Three more years for Marcel Brands?

Martin O'Connor 25/04/2021 13comments  |  Jump to last
Director of Football Marcel Brands has signed a new 3-year contract with Everton. But was this new contract deserved?

When Brands joined the club, one of his major tasks was clearing out the horrendous number of overpaid and under-achieving players littering Finch Farm. This was never going to be an easy job with players on good contracts and handsomely paid for their under-achievements. Players were sold during his first 3 years: Vlasic, Lookman, Dowell, Robinson for example. But, while these players were sold, we have had any number moving from loan to loan.

Getting them out of the squad and getting some of their wages paid is no mean feat but, when it comes down to it after 3 years in the job, we still had players such as Bolasie, Besic, Walcott (whose contract is up in the summer, thank god), Tosun and Kenny on the books.

As hard as it is to move players such as these on permanently, I think more could have been done to at least get a few more players moved on. Kenny for one could have been sold to Burnley at one point. To be fair, the club did seem to believe he had a future with the Blues, hopefully now fully extinguished.

Incoming transfers seem to have gone better. Brands came into the club with the clear strategy of signing players in the 25 years and under age bracket. Added to this was the aim of bringing players through from the club’s academy.

Looking at the signings since Brands came to the club, Digne, Godfrey and Doucouré have all been successes, Jarrad Branthwaite and Neils Nkounkou are young players who have good potential, and Brands certainly gets a tick for these.

André Gomes flattered to deceive for 6 months but has declined ever since. Bernard is a player with technical skill but ultimately is not suited to the Premier League. La Liga would suit him.

Alex Iwobi has been an expensive mistake while the 6-month contract given to Josh King in January is absolutely pointless. We can also add to this list Jonas Lössl and the year-long loan of Djibril Sidibé.

The signings of Allan and Rodriguez signings have improved us on the pitch, but one is pushing close to and one is in his early 30s. They are both good players but are slightly on the decline in their careers. This season has also shown the questionable fitness records of both.

Which brings us to Delph… why we signed him is beyond me. A player with leadership qualities? No, just a big month and a horrendous fitness record. Gbamin is different as his fitness record was fine at Mainz but I fear he is now to be plagued with injuries and he will be an unlucky expensive mistake.

Moise Kean was a good signing who just never settled at the Blues. He will probably leave in the summer for a profit.

When you look at the signings under Brands in total it is very average. Added to this the signing of players 25 and under does seem to be an ideal which is not fully observed, as the signing of Doucouré, Allan, Rodriguez and the absolute stain on the club, Delph, shows.

Meanwhile, players we have sent out on loan during Brands's time at the club have not made any impact on the first team: Kenny, Broadhead, Bowler, Baningime, Dowell (sold to Norwich last summer) etc. We have a number of players out on loan at present: Gordon, Simms, Gibson, Branthwaite… Will any of these come through to the first team? Branthwaite is the one who has a chance.

Which brings us to the club’s academy. I have written a number of critical pieces on the academy, believing that we will not see any progress while Unsworth, Ebbrell, Jeffers and Co continue in post. Unsworth has even been made Head of the whole academy structure under Brands.

During the 3 years Brands has been in post, we have not had one young player come through and make any impact on the first team. A couple of appearances by Virginia during a goal-keeping crisis this season and a couple of minutes against Sheffield Wednesday for Thierry Small and Tyler Onyango is all we have had, plus Anthony Gordon who produced some underwhelming appearances before he was sent on loan to Preston.

I don’t think there has been one iota of progress in the academy since Brands joined the club. To be fair, we do have a number of prospects in the 16- to 18-year-old age bracket at the moment, the above-mentioned Small and Onyango, plus Reece Welch, Lewis Warrington, Rafael Garcia, Charlie Whitaker and Zan-Luk Leban, for example. Will any of these players progress to the first team? A long shot with the current leadership of the Academy is my view, but one can hope.

Marcel Brands's first 3 year spell is chequered at best, and I would say very average. A Louis Campos, Paul Mitchell or Fredi Bobic he is not. Should he have been given a new contract? Questionable, and as Campos is out of work at present, I would certainly have put out feelers in that direction. But the club just seemed to be waiting for Marcel to renew.

Now Brands is in post now for another 3 years, he has made all the right soundbites:

“When I came to England almost 3 years ago, my plan wasn’t to stay only 3 years.”

“My job is a long-term job and, in the previous clubs where I worked, I stayed a long time.”

“It is a long-term job, trying to build something for a long time, with a structure behind it. From Academy to First Team, from recruitment to sports science and medical – all departments involved in football. It takes serious time to get all these departments in line with each other and we are working hard on that.”

“The ambitions of the Club are great, everyone wants to be part of that – especially me, not only as Director of Football, but as a Board member, working closely with my colleagues.”

“Once I choose something – I go 100 per cent."

“I am never satisfied – we have to do more and work harder.”

“I think we are making good progress but there is still a lot to achieve.”

“We want to win things and be in Europe – but then I will want more.”

I agree that his job is, as he says, “a long-term job”. But I think we should have seen more progress in the 3 years he has been in post. The signing of a new contract by Brands does give the so-called panacea of stability that everyone seems to mouth.

It is to be hoped that, in the next 3 years, we will see the progress which I think has been lacking in Brands's first 3 years at the club. This for me definitely means bringing through a couple of young players from the Acacdemy into the first team, which will not happen with the present academy leadership in my eyes.

On transfers, a movement away from the 25-and-under age group has been creeping in since the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti and I would suggest needs to be reversed.

My own question is “Did the board (not including Brands, who is a board member) actually take a critical review of his first 3 years with the blues? Bill Kenwright saying “It only took one spin of Z Cars in the discussion of a new contract" seems to point that they did not. But we now have Marcel Brands in post for another 3 years; let’s hope we get more progress than in the first 3 years…

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Reader Comments (13)

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Paul Kernot
1 Posted 25/04/2021 at 00:04:52
Well put together Martin. Not new of course this debate. The more time I've had to mull it over, the more I think there isn't a simple answer. Brands made a good start on his mandate to reduce the playing staff and salaries, then Carlo came along with his reputation & rightly in my opinion decided he needed to steady the ship with some experience. Equals Moshiri is now between the proverbial rock & hard place.
Alan J Thompson
2 Posted 26/04/2021 at 05:50:32
After having a series of managers who didn't seem to last more than a season and a half at most, it is important that we have some continuation in these positions. As Mr Brands points out, it is a long term job putting the right thing in place.

Also, we will not usually be told who or how it is decided which players Everton sign and in these days of the all powerful Agent and FFP as it applies to those not wanting an ESL, it won't always be anyone at Everton who makes the final decision or if indeed we end up with the preferred or first targeted player.

If there is one thing I would like adopted it would be Mr Catterick's approach to signing players, remember the headlines and back stories?
Alex Scott to Spurs,
Howard Kendall to replace Milne over the park,
Alan Ball being paid 100 quid a week by Revie to push for a move to Leeds.
And many more with barely a whisper, but then, money was no object and being signed by Everton was an upgrade on wherever you played.

Tony Abrahams
3 Posted 26/04/2021 at 07:59:19
I think there has been a change in direction since Ancellotti came into the club, and hopefully everyone is now looking forward, concentrating on their own particular job, especially Brands, because he’s the only man at the club, who should have more than one job.
Ian Burns
4 Posted 26/04/2021 at 14:45:44
Good piece Martin and well thought out. You have given this some thought and it is difficult to argue with the points you have raised.

However, I take a more pragmatic view in that Brands came into a situation after the Keoman/Walsh debacle and such was the mess those two total failures left EFC, Brands' job was never going to be quick or easy. So his first 3 years may sound a long time but when you consider what he has had to achieve in that time, I don't think he has done a bad job. In my opinion he has earned an additional 3 years, if only for the sake of stability and the knowledge he now has and what he needs to achieve to take the club forward.

Where I agree with you 100% is the coaching of the young players in the academy. Unsworth appears to me to have passed his sell-by date and we need some new ideas from the modern world of football and never has the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" been more appropriate.

One more thing I would like to say, at my age, it is frightening to think Brands has been here for 3 years already - frightening!

Jerome Shields
5 Posted 26/04/2021 at 22:24:23
This is a very good summary of what has happened during Brands first tenure and what actually has taken place in the backroom structures of the Club.

The result being that Ancelotti, having publicly announced that most of the players are not of sufficient technical ability, has had to resort to tactics aimed at damage limitation to the end of the season, Big Sam like. Ancelotti has had to persist with continually and repetitively coaching players to try to get them to consistently perform and has had to cope with changes as a result of injury prone players that where transfered in by Brands. The lack of Brands gems is a gaping hole disappointment.

Whilst there have been changes at the Academy namely getting younger players into the under 23 squad and the playing of a similar style of football type of football to the senior squad. Putting it brutally stopping Unsworths Empire building. The appointment to Unsworth to his present position wasn't a professional step.

The changes that Brands mentions in the Medical Services where not his, but strategic appointments by Ancelotti from his own back up team, which where only announced two months into this season, which IMO points to some internal resistance.

Brands originally appeared to be his own man regarding transfers, but Silva last Summer Transfer Window shattered that. Brands also stated that using the January Transfer window was panic buying, King on Brands list for two years proves that. This was a transfer that Ancelotti just about tolerated as can be seen by his selections.

Brands remit was to reduce the wages bill that he had inherited. He has had margin success in reducing deadwood and in Delph has added to it. The loaning out of young players has been part of this plan, but one could question its success in developing young players. Though reports from Blackpool. are very heartening, given previous reports from other loanee Club Managers. eg the former Wales Manager Chris Colman. Never liked the Baines appointment.

I stiil think (MK) that Brands position in the Club as Director of Football and being on the Board is a enigma and gives his position in the Club a European Super league type lack of competition and accountability. I totally agree with Martin that his new contract was rubber stamped and I doubt there is a development plan or targets or any consideration of them in his appointment.

As Ancelotti pulls Everton up by the boot straps, it will become more apparent that Kenwright &Co are a drag on Everton progress. Brands riding two horses at once, will increasing make him look like a Luvie. His public pronouncements have a hollow ring about them, given his actual achievements. over this past three years.

Tony McNulty
6 Posted 26/04/2021 at 22:34:42
All teams make mistakes with their acquisitions from time to time. However Iwobi is an absolute humdinger.

I had hopes for Moise Kean, however the throw away remarks of John Parrot (close to Dunc of course) in one of the Sunday papers to the effect that he was one of our most disappointing signings suggests to me that the striker will be on his way.

I agree with others' remarks above: it is practically impossible to move people on when they would have to take pay cuts in order to leave. Neither Brands nor anyone else can be expected to work miracles in such situations.

Don Alexander
7 Posted 27/04/2021 at 01:31:02
Moshiri and Kenwright, his "enhanced" chairman, delivered via Walsh, Koeman, Silva and Allardyce a tsunami of shite for Brands and Ancelotti to dispose of. We're not even halfway to sorting it out, through no fault of Brands and Ancelotti.

Moshiri has to grow a pair this year and invest in his belief re Brands and Ancelotti with top-four money to push on, years too late, with his self-said, now lamented, three-year project five years ago.

Brands and Ancelotti cannot fashion silk out of the sow's ear Moshiri inadvertently delivered to them/us at huge expense, and if anyone has faith in "sausage-barm Unsy" et al developing a player for the first team I'd just like to ask what they're drinking?

Dickie Langley
8 Posted 27/04/2021 at 10:12:18
I have no particular insight into how Unsworth is doing, but the "failure" to develop young players may be partially to do with the 2-year Academy transfer ban. Also, if Brands had got rid (easier said than done) of all the sub-standard players when he arrived, we would have struggled to get 11 players on the pitch. I think he's doing alright, and 3 more years sounds reasonable.
Richard Parker
9 Posted 27/04/2021 at 13:48:35
I think Brands has done a decent job so far.

There has been significant shit to clear up since Brands came into the club... and a massive amount of money spent by his predecessors that have hamstrung transfer activity because of FFP.

Most of the shit has been shovelled now and we just had one of our best transfer windows since the PL began. We brought in 4 players that immediately improved our first XI - has that EVER happened before??? That is the club leveraging the world class manager that we finally have leading the Everton project.

The under-25 strategy is clearly the right one on paper but when Carlo can bring in players of the quality of Allan and James, you bend the rules. Especially when the previous strategy was bearing no fruit.

I don't think we can too critically judge Brands just yet. He walked into a shit-show and you can see significant improvement in the quality of the first team squad... and I'm looking forward to seeing what the summer brings. If we can repeat the last one, we should be in decent shape next season.

John Davies
10 Posted 28/04/2021 at 21:07:34
Jeffers FFS. He has pissed all over Everton from day 1.
Kieran Kinsella
11 Posted 28/04/2021 at 21:44:43

I think you bring up a lot of reasonable questions and concerns. I am not convinced by Brands based on the last three years, but I think there are extenuating circumstances. I also think we need a period of stability after all the upheaval post Moyes. I would stick by him if I were Mosh, based on his prior reputation and success. Bill's typically flippant comments I am sure don't reflect Mosh's views seeing as he has given various managers short thrift. I can't see Mosh blindly giving Brands a free pass, so presumably he has reason to believe he is the man for the job.

Harry Williams
12 Posted 30/04/2021 at 20:50:29
We have gone backwards under Brands. Luckily Ancelotti got his players in last year. Brands has been a very poor appointment.
For me, Steve Walsh did a better job, he still has more players in the Everton first team than Brands ie Pickford, Sigurdsson, DCL.. Brands in three years has done what ? Well he's put Unsworth in charge of the U23s and the whole Academy, that's right lady's and gentleman, that's Brands big plan, unbelievable!
Pekka Harvilahti
13 Posted 01/05/2021 at 23:08:26
I think there is twelve places to fill in a football first team to accommodate all the different formations (4-4-2,4-2-3-1, 4-3-3-, 3-5-2, 3-4-3). two for forwards, two for wingers, one for attacking midfielder (#10), two for defending midfielders (one of those must also be a playmaker), two for fullbacks, two for centerbacks and one for a goalkeeper. Every slot needs two senior players except in goal where you need three players of which one may be a u-23. That makes a total of 25 players.
Some players (like Godfrey) can play in different places which really helps the manager.
In recent matches we have had only one or two senior players on the bench (not counting goalkeeper) which is pretty awful situation considering the requirements of the modern game.
It gives the opposition a great chance to play just a little bit harder to obtain advantage with our key players being injured and replaced with junior players. I'm not saying their coach is saying "go out and kick the living daylights out of them" but they surely tell them to give James and Richie a hard time.
Of the 25 slots, we have two good forwards (DCL, Richie, two more needed).
We have a good #10 in James. Siggy can play this role but only if the midfield is strong and he does not have to defend.So one more needed here.
We currently have no adequate wingers. Iwobi and Bernard are poor excuses of that. So we would need four of them.
Defensive mid is also a problem. Allan is (at his best) one of the best in the league but the injuries have taken their toll. Doucure's injury was critical, even if he's not really defending midfielder, his presence and workload is admirable.
Davies on his day (like the Anfield victory) is good but it does not happen often enough.
Gomes is on the verge, he might come good but it's also possible that he never gains the same vein of form that took him to Barcelona.
Delph, why bother?
So, at least one is needed at the defensive mid.
Fullbacks, Digne is good even if he suffers with fast wingers. Nkonkou could cover him but somehow Carlo does not seem like him. There must be a reason for that.
Coleman was fading, but is back now and could play one final season for us.
Looks like we will need two new fullbacks (one left, one right).
In the CB side, we have good and bad.
Godfrey is awesome, he is probably the fastest defender (or any player) in the league. He still makes mistakes but is clearly willing to learn. His problem is the play making but he will learn. City will ask for him in the summer and if he continues his development, he will go in the summer of '22.
Keane is ok, he makes mistakes but can distribute the ball. It is very important who he is playing with in the middle.
Jerry is the best of the lot to play from the back(even if they should never try to play from the back the as the midfield is too slow and fragile). His problem is speed and mobility.
Holgate looked good and ready but there seems to be problems with concentration and attitude. He has made a lot of serious errors leading to goals that everybody saw so it would not be a total surprise to see him go in the summer.
I would like to see two new CB:s in the summer, at least one even if Holgate and Mina both stay with us.
Goalkeepers: I think we are well covered here even if Pickford's a little bit too short literally. A 6.3 plus keeper is a must in the modern game.
So according to my list we would need 11 new players. Everybody understands that it will not happen but the least they could do is get a proper forward, two wingers, a defensive mid cover and cover for fullbacks.
There is a 'Maybe' section which might supply some of these;
Davies, Nkonkou, Gbamin, Kean, Gordon, Kenny, Holgate, Siggy.
The outbound section (including those in the Maybe-section):
Iwobi, Bernard,Delph, Besic, King,
Beni, Tosun, Bolasie, Walcott, Pennington, Connolly.

Final note: this is of course only my subjective feeling of what the current state of our beloved club's First Team is or should be. There surely is a mistake or more but I wrote it as I felt it. These things are meant to be discussed not argued with angry insults.

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