. It happens.

As it also happens, I don’t expect there’ll be any major first-team departures this summer although Moise Kean will surely go and for a decent fee, too. So we’re in the happy position of being able to invest a bit more strategically rather than fill a position in desperation. That should make succession planning easier.

As above, the noises coming from Goodison Park suggest that we’ll have about 3 new first-teamers come the start of next season. The recent talk has been of Koulibaly, Aarons and Rabiot. Before that was talk of Isco, Rui Silva (the Portuguese keeper), Ramsey and Douglas Costa. In January, we tried but failed to sign the big Dutch forward Josh Zirkzee.

All that represents the tip of a large iceberg of rumours which is only going to get bigger as this season comes to an end. It suggests that we’re after a goalkeeper, a centre-half, a centre-midfielder, a creative midfielder, a goal-scoring midfielder, a right-back, a right-winger and a centre-forward. That’s a total of 8 new players which would seem a bit unrealistic. 3 first-teamers might cost about £80 to £100 million. 8 first team quality players would cost about £200 to £250 million or even more.

Assuming it’s the three hottest current rumours (which would make for an exciting summer), let’s look at what this might mean for our first 11 going into next season:

Pickford – age 27 – contract ends June 2024
Aarons – age 21 - contract would end circa June 2025
Digne – age 27 – contract ends June 2025
Koulibaly – age 29 – contract would end circa June 2024
Godfrey – age 23 – contract ends June 2025
Allan – age 30 – contract ends June 2023
Doucouré – age 28 – contract ends June 2023
Rabiot – age 25 – contract would end circa June 2025
Rodriguez – age 29 – contract ends June 2022
Richarlison – age 23 – contract ends June 2024
Calvert-Lewin – age 24 – contract ends June 2025

That’s a really good side – with 5 or 6 players looking genuinely top 4 material and the rest at a very good standard. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that would be our strongest ever Premier League first 11 on paper at least anyway. But the depth, as now, would continue to be a bit iffy. Assuming we sell Kean, Tosun and Bernard, and release the persistently overlooked King, it’ll look like this:

Olsen – age 31 – contract till circa June 2023 assuming he re-signs
Coleman – age 32 – contract till June 2022
Nkounkou – age 20 – contract till June 2023
Mina – age 26 – contract till June 2023
Keane - age 28 – contract till June 2025
Davies – age 23 – contract till June 2023
Gomes – age 27 – contract till June 2024
Sigurdsson – age 31 – contract till June 2022
Gordon – age 20 – contract till June 2025
Iwobi – age 25 – contract till June 2024
Simms - age 20 – contract till June 2021 (although I think his loan to Blackpool might be to the end of next season anyway)

In addition, we’ll also have Gbamin (will he ever be fit?), Holgate (will he stay?), Virginia and the likes of Branthwaite, Small (will he stay?) and Onyango who have all made their first-team debuts for us.

That’s not a lot of depth, especially in forward and wide positions where we have almost nothing. A couple of prospects (as last summer with Nkounkou and Jagne) might help bolster the squad a bit. Even then though, we’re very light. That lack of reinforcements has really bitten us in the arse this season.

Each season we’re in the same or similar position, trying to build up a decent first XI but unable to pull in quality from the U23s if we get injuries and suspensions. Even with 3 high-quality reinforcements next season, that will still be the case.

The trouble beyond that is the departure of Coleman, Rodriguez and Sigurdsson on free transfers at the end of next season (unless re-signed) and the likes of Davies, Mina, Nkounkou, Doucoure and Allan all entering the final year of their contracts. Obviously, there will be some contract extensions too, but it suggests quite a high turnover of the playing squad and even first team in the next couple of seasons.

There’s a bigger problem than that though.

At the end of next season, there is a very high likelihood that we will lose Rodriguez, Richarlison and Sigurdsson. These 3 players provide an extremely high percentage of goals, assists and attacking threat. Although we’ll get a decent wedge for Richarlison, we’d be left at the unfortunate mercy of the market trying to replace these 3 very productive (albeit slightly flawed) players with his sale proceeds – and that would be just to tread water. If we’re intent on improving, then it’s an almost impossible task to replace all three players with better options in one window.

That’s why succession planning is so important this summer window. Certainly, it would help to get in the reinforcements this window to cover future departures. That means spending our money on the forward and wide positions, buying a modestly priced right-back and perhaps putting up with the likes of Keane and Sigurdsson in the first XI next season. That might well help, but we’d still be under-resourced in quite a few positions.

You could also argue (again, as I have before) that we could “do a Leipzig” and go for more volume in the 18 to 22 age category without spending more than about £15M to £20M on any single player. We can all argue amongst ourselves on that one but it doesn’t matter, it’ll almost certainly not happen. This approach requires an all-dominant strategy and a management subservient to that strategy. We don’t have that. I get the sense that we have misalignment between Moshiri, Ancelotti and Brands… which is a whole different issue.

If you want to be really long-term about it, then plugging the gap with quality from the academy is an option too. But, even if we embarked now on that lofty ambition, we might still be waiting for the strategy to bear regular fruit at the start of the next decade. It doesn’t help for the 2022-23 season and our first season at Bramley-Moore Dock.

The only other option is to do what the rich clubs often do and just spend much more money (especially on forwards) until it all falls into place. That’s an expensive way to deal with succession planning, but it’s part of what keeps the rich clubs ahead of us, year-in & year-out. Unfortunately, I just don’t see we have anything like the spending power for that approach.

While we’re struggling with our first XI, the richer clubs can often put out 2 first XIs of international class from top to bottom, along with having a good number of very highly-rated prospects developing out on loan. Their depth is a real killer for us.

So, I’m expecting some good signings and an exciting summer but, for me at least, it will be interesting to see whether it’s designed to make us really genuinely competitive beyond next season or not.

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Reader Comments (28)

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Barry Rathbone
1 Posted 02/04/2021 at 17:51:07
Being proactive and thinking ahead on the playing side doesn't figure with this club we took the money without thinking when we sold Alan Ball and it killed us. The Howie years never evolved into the dynasty it should have because as a club we are led by gin swilling, pisshead amateurs in a professional game.

The contrast with the neighbours losing and replacing St John, Hunt, Keegan, Rush, Souness, Dalglish, Owen, Torres, Suarez etc is marked yet bizarrely some still wonder how they rattle up silverware even in their "lean" years.

Too much head in the sand sentimentality and lack of dynamism about this club which judging by the money wasted under Mosh doesn't look like changing.

But we plod on in delusional hope because that's all there is

Brent Stephens
3 Posted 02/04/2021 at 18:30:36
“This club...sold Ball...”.

“This” club? Stretching it a bit, perhaps.

Barry Rathbone
4 Posted 02/04/2021 at 18:48:04

No idea what you're talking about and neither do you it seems as you are quoting a phrase of your own making.

Tony Dunn
7 Posted 02/04/2021 at 23:42:14
We did sell Bally, didn't we? Sadly...
Brendan McLaughlin
8 Posted 03/04/2021 at 00:11:16
An article on succession planning and we're talking about players we sold in the seventies... ToffeeWeb that!
Derek Moore
9 Posted 03/04/2021 at 05:41:03
Hmmm.... I saw Barry's reasoning as pointing to a very long-standing history of fuckwittery in this regard. We sold Rooney. We sold Ball. We sold Ball. We sold Lineker. We sold Kanchelskis. We sold Lukaku. We sold Stones...( good business actually that one). We sold Lescott.

I agree with Barry. I think he is right to point at previous history, and then express concern over the chances of success in a £250 million spending spree, if I'm honest.

Danny O’Neill
10 Posted 03/04/2021 at 12:24:48
On Leicester, they have planned and built well. Maguire was a stellar piece of business. I bet they couldn't believe their luck. "They said yes to £80m"; I can just imagine the response in the Leicester board room. They didn't even need to haggle. Apologies if this upsets a few, but they got £50m more for a better version of the much improved Michael Keane. Is he actually that much better than Keane??

The past is the past and we can only look forward. We could point to obvious events as to why we didn't build on the 80s team. I think it affected us more than others but ultimately others did overcome the same situation. It doesn't get away from the valid point about poor leadership. Dr David Marsh?

All speculation but I like that team Robert. And that on paper, having Davies, Gomes and Sigurdsson in reserve is not a bad look to a midfield. I still feel there's a need for a winger / wide forward player given we know we won't get a full season out of James Rodriguez.

But yes, forward-thinking and adding depth to the squad are key to the summer.

Danny O’Neill
11 Posted 03/04/2021 at 12:34:18
And add Gbamin hopefully to that midfield list.
Alan J Thompson
12 Posted 03/04/2021 at 15:47:08
Even at the time, I couldn't believe that Colin Harvey, when selling Gary Stevens, said that no defender was worth a million pounds.
Robert Tressell
13 Posted 03/04/2021 at 18:39:41
It is a good team, Danny. And I expect our first 11 will be that strong - albeit who knows with what personnel.

Unfortunately, Rodriguez may not play more than about 25 more games for the club before his scheduled departure at the end of 21/22 season. Then what?

Tony Everan
14 Posted 04/04/2021 at 08:29:03

As well as this succession planning I want to see from now on a shift in the type of player we buy.

The Premier League is a dynamic place, times they are a-changing, and changing fast. It's no longer good enough to have a player just with good technical ability. Unless a new player can bring physicality, mobility and intensity to the game, all is lost.

Teams like Leeds, even Fulham and West Bromwich are like coiled springs on the pitch this season. Because of our sluggishness and lower levels of intensity, we can be negated far too easily by these teams. Even though we are arguably much better technically.

If the natural progression doesn't recognise this as an equal necessity to the technical ability of a new signing then we will continue to tread water and even begin struggle again.

New signings have to compete with the new “5G” era Premier League (for want of a better term). Technically great but slow (in comparison to our competitors) and ponderous will never gain be good enough.

John Zapa
15 Posted 05/04/2021 at 05:44:17
Very hard to think about succession planning when the manager is thinking of his immediate needs for the coming campaign. The director of football is looking at a longer horizon, the chairman wants to make sentimental signings like Rooney, and Moshiri wants Hollywood signings. It just doesn't gel well together.
Derek Knox
16 Posted 05/04/2021 at 09:14:06
It will be interesting to say the least about who comes in the Summer transfer when, and equally interesting to see who if any goes. The general opinion from what I can gather, is most believe that few will leave, apart from Moise Kean, which could generate a decent fee, or be used as makeweight with cash involved for either Rabiot or Koulibaly, depending on whether Juventas or Napoli get their man.

I know many have also advocated keeping Moise Kean. I see it this way, the guy obviously has talent and an eye for goal, but clearly did NOT want to be here for whatever reason. So there's no point in having ANY player who does NOT want to play for us, and equally we DON'T want players just coming for the money, or an early easy retirement scheme/final pay off.

Maybe I'm wrong again, but it seems to be a 'given' that we will get Max Aarons, I know he has been courted by the top Clubs and a hefty fee attached to any potential move. Although we desperately need to find a quality successor to Seamus whose games and appearances are limited now, so can't see that improving next season as he will be another year older.

Since the 'link' to Max Aarons stretching back a while I have made a point in watching Norwich games wherever possible, and he hasn't really stood out for me. Maybe I have been unlucky, not unusual, ask Camelot they have made a fortune out of me, and the likes with very little coming the other way.

The point I'm trying to make is Aarons fee has mushroomed because of all the hype and interest in him, but surely with a bit of scouting and ingenuity there must be someone out there equally good, or possibly better, for a fraction of the fee.

Again I will probably invoke controversy, but I would move on or listen to offers for Holgate, Gomes, Delph, Bernard, and the usual suspects Walcott, Bolasie et al, whose contracts are up this summer anyway. There is also a rumour circulating (initiated no doubt by journos) that Mina is being eyed by AC/Inter Milan and Fiorentina, and allegedly he is keen to go. Read into that what you will, but I always, rightly or wrongly, work on the premise the there is 'no smoke without fire'!

Chris Williams
17 Posted 05/04/2021 at 09:44:49
With all the financial restructuring of the club that Moshiri has been doing just recently, and with the possibility of a further £100m investment, added to the possible announcement of the Stadium naming deal, we might expect a decent window, at least as effective as the last one.

I’m sure a fair few departures will also take place, as well as the usual departures at the younger levels.

Luckily FFP rules are a bit more relaxed.

What’s happening with Brands contract, which has gone very quiet, unless I’ve missed something?

Robert Tressell
18 Posted 07/04/2021 at 08:53:49
Derek, I made the point in a previous article that, since we are so light up top, we might be better going for a cheaper right back than Aarons. This would allow us to spend bigger on the forward line. There are lots of right back options - and we've been linked to most of them already. Players who might be available for under £20m include Dagba of PSG, Williams of Man Utd and Celik of Lille.

We also get linked with Emerson, the Betis right back but he'd probably be more than £20m.

If we put up with Keane and Sigurdsson in the first team next year we could probably afford to buy Aarons and, say, Bailey and Sarr. I dare say that sort of pace and attacking threat would have made the games against Fulham, Burnley, Newcastle and Palace look quite different. It would also mean we don't lose 3/4 of our goals when Rodriguez, Sigurdsson and quite likely Richarlison leave at the end of next season.

Andrew Ellams
19 Posted 07/04/2021 at 09:18:54
I think the idea of throwing £40m+ (as reported in the media) this summer at a centre half is crazy, even if it is Koulibaly.

Monday showed we are desperate for a striker who has more to his game than Calvert-Lewin and that player won't come cheaply.

A right full back and right sided attacker are also bigger priorities than a centre half right now.

Tony Everan
20 Posted 07/04/2021 at 09:47:04
I think it’s academic with Koulibaily, I would be amazed if he didn’t want a move to a Champions League club at his stage of career. If the rumours of Mina wanting a move to Italy are true then it’s just possible.

Robert, Andrew, your points echo my sentiments too. The focus and priorities have to be more pace threat and goals up front, Sarr, Bailey, yes please. I equally if not more a driving force from midfield. A player to bring intensity and help set the tempo. There’s some of us that will start sounding very repetitive about this, but so what, we need that midfielder. If somehow we can replace Gomes, Sigurdsson and Delph with Buendia it would still cost us in fees but would save in wages. It would give us extra in an attacking midfield sense whilst retaining good tenacity.

Right back is an important position to get right, but it is in third place of budgetary priority. There’s options out there for Brands to assess. I’m not sure how much Dagba or Celik would cost but they need to have a good look at whether they can do a deal. Especially with Kean wanting to go to PSG, Dagba could be part of that deal if he was interested in coming here.

Clive Rogers
21 Posted 07/04/2021 at 10:06:50
The longer the season goes on, the more positions we seem to need strengthening. A RB, a midfielder and a back up striker have been touted since the beginning of the season. Recent performances however have raised further concerns. We now need in addition to those three, a back up goalie if Olsen goes, an extra midfielder as Allan has hardly been a success a wide player and a first choice striker. Our current pair of strikers are always going to have barren patches and Josh King seems to have been written off. A new striker now seems the top priority.
Andrew Ellams
22 Posted 07/04/2021 at 10:16:36
Clive, I don't like the phrase backup player with the possible exception of a goalkeeper. Players need to be interchangeable at any time without the overall quality of the starting 11 dropping too much.

Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison would both have had more bench time this season if we had adequate depth in the squad.

Brian Harrison
23 Posted 07/04/2021 at 11:29:49

A really interesting post, but I don't think you can compare normal businesses to football as there are more variables to consider. Although players sign 3/4 year deals that is only to secure their future, and whatever happens that guarantees that is the minimum they will earn x amount over the period of the contract. Now if he or the team are successful then the club after 18 months to 2 years will offer to increase his salary. Players now have all the power since the Bosman ruling, what was originally brought in to stop clubs holding players registrations even though never playing them, has now in my opinion swung far to much in the players favour.

Most of the money that clubs generate in gate receipts and sponsorship deals, about 75% of that money goes straight into the players bank account, now I cant think of another business were the employees pay makes up 75% of a Companies turnover. When you look at Everton in particular the share that is paid to players as against turnover is in excess of 85% completely unsustainable for a mid table team. Given the money that has been spent since Usmanov/ Moshiri took over, I can only assume that the reason for this massive investment is the payback they will be able to get once BMD is built.

Now even allowing for the relaxation in the FFP rules, they havent been totally removed so we will be governed by what we can spend come the summer. The problem is that apart from Moise Kean, many others are either coming to the end of their contracts so we will get nothing from any of the transfers. Then the players we will look to offload who arent currently out of contract this summer, are on astronomical wages that other clubs just wont pay. So whats the incentive for players to move, I suspect that Bernard will end up leaving but instead of us getting in the region of the £10 million we would have got had he moved in Jan it was decided he would wait till he could get more for himself and the club a lot less by waiting till the summer. Very similar to what hapened to barkley while having a medical at Chelsea he suddenly decides he is not ready and would delay the move, again anybody would have to be naive to believe that this wasn't an arrangement with Chelsea were he would get a significantly higher signing on fee and Everton would lose millions by this delay.

So while Everton on the whole pay top 6 salaries to players who wouldnt get into a top 6 side, then trying to plan for the future is nigh impossible, unless we stop paying average players silly money. That's why when we have sent established players on loan the clubs they get loaned to after seeing them close up decide no thanks. I see even Besiktas are now looking at other alternatives to Tosun and have little or no intention of signing him once the season finishes. So he will quite happily come back and sit at home every match day till his contract runs out.

Robert Tressell
24 Posted 07/04/2021 at 14:47:47
Brian, all of that is absolutely right but it doesn't stop you planning ahead. In fact, if you're shelling out 75% of turnover on the playing staff doesn't it make it even more important?
Jay Harris
25 Posted 07/04/2021 at 15:53:35
A good thought provoking post.

I agree with planning ahead but the big factor in any top players mind is "Are they CL ?".

That will regrettably preclude us from a number of top signings so we only have the "Ancelotti factor" to attract quality players and they are likely to be those with potential(sometimes never realised) and those at the twilight of their career and on the way out.

I think Derek makes a very good point too about the difference in thinking amongst the decision makers.

Martin Mason
26 Posted 07/04/2021 at 16:32:30
The good thing is that the club via Brand, Carlo and the academy have little in mind other than the succession; that is their job. The other good thing is that the historical aspect of how the club has done has no relevance to how they will do as time goes on. I disagree that Moshiri didn't waste any money Barry he invested in players as he was advised to do by the so called experts at the club. He financially stabilised the club which resulted in the new ground going ahead and even the dross that we bought is a temporary situation. No Everton fan would or should ever plod on in delusional hope, the club is turning itself around well and the future looks amazingly bright. What is it with the ridiculous negativity of a tiny minority of the fanbase?
Brian Harrison
27 Posted 08/04/2021 at 11:09:35
I definitely think that someone at the club has looked at our U23 team and has reduced the average age of the team from 21 to 19. When you look at the U23 teams of the very top clubs they have a much younger U23 teams than we had at 21. I would look to reduce the average age still further in the next 12 months. When you have 21 year olds playing in the U23 teams then it just blocks the progression of the 17 and 18 year olds. For to long the U23 sides were run as if winning the league was the most important thing, yes its very nice to win the U23 league but the job of the coaches is to produce first team players not winning the league full of players a lot older than our competitors.

When people say well its difficult to produce young players on a regular basis, well the team at the other end of the East Lancs doesn't seem to have a problem producing youngsters for their first team. And lets remember their youngsters are having to get into a side that regularly competes at the top end of the league. Whereas we cant even produce youngsters to get into a mid table side. Despite the money that Usmanov/Moshiri have pumped in we are unlikely to attract the very best players, so maybe we need to look at what Dortmund and leipzig have done. they realize they cant compete against the top European clubs for players, so they scout the best youngsters around. Now they are well aware that at some point their very best youngsters, like Haarland and Bellingham will move to top European sides. But they will be sold for 10 times what was paid for them and in the meantime they are building the clubs profile and adding massively to their finances.

So maybe we need to accept that in the next few years a lot of money will be needed to be invested in the new stadium. Which will inhibit our spending in the market. Now I don't know whether Carlo is prepared to wait around if he is being asked to work under severe financial restrictions, and it would be sad to lose him. But this club has to change drastically if we are ever to compete against the big boys, we certainly cant out spend them so surely we have to attack it from a different prospective of buying average players and giving them top 6 money. As we have found to our cost doing this hasnt improved the club despite the money that has been spent.

Steve Mink
28 Posted 09/04/2021 at 15:13:25
Realistic targets I'd like us to go for.

Matty Cash
Andersen (Fulham)
O'Neill (Burnley)

Eddie Dunn
29 Posted 09/04/2021 at 15:47:11
Steve- I think Ings has got very little milage left and Winks is the epitomy of ordinary.
Oneil looks very exciting and Cash is also a good player. Don't know much about Aarons except that he is a little short!
Eddie Dunn
30 Posted 09/04/2021 at 15:47:11
Steve- I think Ings has got very little milage left and Winks is the epitomy of ordinary.
Oneil looks very exciting and Cash is also a good player. Don't know much about Aarons except that he is a little short!
Robert Tressell
31 Posted 09/04/2021 at 16:19:51
Steve, O'Neil and especially Aarons are likely to be on Everton's list of targets. Ings is a very good player but I can't see it as even remotely likely. He would cost about £50m or even £60m. This is why, possibly apart from Aarons if he does come, I expect almost all of our recruitment will be from abroad. There's very little value in the domestic market. Norwich and Watford have some good players but will want to hang on to them on likely promotion. It sounds as though Norwich hung onto Aarons last summer on the promise they'd release him this summer. Olise of Reading and Brooks at Bournemouth might the only stand out players who won't be promoted.

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