Let's forget Carlo Ancelotti, the latest fall guy being blamed for the failings of the club, and instead let's focus on two others: David Unsworth and Marcel Brands.
David Unsworth took over the Under-23s in June 2014. Six years on, we haven't produced anyone from within who is capable of doing any more than polishing boots. Jonjoe Kenny scored the winning goal for England at the Euros before Unsworth came onto the scene. Kieran Dowell was already highly rated at the club and even made his way into the first-team squad a few months after Unsworth succeeded Stubbs.
These two players are notable because they were part of Unsworth's much-lauded PL2 title winners. But their level relative to their peers has only deteriorated during the Unsworth era. Them apart, his one claim to fame is signing Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who was produced by another club, then fast-tracked into the Everton first team. So Unsworth can hardly take credit for his rise.
So what does that leave us with? A bunch of folks like Nathan Broadhead who can't get a look-in, even when we are down to the bare bones. Our best option now seems to be the 16-year-old Thierry Small who, having stepped up to the Under-23s, has risen in status above all the other lads who've been "learning the Everton Way" for five or six years.
Such is the paucity of talent, we had an empty seat on our bench against Newcastle Utd rather than call on an Under-23 player. That is very poor especially in relation to Arsenal, Man Utd, Spurs, Liverpool and Man City. The worst part is that, years ago, Bill Kenwright was justifying Everton's lack of spending at the notorious Blue Union meeting by explaining that all our money was going into Finch Farm. Well, 16 years since Rooney left, what exactly do we have to show for that investment?
Then we have Marcel Brands. The guy who agreed to buy the show donkey, André Gomes, the product-less Bernard and apparently thought Marco Silva was the right man for the job. He decided this summer to bring in Nkounkou, a young left-back. Why did we bring him in if we have fears that the seemingly more talented Thierry Small may get impatient and seek first-team football elsewhere? Surely, if we hold onto Small, then in a year or two he can succeed Digne, which means Nkounkou will be in Luke Garbutt territory.
Meanwhile, the fading great, Seamus Coleman has been on the wane for years. Do we replace him? No. We bring back a 24-year-old Jonjoe Kenny, who has already shown that he's not at the level of a top right-back. Instead of addressing that problem area, we sign Ben Godfrey – a good player, no doubt – but a centre-back, to join Mina, Holgate and Keane.
Not only that but we also signed Jarrad Branthwaite. What's the game plan here? Do we need five centre-halves when we have no quality right-back? Is Branthwaite going to waste years in the Under-23s because the players he will eventually succeed aren't even that much older than him?
Beyond that, we have four first-team goalkeepers. Tryer is doing a sterling job with the Under-23s. Should he not, as such, be effectively the Number 3 keeper? Why even have him waste his time here if he has four senior keepers ahead of him?
If we felt Pickford wasn't good enough, then why not replace him? Instead, we buy a goalie that presumably we think isn't as good so as to "put pressure on him." Well, that strategy doesn't seem to be working as despite facing Lössl, Olsen and Virginia in training every day, Pickford hasn't felt pressured enough to raise his game.
On the wheeling and dealing front, Marcel Brands also brought in Alex Iwobi. He divides opinion but even his most ardent supporters would agree he was never worth £30 million. He also brought in the aging and injury-prone Fabian Delph on a massive wage. That was a West Ham level transfer misstep of the type that saw them buy Wilshere and Carroll.
We also had the Moise Kean fiasco. "We will take good care of your son." Yeah... we could take care of him financially but there didn't seem to be any real plan there for him. Either he wasn't good enough, in which case, we didn't do our homework. Or he was good enough but we felt we had better options, which begs the question: Why did we sign him? So that's another £30 million out the window while he is swanning about in Paris.
Financially, we don't have the luxury of wasting money on bad players in the way that Man City do. £30 million on Kean, £30 million on Iwobi, massive wages for Bernard and Delph... All-in-all, that's £80 million or so we could badly use right now to get a right-back among other things. And here we are shipping off anyone and everyone on loan because we are cash strapped. Sorry but, there is no manager in the world who could produce a top team with the level of performance delivered by Marcel Brands our Director of Football, and by Daviid Unsworth, our Academy Director.
Reader Comments (12)
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1 Posted 31/01/2021 at 16:33:26
As far as Unsworth is concerned I find it difficult to judge. From the few games I have seen, U23 is a much lower standard than PL and the introduction to that higher standard is out of Unsworths hands. Also he is tied by the abilities of the youngsters brought into the club by the scouting team and progression through lower levels. He cannot do much more than win the U23 league.
2 Posted 31/01/2021 at 16:46:04
3 Posted 31/01/2021 at 18:23:21
Then go into the transfer market to strengthen the squad.
Finally ship out the deadwood. Forget about European football.
4 Posted 31/01/2021 at 21:03:03
Genuine money clubs buy so many players the imperative of them hitting the ground running is not as acute as at middling clubs like us. The desperation around this place means every signing is greeted as the second coming and it's simply not reality
I feel Brands is doing okay and Unsy does what all youth coaches in this country do – lives in hope. No club is producing quality young footballers in any number in this country.
5 Posted 31/01/2021 at 21:10:36
6 Posted 31/01/2021 at 21:14:47
Looks like we are trimming the squad so we can add some quality in the summer.. and hope Kenny, Tosun and Kean can play well enough to earn money moves to add to the pot.
We are woefully short up front. In my eyes, we need a right-back, creative midfielder, creative forward and a striker. Easier said than done. Hope comes from the fact our last summer spend was very good.
7 Posted 31/01/2021 at 21:19:03
Nail on the proverbial head; a very measured, balanced and accurate assessment. Extremely difficult to find fault with anything you've said but no doubt you'll get some incoming... not that it will bother you!
8 Posted 31/01/2021 at 21:23:46
9 Posted 01/02/2021 at 08:04:28
10 Posted 05/02/2021 at 04:30:52
Good OP but perhaps a little harsh on Unsworth and Brands. Taking Brands first - yes the club has made a few dodgy acquisitions since he joined, Iwobi stands out to me as one where we massively over paid. But across the league the majority of transfer are "failures". I think Brand's hit rate is well above average. All 4 signings last summer have started very well (and OK Ancellotti may have been an influence in 2 of those but I don't think we can really cherry pick what is and what is not a Brands signing, Brands must have signed off). I don't know what Delph's wages are but the quoted transfer fee was not crazy, he has played well occasionally and would be a good squad player were it not for his injuries; Gomes was good when on loan...maybe getting back to form now, and a sensible transfer fee; Bernard - a free transfer on a high wage...agree he's not done enough but he's young so we'll get our money back. Iwobi...I'm not a fan, but again he's young so some re-sale value (unlike earlier splashes on Tosun, Walcott and Sigurddssen); Digne and Mina and Richarlison have all been great signings. King, we'll have to wait and see but seems a sensible signing given the gaps in the squad.
Having 5 decent centre halves is only a problem if their wages are crazy and I don't think they are. Godfrey looks like an opportunistic buy, but a very good one as he looks the best of that group of 5 and could well be a future captain of the club. Worst case we can sell one of the others - and we have a net gain (either in money or squad strength or both).
The other job Brands has done is moved on the "deadwood" - to the point that come July we won't have any left. This is a massive achievement. It something like 50 players we've sold under Brands.
11 Posted 05/02/2021 at 04:48:13
But what are the choices? Shut it down would cause social repercussions and negatively affect the brand. That's a non starter.
I would prefer a more "professional " coach than an ex-player who's a good man manager (how I see Unsworth). I think we need better analysis of how to identify youngsters who will make it as adults (and, stating the obvious, don't be dazzled by kids that look good because they are big for their age...but I think we still do this). I think this needs a more data driven, professional, money ball type approach.
12 Posted 05/02/2021 at 06:58:10
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