So what is our best eleven?

Just what is our best starting eleven at the moment, and who should be in the taxi?

Martin Reppion 14/02/2022 66comments  |  Jump to last

Opinions are like arseholes – everybody has one. And when it comes to football teams and players, the opinions, like backsides, come in all shapes and sizes.

We all have our favourite player and the one we wish would just leave and never wear a blue shirt again. I have a mate who has been a season ticket holder since the 60’s who gets hot under the collar when the names of, in his opinion, the two worst players ever to sign for the club are mentioned. Tony Cottee’s 99 goals at roughly a goal every other match do not impress him, nor did the work rate and drive of Stuart McCall.

The current crop of players prompts a diverse debate on the pages of ToffeeWeb. We as fans all know the answers. Or do we? We can’t all be right.

So just what is our best starting eleven at the moment, and who should be in the taxi?

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Goalkeeper, for me, is not an issue. Jordan Pickford is an easy target for the SKY biased media and those who watched a couple of dodgy displays in the restart season. Since then, he has been generally solid, and occasionally brilliant. The back up Keepers look to be as good as we’ve had in a while. The only situation I would keep an eye on is if Leeds United get relegated. In Illan Meslier they have one of the best young goalies around. He would not yet be an upgrade on Pickford, but would push him very close.

Full backs have been a problem for a few years.

Seamus is now in the same boat that Leighton Baines was when we signed Digne. We thought there would be a slow transition, but once Digne came in Baines was immediately moved to back up. Since then, we have brought in (and loaned out) Nkounkou, and replaced our first choice with another youngster, who is yet to find his feet. I don’t think that despite a recent upsurge in form many people see JJ Kenny as the long-term solution. So, have we invested wisely in the future or been stitched up by the FSW?

On the right, Seamus occasionally seems to have been drinking at the fountain of youth (v Leeds for instance). The reports on Patterson are good. It will soon be time to find out if he has what it takes. I would like to see him given time on the field and hopefully become the new first choice in not too long.

At centre back, we appeared to have a surfeit of riches. Michael Keane gets dogs abuse on the web site. He is not consistent or obviously dominating. But then he has games like he did in the last two home matches and one wonders how the likes of Mings, Codey etc ever get an England call ahead of him. Last Season Ben Godfrey could walk on water. Anywhere across the back four. Move into midfield. Second season syndrome has affected him and maybe the change of manager, but he still looks like a class act to me. Branthwaite is a colossus. If he keeps fit and trains on, we have a latter-day Brian Labone in the making. Mina goes from world class to injury in a heartbeat. But when he’s firing, we look a stronger team. That leaves the enigma that is Mason Holgate. Composed, thoughtful future England international? Or Liability, one missed tackle from conceding a goal and getting a red card? I still see him as one who could be better deployed in a midfield ‘number 6’ role.

So, what have we got so far? A potentially exciting young back four of Patterson, Godfrey, Branthwaite and Mykolenko; backed up by the old guard of Coleman, Keane, Mina, and the young Nkounkou? Or maybe cash in on Mina and keep Holgate around? Either way, that looks like the defence is not as much a priority as our defensive record suggests. It also looks like we have a body too many. Sorry JJ.

If our defence doesn’t need shoring up, what is the problem? Why do we concede so many goals? I believe they have been given too much to do. Until the Leeds game we were being overrun in midfield and sheer weight of numbers, coupled with bad coaching on set pieces, meant we were a disaster waiting to happen.

Here we come to opinions and tactics. I could never understand the argument that playing 442 instead of 433 meant you had fewer players in midfield. If your wide men put in a shift and track back, then the central 2 should be able to win the ball and turn defence into attack. And that is surely their job.

Here we have a dilemma. If everyone was fit our central midfield roster looks like a bus outing. Allan, Doucoure, Van de Beek, Davies, Gomes, Gbamin, Delph. Ok the chances of the last two being fit at the same time are statistically negligible. Then we have the promising young Onyango (and an unnamed 31-year-old) as well. It is not possible that we can keep all these in the squad for next year. Delph will surely be released. We may not be able to afford to sign Van de Beek, but I would love it if we could. It may be time to cash in on Gomes and Davies and release some of the financial shackles. For me I would be delighted to have the first 3 named and Onyango in the squad with one more.

That takes us to the wingers/wide attackers.

Am I the only one who watches Anthony Gordon and is reminded of Trevor Steven? But a more robust, snarling version. He plays. End of.

No player gets more vitriol in the pages of ToffeeWeb than Alex Iwobi. The few flashes of brilliance he has shown hadn’t outweighed the lethargy and slap dash final ball. But then came Saturday. Has the new coaching team helped him find his mojo? The jury is out. But his defence barrister did an amazing final summing up. Backed up by the two best value signings of the summer window, Gray and Townsend, why would we buy another winger? Or even sign one on loan? Anwar El Ghazi, please prove me wrong!

Up front we have been crying out for some support for DCL and Richarlison. Tosun has never looked the part. Rondon, I can write one of two sentences about. But I’ll write both and let you choose. Either: We over paid for this out of form, out of condition waste of a pair of boots. And yes, I know he came on a free transfer. OR: we signed a player as occasional back up who would need time to get fit, and he was thrown in at the deep end, when Dominic got injured, before he was really ready. It took half a season and a trip home to play international football to get him to the stage he needs to be.

In Richarlison we have a thoroughbred who can play either as a wide attacker, a number 9, or as second man in a front 2. We now have added Dele Alli. Or is that just Dele? With a few weeks to get up to speed on fitness he could play off either of the other two whilst getting his share of goals.

For next season we can add the young pair of Dobbin and Simms to the party.

Which brings me to a conclusion.

Everton have a decent squad. It has been overloaded with some dross and also some confused managerial decisions. But for the first time in years, I am genuinely optimistic. I want to see some balance restored. Fewer players aiming for the same position, Centre midfield and centre back. But every player having genuine competition for his place. Would a fit Doucoure come back in in place of Allan or Van de Beek? I doubt it. But a fit Doucoure keeps those two knowing they have to play well and doesn’t give the same sense of dread that the fans would have if the only other options were Delph and Gbamin.

Yes, I would like to see Everton sign some real class to increase the competition once those nearing the end of their contracts or the end of the club's patience have gone. But it's not a panic. We don’t NEED to bring in any old Carlos Cicabal on a long-term contract at daft money. Sandro Ramirez anyone?

If Frank Lampard can get the best out of this squad, and then mould it a little bit, things must surely be looking up.

And to answer my own initial question, If we signed nobody else other than what we now have, I would love to see us start next season lined up as: Pickford; Patterson, Godfrey, Branthwaite, Nkounkou; Gray, Allan, Van de Beek, Gordon; DCL, Richarlison. Who wouldn’t pay to watch that side?

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Reader Comments (66)

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Shaun Laycock
1 Posted 14/02/2022 at 20:09:23

Van de Beek

John Chambers
2 Posted 14/02/2022 at 20:32:51
Martin, I think picking a starting 11 is virtually impossible now as rotation and changing system is so commonplace, except for the top 2 who do more or less play the same system each week.

I think the important thing for Everton going forward in the medium term is to have a squad flexible to adapt to playing 4-4-2, or 3-5-1, or 5-32 etc.

In that situation, I agree that broadly we do now have a squad that whilst not yet a top 4 challenger should certainly be looking for top 8 and then build from there.

Steve Mink
3 Posted 14/02/2022 at 20:34:32
I would like the new fullbacks to come good put currently

Van de Beek

David Hallwood
4 Posted 14/02/2022 at 20:58:47
So no one has Dele in the team; strange. But I agree with all and sundry that a half-decent balanced squad is starting to emerge.

But onto Van de Beek, I wouldn't go overboard just yet. Firstly, he couldn't get a game at Man Utd, and they've looked at him all season. Secondly, I went into overdrive to praise Schneiderlin and Gomes, both similar type of players to Van de Beek and both looked like Rolls-Royces when they first arrived only to find that there was sawdust in the engine.

Finally, Jonjoe Kenny: He was my MotM on Saturday despite a case being made for just about every other player. But it's his second outing at left-back and he looks quite tasty.

So, just like Van de Beek, the jury's still out on Kenny, but I'd be surprised if he was replaced by Mykolenko vs Saints.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
5 Posted 14/02/2022 at 21:24:33
This list of players is a load of Fords and Vauxhalls and only 1 or 2 Porsches. But we have to acknowledge that the teams at the bottom are made up of Ladas, Dacias and a Ford or two.

I am not saying who is who because I think that is unfair on them. But the honest question is if you were Pep or Plopp, which player would you sign, if any?

It is somewhat hit and miss this transfer lark but it is noticeable that virtually all £40m players play for the Sky Six. The rest of us have one each (Check out my article in the archives from December). The policy needs to be to keep what who we want to keep, let the contracts run down on those we don't or get lucky with a sale of two. We not longer need a scatter gun approach with loads of players each season but a sniper's rifle to buy one really good world class player each season.

Then we will be a team of 7 Porsches and 4 BWMs

Remember - Both back up goalies, JJK, Delph, Sigurdsson and Tosun are all out of contract in the summer.

Robert Tressell
6 Posted 14/02/2022 at 21:30:05

As regards our first 11, it's impossible to tell right now. The more important thing is that, for now, players are working hard and pulling in the same direction.

Andrew James
9 Posted 14/02/2022 at 22:42:31
For me I have a fantasy football best eleven and then probably one more likely to be sustainable:

Pickford; Coleman, Mina, Keane, Kenny; Allan, Van De Beek, Gray, Richarlison; Alli, Calvert-Lewin.

Pickford; Kenny, Holgate, Mina, Godfrey; Allan, Doucoure, Gray, Townsend; Van der Beek, Calvert-Lewin.

The first one has more flair but the second has more industry.

Gray is in both because of his form this season while Richarlison is in one based on reputation and return from previous seasons. Dele Alli is only in one despite me thinking if he gets back his mojo, he will be an automatic starter.

I've completely left out Gordon which is no reflection of my opinion of him. I think he is doing great. But he plays in a position where we are well stocked. If he starts matching Gray and Richarlison, then he goes in.

Derek Thomas
10 Posted 14/02/2022 at 23:41:57
Our 11 vs Leeds was not, in theory, the best. But be it a 'poor on paper' 11, or a 'great on paper' 11, without Saturdays added extras of...'your choice of adjectives here', it doesn't matter what the actual 11 is... those Intangible adjectives are the key.
Andrew James
11 Posted 15/02/2022 at 00:06:46
Phil @ 5,

I would say that because we have splurged out in the transfer market so much that while we've failed a lot, we have also accrued a lot of talent.

They just need coaching and setting up properly and then we should definitely be in the top half with this lot. Yikes, Silva had many of them there without Gordon, Gray, Doucoure, Allan and he had a developing Calvert-Lewin alone up front.

David Ellis
12 Posted 15/02/2022 at 02:28:54
It goes to show we have a decent squad. Actually, the squad is too big. I do think we need a "proper" right back if Paterson isn't ready and Kenny never quite will be (well though he played vs Leeds).

What is clear is that we have several very good attacking players that just can't fit into the same XI - Gray, Gordon, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison & Alli – you can't really leave any of them out but you must.

The one I would always play is Gordon as he is the one that is not selfish and is improving at a rate of knots. Nice problem to have, but add anymore top strikers in the transfer window and squad discontent will follow.

As for my first XI, I'd go for:

Van de Beek

Pace and balance.

Kieran Kinsella
13 Posted 15/02/2022 at 03:16:02

I think you're a bit optimistic to say the least with that unproven back four. I'd say as far as best 11 goes: 3 from four of Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, Gordon and Gray, Allan, Pickford and the other six much of a muchness.

I don't really care as no one stands out other than Van de Beek who may not be here long. Gomes and Iwobi have occasional great games, Davies has slightly more often okay games, Doucouré is probably the best running at every other game good or crap. Not sure on Alli yet, Gbamin and Delph are finished, Townsend is solid but the fifth best option for the front three.

All the defenders have about the same mix of pros and cons. Maybe Mykolenko, Patterson, Branthwaite and Nkounkou will prove themselves, maybe not. All the seniors are more miss than hit.

Alan J Thompson
14 Posted 15/02/2022 at 03:57:16
I know the question is who are our best eleven but wouldn't any decent manager and financially viable club be working on our best squad of 25 – albeit that at least the last five positions should be held for promising juniors then there are positions for the two(?) reserve keepers which means you are now down to 18.

So, Pickford, four full-backs (Nkounkou or Coleman as one), five central defenders, Calvert-Lewin and Richi as strikers which assumes Alli, Gray, Gordon & Townsend as midfielder-cum-striker which would mean three others to make up a midfield.

Best eleven seems a luxury, or is it the five juniors, but whatever it needs to be over at least two seasons.

Sam Hoare
15 Posted 15/02/2022 at 07:29:37
Martin, given your final paragraph, the title of your piece maybe should be “Who will be our best eleven?”

It's so hard to tell now until we see who can maintain the levels shown on Saturday and which system or formation Lampard seems to prefer.

The likes of Calvert-Lewin, Mina, Allan, Pickford and possibly now Gordon (or Gray?) would seem to pick themselves when fully fit and the rest is still to be seen.

It will be interesting to see who is sold this summer. Richarlison must be itching to join a team challenging for trophies and must have been given assurances that he could leave at some point. Calvert-Lewin is another who might have fancy suitors if he recovers his form of early season. Will Mykolenko and Patterson prove up to the job or will they be the latest in a long line of overpriced deadwood?

Everton will lose the hefty contracts of Delph, Sigurdsson and Tosun this summer whilst losing very little on the field. Who will be making the transfer moves? Will a new DoF be brought in? Or will Moshiri and Kenwright once again be picking targets and negotiating deals?

Tony Abrahams
16 Posted 15/02/2022 at 08:31:20
Always makes me laugh when I hear stuff like this, especially when talking about a squad of players who have never ever proved themselves.

Most people say Keane and Holgate can't play together, but our two best defensive displays imo this season, have had both of them playing in the middle of our back four (Saturday & Brighton away).

Van de Beek was very good on Saturday, but once the style is in place, maybe there are even better players than Donny to implement it, is how we should be feeling. There is always someone better somewhere, and that's got to be our long term aim if we are to become a successful football club!

Laurie Hartley
17 Posted 15/02/2022 at 10:19:50
If they were all fit and Van de Beek stays (like Jamie Crowley reckons he is) this would be my best team:

Coleman, Keane, Mina, Godfrey
Doucoureé, Allan, Van de Beek
Gordon, Richarlison, Gray

Second string:

Kenny, Holgate, Branthwaite, Mykolenko
Gomes, Allan, Townsend
Alli, Calvert-Lewin, Iwobi

Note : Allan is in both teams because he is irreplaceable.

Subs: Davies, Patterson, Rondon*,

* I know I will be in the minority but I reckon Rondon still has a part to play in the second half of the season.

We are spoilt for choice up front.
We need another ball-winning midfielder, but most of all...
We need an experienced centre-half because unfortunately our best centre-half, Mina, cannot stay uninjured.
I think Dele Alli will be challenging for a starting spot before very long. Competition is good – maybe there will be a bit of rotation.

Terence Leong
18 Posted 15/02/2022 at 10:33:41
I think David Ellis's entry on #12 will give a good enough balance, assuming that we are not adding on to the squad.

Assuming we keep the centrebacks, we have enough to rotate around. The main issue I see, is our full-backs. We need a ready first-team replacement for Seamus if Patterson is not ready. On the opposite flank, I think the jury is still out on both Mykolenko and Nkounkou.

I think upfront, while we can have Alli and Richarlison where needed, Calvert-Lewin is quite unreplaceable a target man. The wide players have enough competition, which I think, only bodes well (Townsend, Gray, Iwobi, Gordon), and the centre of the park can still be very promising.

If the double-no 6 pivot against Leeds is a sign of what's possible, then I think Gomes can operate there quite well too.

Like what many say here, our players are nowhere near the world-beaters that the top few clubs have, but it's about getting them gelled together in a system, tight enough to string passes together, press etc.

We can go somewhere with this squad.

James Marshall
19 Posted 15/02/2022 at 10:35:09
It's a moot point obviously, and to a degree you play to the opposition as well, so there's not really any such thing as a 'best' eleven in my view.

As for Van de Beek, I would suggest he's probably the best footballer at the club right now. By that, I mean as a pure footballer with a footballing brain and the ability to back it up. I know it's early days and most people in the UK haven't seen much of him, but the kid is a class act.

He was seriously good at Ajax – ignore his time at Man Utd, they're a mess and he was caught up in it.

Ajax fans LOVE Donny van de Beek, and with good reason. Lampard should be the ideal coach for him, Alli and Gordon to learn from.

Ray Robinson
20 Posted 15/02/2022 at 11:54:53
I'd like to think that Patterson, Mykolenko Branthwaite and Nkounkou would be good enough for a place in our starting XI but, having seen so little of them, how can anyone include them in their preferred starting line-up (yet)?

Isn't this just another case of players' credentials being enhanced when they're not playing? Lots of people were calling for Gbamin a short while ago despite the fact that he has hardly played.

I'd like to see the likes of Mina and Coleman replaced but I'm not confident (yet) to propose that any of the above prospects is good enough. I sincerely hope they are.

Danny O’Neill
21 Posted 15/02/2022 at 13:09:22
I don't think you can go with a best 11 anymore. The game has changed. You need a squad. You need to be able to change formation before and during each game.

To do that, you need depth. I think we've made a positive move last window in doing that. Still work in progress, but getting there and we have options.

In our last era of glory, it was easy. The team, when fit, picked itself. We still sing a song about it on away days. I don't think it's like that now.

Si Cooper
22 Posted 15/02/2022 at 14:16:04
Okay, I thought this might be a good thread because I thought it would be limited to how we may approach the rest of the season (silverware and a strong finish against failure (heroic or otherwise)). Unfortunately (for me) it veered off onto a ‘let's daydream' path.

Personally I can't be bothered wondering about next season, and which personnel may be involved, until this one comes to a satisfactory conclusion, and I can't fathom those who are mentally prepping for season 22-23.

How the next 16 games go will have a huge impact on who we keep (and who I'd want to keep), never mind who we might recruit (Donny will have some sort of clause no matter what might be pre-agreed).

I don't think I'm being a sour puss but ‘counting chickens' being a bad idea has always seemed like sound advice to me. For now, it's up to the manager and who can stay fit to decide who represents us on a game-by-game basis. Youngsters can have the FA Cup for development purposes until we are definitely safe.

Anthony Gordon doesn't make me automatically think of Trevor Steven any more than any other from a range of positive, back yourself, fleet-footed types I'm just thrilled that his current form seems to be of the upward trajectory type. Who knows how good he could be?

Bill Hawker
23 Posted 15/02/2022 at 15:27:00
Interesting article and discussion. I agree that having a "best eleven" is somewhat harder to pick now. I guess if all are healthy, I'd go with:

Van de Beek

That said, I could easily put several other names in there and I don't think we'd miss a beat. Again, having all of our players healthy would make a difference and give Frank an awful selection headache.

Michael Kenrick
24 Posted 15/02/2022 at 16:59:34
I wonder if we might also need to consider Moise Kean? There's a story today that things are not going that well for him at Juventus, and they may be looking to replace him at the end of the season. I'm not sure how that plays with our 2-year loan agreement that I thought meant the end of his dismal days at Everton.

Seems like PSG is the only place where he can be happy... but what if he is forced to come back – would Frankie put an arm around him?

His stats this season are nowhere near as good as PSG with limited success at the start of his loan spell back at Juve, scoring just 2 goals in 10 appearances, 6 of them from the subs bench, before he was out for a month with 'muscle fatigue'.

Things weren't that much better when he came back, with only 2 more goals, even though he has been involved in every squad, mostly from the subs bench, but also subbed in the second half whenever he started. He has still to play a full 90 minutes since he returned.

One strange thing though: Transfermarkt says he was suspended for Juve's Italy Cup games because of a red card. But there's no sign of any red card for him in Italy.

Keener memories than mine will recall that he was sent off for Everton early in the season, at Huddersfield, in the League Cup. Uefa rules must mean such things are not easily forgotten, although I thought the punishment stayed within the competition?

Brian Harrison
25 Posted 15/02/2022 at 17:10:43
Michael 24

When Kean went to Juventus it was a 2 year loan deal with an agreement for him to sign for them for a fixed fee. But it also said in that agreement provided certain criteria is met, yet nowhere was this criteria specified.

I thought at the time "I wonder why this caveat was included?" And just wondered: did it include a career-threatening injury? As I can't think of any other criteria that Everton would allow Juventus to withdraw from the deal.

Eddie Dunn
26 Posted 15/02/2022 at 17:26:57
I would go for Begovic, Coleman, Holgate, Godfrey, Mykolenko, Allan, Van de Beek, Alli, Richarlison, Gordon and Calvert-Lewin.

subs; Kenny, Doucoure, Keane, Rondon, Gray, Iwobi, Pickford, Dobbin.

Brian Williams
27 Posted 15/02/2022 at 17:46:15
Brian #25,

Although I don't know the exact details, one of the criteria was Juve qualifying for the Champions League. Not sure whether that was for the first season, second season, or both.

Gerry Quinn
28 Posted 15/02/2022 at 17:47:28
Yerry Mina on his way out??????

Simon Harrison
29 Posted 15/02/2022 at 18:10:01
As was pointed out on another thread, and by some on here; it is very difficult to pick a 'best' eleven nowadays, due to who is fit, what formation is going to be played, who the opposition are, what the situation is (eg, only need a draw, or need a win etc), and then the intangibles of form, fitness and confidence (morale).

So Lampard will have to perm a team (11 out of 20) to suit the game, or series of games to be played.

As such, I'm going to focus on what we have now, and who (currently) we'll lose at end of season (marked *):

Good luck, Frank and Everton

Pickford, Begovic* and Lonergan* (Virginia on loan, unless bought by Sporting CP)

Coleman, Kenny*, Patterson

Mykolenko, (Nkounkou on loan)

Mina, Keane, Godfrey, Holgate, Branthwaite (Lewis Gibson, U21 on loan currently)

Doucoure, Allan, Alli, Van de Beek*, Gomes, Davies*, Delph*, Gbamin; [Sigurdsson** ~ suspended]

Calvert-Lewin, Rondon, Tosun*, Richarlison, Gordon, Gray, Townsend, Iwobi, El Ghazi* (Kean on loan) (Ellis Simms on loan) (Nathan Broadhead U21 on loan currently)

U21s included in Premier League Squad
H Tyrer (GK), R Welch (DF), C Whitaker (MF) ~On-Loan, T Onyango (MF), L Dobbin (FW)

Now for the rumour mill;

Flamengo are interested in taking Mina on loan before April 12th, for a £1.6M fee, plus option to buy and a 50% sell on clause.

Calvert-Lewin may still move in the summer, with Man Utd and Arsenal both apparently willing to meet the current £60M asking price.

Also an agent has claimed that Richarlison sees this as his last season at Everton. See here;

Richi to leave?

He's currently valued on Transfermarkt at £49.5M, but our valuation apparently is closer to £80M.

The question here, is do we sell one or either of them in the summer? Mind you, that is dependent on Premier League survival still.

I also agree with Si Cooper's post at #22, with one caveat; play some youngsters versus Boreham Wood, and then draw dependent play them again, though it would be nice to 'target' the FA Cup for some silverware. However, if our league position dictates at any time that avoiding relegation becomes the precedent, then we should definitely focus on the league.

My last is for our American colleagues, and Danny O'Neill;

I follow a lot of football in Germany, and I was wondering what anyone's thoughts (Robert Tressell, Sam Hoare) are on the following players (all centre-back's):

Chris Richards (Bayern/Hoffenheim)
Robert Nemeth (FSV Mainz)
Nico Schlotterbeck (SC Freiburg)
Felix Uduokhai (FC Augsburg)

Simon Harrison
30 Posted 15/02/2022 at 18:24:19
Michael #24

Yes, Kean is banned for three games in the Coppa Italia/Super Cup, because of his red card vs Huddersfield.

Here's a link;

Kean's Italian ban explained

Also, regards his loan deal, Juve are stuck with him, unless they can negotiate with another club for the loan to be picked up by that club. Currently, the only club that have even responded is PSG. Yet, they haven't agreed; presumably as they want to see what happens with Mbappe?

Dale Self
31 Posted 15/02/2022 at 18:29:59
Thanks Simon and Brian, I was getting worried there. Don't want him back.
Simon Harrison
32 Posted 15/02/2022 at 18:34:22
No worries Dale :D

Do you know anything of Chris Richards, the USA centre-back, currently on loan at Hoffenheim? Would he, could he be a good fit at Everton? A 6'-2" (188 cm) two-footed centre-back, and a Bayern protege.

Michael Kenrick
33 Posted 15/02/2022 at 18:36:30
Thanks, Simon, for the Kean card explanation.

Lots of players you listed there...

"U21s included in Premier League Squad
H Tyrer (GK), R Welch (DF), C Whitaker (MF) ~On-Loan, T Onyango (MF), L Dobbin (FW)"

Not quite sure if you're saying Charlie Whitaker is out on loan? I don't think he is…

Kieran Kinsella
34 Posted 15/02/2022 at 18:39:55

Slight error in your departures. For better or worse Tom Davies is here until summer 2023

Mark Taylor
35 Posted 15/02/2022 at 18:41:51
Without wishing to rain on the parade, I'm not sure I can find my way to a 'best XI' when almost all the contenders have played the dire footie we have witnessed this year in the league. Last weekend both surprised me and cheered me up no end, but consistent excellence is what matters, not one game.

The only three who come close to meeting that would be Gray, Gordon and Richie. I'm as excited about VdB's performance as much as anyone but I need more than one very good game to really enthuse. With the rest of them, you never know what you are going to get.

Colin Glassar
36 Posted 15/02/2022 at 18:52:48
I’m with you Mark T. Despite being chuffed after beating Leeds I simply can’t trust these players anymore. Personally I’d get rid of most of them and keep:

Richarlison (still not sure about him)
Ali (hope he comes good)

The rest can get lost.

Dale Self
37 Posted 15/02/2022 at 18:54:44
Hey Simon, that would be a Professor Gaynes question. Without offence let me just say that my relationship with the US National team is strained and once tried to follow some local MLS club that then was moved. While the future looks bright amongst prospects I'm simply not interested until they come up on Europe's radar. The sooner they come to Europe the better chance they have.
Simon Harrison
38 Posted 15/02/2022 at 19:02:20
Hi Michael, yep my bad, it was Lewis Warrington I was thinking of, and of course, Charlie is still with us.

Yes, I listed the current squad, so we can see easily, who is available to Frank for selection.

Other than that, it felt like enjoyable homework for me :D

Hi Kieran, well spotted, it wasn't an intentional error to test people unfortunately. I meant to say that he'd been dropped from the EPL squad due to injury and rehab.

Apologies for the errors.

Brian Murray
39 Posted 15/02/2022 at 19:11:08
Lampard has given Iwobi, Kenny, Rondon, Keane and Holgate a clean slate. Maybe we should as fans do the same until they let us down. Fingers crossed he makes decent players out of them until at least the summer, then take stock.
Jay Harris
40 Posted 15/02/2022 at 19:11:28
Good post Martin but as a few others have pointed out the best 11 for Leeds at home will not necessarily be the best 11 for Man City away due to tactics, form and shape.

There are however what we should call first names on the sheet and for me that would be Pickford, Richarlison, Doucoure (when fit) and Calvert-Lewin (when firing on all cylinders) with an honorable mention for Anthony Gordon.

The rest can be permutated depending on the manager.

Laurie Hartley
41 Posted 15/02/2022 at 21:47:46
Jay # 40.

I am surprised you left Allan out of your first names on the sheet.

Honest question: Who do you think could he be swapped out for?

Sam Hoare
42 Posted 15/02/2022 at 22:14:00
Simon @30 I've not seen or read a huge amount about Nemeth, seems like he is breaking through and is probably but raw still to be a contender for Premier League starter.

Udokhai and Richards both look like athletic centre-back who could do well in the Premier League, I'd say the latter is in better form at the moment.

Schlotterbeck looks one of the best centre-backs in Germany and is a real prospect. I'd expect him to move to a Champions League team this summer.

Other good centre-back prospects in Germany might be Hincapie, Lacroix, Ndicka and Gvardiol.

Plenty of good centre-backs should be available this summer.

Lester Yip
43 Posted 15/02/2022 at 22:18:41
Donny van de Beek looks like a really good addition to the squad. But the problem is Man Utd are likely to play hard-ball (eg, Lingard). What he did well against Leeds was always trying to show up to receive a pass and then play simple passes with care. Carefully weighted for his teammates quite consistently. I actually think Davies plays like that at times.

I think Rondon looks a lot sharper now. To come back from the Chinese league back to Premier League level, the fitness gap must be huge. It's not unusual to take 6 months or even more to adapt. He did get into good position to have shots but just need a bit more luck. I think as a freebie he offers good value.

Stephen Vincent
44 Posted 15/02/2022 at 23:02:16
We won't be keeping Donny after this season for 2 reasons:

1. If he continues as well as he has started, Man Utd will welcome him back with open arms or will price him beyond our reach.

2. If it goes pear-shaped and he starts to perform like Klaassen, then we will send him back.

Either way, he won't be with us next season.

As for Patterson, well who knows, he may be great, he may be no better than the lad in the U18s. To say he will start next season, seriously.

Dale Self
45 Posted 15/02/2022 at 23:22:09
While I would agree given he's under a 5-year contract, Man Utd are under duress and, if Donny van de Beek demanded a move, they might roll after not using him for 2 years. They could try to get back to break even on the £35M they shelled out and we would probably consider it if he keeps in form.

If we aren't able to get him to throw a fit, we've at least opened the door for some other frustrated talent to land on his feet here.

Jay Harris
46 Posted 16/02/2022 at 02:18:48
Laurie 41, I really like Allan but, when Doucoure and Van de Beek are fit and available, I can see some rotation there. I was only listing the players I think should and would start every game regardless of tactics.
Laurie Hartley
47 Posted 16/02/2022 at 03:36:56

Fair enough although I have included him in my pick above with Doucouré and Van de Beek because I think the three of them together all bring something different.

Ajay Gopal
48 Posted 15/02/2022 at 04:30:58
I love the positivity here on TW after 1 win! We still have a long way to go before we can breathe easy - and the fans still have a big role to play towards that as shown on Saturday. We can't be complacent!

Having said that, if were to reach the FA Cup Final, this would be my team versus West Ham United:

Coleman Holgate Keane Kenny
Allan Doucouré
Gordon Gray Richarlison

Robert Leigh
49 Posted 16/02/2022 at 05:36:59
Depending on signing Donny van de Beek and Mina's fitness, would like to see the following squad plus one or two additions (not too many, let Lampard bring through youth too!!):

Coleman Mina Godfrey Mykolenko
Doucouré Allan Van de Beek
Gray Calvert-Lewin Richarlison

Begovic (new contract), Virginia, Branthwaite, Holgate, Keane, Kenny (new contract), Patterson, Gomes, Alli, Gordon, Townsend, Iwobi, Davies, Nkounkou, Simms, Rondon.

Released end of season:
Delph, Tosun, #10

Purchases (or similar ilk):
Ampadu or Zagadu
Ginter (free agent)
Van de Beek
Nketiah (free agent)


Keane or Mina (would keep Yerry, but he can't be trusted with injury – we need some continuity)

Moïse Kean (though would be interesting to see him under Lampard)

Gbamin (shame, but just can't see him being relied on at all with all the bad injuries. Maybe a loan if there's no decent fee?)

Gary Jones
50 Posted 16/02/2022 at 06:59:55
It's nice to have these selection headaches, especially across the front lines. Personally, I think we really need to stick to a preferred system, and it should be 4-3-3 for now.

That causes a very tough decision between Gordon and Gray, and gives no natural home for Alli to start though (wish he could convert back to box-to-box). However, match days need 3 subs too, so let's duck that for now.

This season (if all were fit):

Coleman Mina Godfrey Kenny
Doucoure Van de Beek Allan
Gordon Calvert-Lewin Richarlison

Next season, keeping Van de Beek and getting a central midfield destroyer like Kante needs to be the goal (assuming no miracle of finding a central midfielder who can do it all). Proper left-sided centre-back (assuming Branthwaite can't step up like Gordon has), proper competition for Pickford (assuming Tyrer or Virginia are not ready), and bring through Simms or Dobbin to replace Tosun and Rondon ideally.

Not much to ask…..

Brian Murray
51 Posted 16/02/2022 at 08:36:38
All interesting and innovative suggestions on selection and team. Me personally I'm sure Lampard is fluid in his thinking and it depends on the opposition week to week.

We have gone through years with nailed-on starts and all it does is lead to a shrug of shoulder and “Ah well, it will be better next week. It's looks like noone can get complacent or revert to type – if so, they I hope are out on their arse.

Si Cooper
52 Posted 16/02/2022 at 13:26:25
Robert (49),

I find the whole Gbamin situation baffling and I'm not far off being convinced that his football career is effectively over once his contract with us expires.

He has been off the injured list for months and yet not at all used when the centre of midfield has been crying out for an imposing figure. Not transfer listed but now not even making the matchday squad.

I honestly wonder whether we somehow messed up the insurance cover and have had to keep up the pretence that he could ever get back to the basic standards required just to save face.

Dave Abrahams
53 Posted 16/02/2022 at 13:37:02
Si (52) I think when Gbamin had his court case a few months ago it was stated he was fined £25,000 and, I think, it was stated that was his weekly wage at the time a lot smaller than what he was earning or picking up previously.

It’s still a lot of money but the lad was unfortunate with his injuries and if he is on this wage now it should be a lot easier to move him on, although if he is literally finished then he is likely to hang until his contract is over.

Frank Crewe
54 Posted 16/02/2022 at 13:45:29
"Pickford; Patterson, Godfrey, Branthwaite, Nkounkou; Gray, Allan, Van de Beek, Gordon; Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison. Who wouldn't pay to watch that side?"

About 99% of the population I would have thought.

Andrew Keatley
55 Posted 16/02/2022 at 14:51:05
Simon (29) - If you want to give people a chance to (Google a player and then quickly) have an opinion on them then maybe get their name right. It is David Nemeth, and he was previously on loan at Sturm Graz (from Mainz). Doesn’t seem to have played much recently.
Jay Harris
56 Posted 16/02/2022 at 15:20:28
I would like us to try and get Bissouma and Van de Beek and work on Godfrey and Brandthwaite as our preferred CB pairing.

For me that then gives us a squad good enough to be challenging the top places.

Bill Hawker
57 Posted 16/02/2022 at 16:18:29
Don't know the other three mentioned Michael but Chris Richards is certainly in the mix to be on the plane for the World Cup assuming the USA qualifies. He's in competition with Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson for one of those two spots. He's young and has room to improve but certainly could be one for the future.
Robert Tressell
58 Posted 16/02/2022 at 16:35:50
Simon @ 29, you'll get a more informed view on those Bundesliga CBs from Sam and others than me. Schlotterbeck in particular though seems very promising.

My expectation is that we'll be spending proceeds of Richarlison, Kean and Mina sales on the likes of Bremer, Min Jae, Caleta-Car and Elvedi. These are the bunch repeatedly linked with the Premier League. Joe Rodon and James Tarkowski may well move too (the latter is out of contract) and there's even, brace yourselves, Phil Jones, if Lampard feels like we're missing some proper experience and leadership back there.

These are all a bit older than those you name and probably make for a better immediate partner for Branthwaite (who will need a right footer for balance).

Like Jay, I'd love to see us buy Bissouma but cannot see it happening. Connor Gallagher is a non-starter too unfortunately.

It's going to be an interesting, competitive market with Man Utd rebuilding (again) and Newcastle a very attractive destination all of a sudden.

But the players are always out there and don't need to come with a big price tag or reputation to be a success.

Mike Gaynes
59 Posted 16/02/2022 at 17:25:55
Bill and Simon, regarding Chris Richards (thanks for the referral, Dale!), I'd say he'd definitely be a great acquisition for us, but at 21 with his kind of potential he'd be a tough get from Bayern.

I'd actually rather see us go after another US player Bill mentioned at #57 -- Miles Robinson, 24. Like Richards he has size and pace, and also a muscular, aggressive edge the Goodison crowd would like. Coming from MLS, he'd be a hell of a lot less expensive than Richards. And the time to go after him is this summer, before he shows his stuff at the World Cup -- where he will almost certainly start ahead of Richards. By this time next year, he'll be at a Prem or Bundesliga club. I wouldn't mind if it was us.

Dale Self
60 Posted 16/02/2022 at 17:32:34
No need Mike. I've learned a great deal of talent coming up from you and Robert Tressell. Saved me many hours of watching players I'm interested in playing for teams I give fuck all about. Keep it going.
Mike Gaynes
65 Posted 16/02/2022 at 18:40:19
Raymond Fox
66 Posted 16/02/2022 at 18:44:13
I think you have summed up the players very well Martin, but I'm not too keen on your team picks.

After Saturday's performance things are looking a lot rosier, but we have plenty of tough fixtures to negate before we are sure to stop up.

I'm very confident we will though, you can get 9/1 for us to go down now and the odds are saying they think we finish 14th which I agree with.

At the moment if all players were fit there's some difficult choices to determine our best team.

My picks: No 1 Pickford, 2 Kenny – I think he's underrated –or Patterson; I have not seen play. 3 Godfrey – has to be in the team somewhere or Mykolenko – again not seen enough of him. Mina and Keane centre-backs.

Midfield: Allan, Van de Beek, Gordon and Gray. Up front: Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.

Bench: Begovic, Iwobi, Dele Alli, Coleman, Townsend, Branthwaite, Rondon, Doucoure, Holgate, Mykolenko.

That's leaving out Patterson (for the moment), El Ghazi – I have feeling he is going to shine given a chance, Gomes, Onyango, Gbamin – we've yet to see him probably fit which is a shame, Davies, Tosun and Dobbin.

All of a sudden, we are looking strong and should be a match for all of the teams bar the top 3, although we generally raise our game for those too.

Guy Rogers
67 Posted 16/02/2022 at 19:18:47
So, rather controversially, I see our best 11 as very similar to a Benitez's team from Liverpool (amazing I need to say that). Rafa played Alonso and Mascherano shielding the back 4; this would be our Allan and Van de Beek.

He then played Gerrard in a free role between midfield and attack; this would be our Dele Alli. Torres upfront, Calvert-Lewin for us. Two hard-working wingers; we would choose 2 from Richarlison, Gray and Gordon.

They would need to work back like that dirty Dutch bastard Dirk Kyut did and whoever they had on the other flank, quick google search suggests Garcia.

Richarlison Alli Gray
Van de Beek Allan

4 defenders and a goalie. Gordon as likely to start as Gray or Richarlisone. Would love to see Patterson, Mykolenko, Nkokunkou, Branthwaite establish themselves.

Guy Rogers
68 Posted 16/02/2022 at 19:21:08
To sure up a game, swap Van de Beek for Doucouré so 3 sitting midfielders and your 2 wingers sit to make a 5.
Guy Rogers
69 Posted 16/02/2022 at 19:22:20
Woops, I meant Alli for Doucouré... I'll switch off now.
Tommy Carter
70 Posted 16/02/2022 at 20:01:08
This raises a few points for discussion and subjectivity for me.

First - Does ‘the system' take precedence? And ought the manager choose the players that fit the system?

Or is the system dictated by the players available to the manager.

For me, I think it is more the latter. By my logic, the best players have to start and then you go from there. This will comprise in terms of priority:

A) Ability and form
B) Ability
C) Form and lesser ability
D) Potential and Form
E) Potential

It's a simple hierarchy.

DCL and Richarlison are our best 2 players. The building of our team starts with them.

The keeper is Pickford.

According to my hierarchy. Donny Van Der Beek is the next on the team sheet. Form and ability.

Anthony Gordon next.

So there are 5 players to build around initially.

The rest for me could be anybody. Which worryingly includes the entirety of the back 4. If we survive the season then I fully expect to see a centre back joining the club this summer.

Patterson and Mykolenko remain unknown quantities.

The others, their job and the job of Lampard, Clement, Cole et al. Is to show us something we haven't seen before. These players have a point to prove and within 3 games the management have demonstrated an ability to get a top class performance out of a number of players who many of us had given up hope on.

Therein possibly lies the key to success.

Dave Lynch
81 Posted 17/02/2022 at 00:56:07
Our best 11 is the one Lampard picks before every game.

I lost count of the posts that disagreed with his starting 11 before the Leeds game.

Howard Sykes
82 Posted 20/02/2022 at 13:32:55
The question should be do we even have a best eleven?

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