Everton stirred themselves yesterday, their comeback showed signs of life and Tom Cleverley let them off the hook at the death.
But still the Toffees are in danger of forgetting themselves, forgetting who they are. Granted there had to be a transition away from the type of football that former manager David Moyes played if they were ever to compete at the very top, but in order to do so there has to be a structure in place.
Everton’s owner Farhad Moshiri has already learned one valuable lesson: Don’t get involved in team selection and choosing which players to buy. The ego-based decision to be the man that brought Wayne Rooney back home is biting hard. It has already cost him one manager in Ronald Koeman, and it doesn’t look like it will do anything to enhance the chances of David Unsworth, the current stand-in, getting the job on a permanent basis.
Moshiri may have more problems on the horizon too. Over the course of two evenings, beginning tonight, Panorama will screen what is expected to be a fairly uncomfortable take on Everton’s current ownership. It will focus on documents that are alleged to show that Arsenal owner Alisher Usmanov bought his partner, Moshiri, out of an investment vehicle that had already purchased a 14.58 stake in the Gunners. It is claimed that Moshiri then used the proceeds from the sale to buy a 49.9 per cent in Everton. This leads to the suggestion that, as Usmanov was the original source of funds, each man has breached the dual ownership rule.
I won’t be waiting up expecting to see a spectacular expose and I fully expect some very well-trained and expensive lawyers to make it all go away in time, but that’s not really the point.
Everton have been notoriously stingy on the transfer front in recent years and many people believe that the significant outlay in the summer was simply money reinvested from the sale of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United for €85m. The fact of the matter is that Everton have a net spend of €60m. That’s the fourth highest in the Premier League for those of you that keep an eye on these things.
And what has all that expense bought them? Three wins from 11, a goal difference of minus 12, 11 points and 15th place.
And here is Moshri’s next mistake; whichever manager he chooses next.
For the record, I like Sean Dyche. He is a very good manager that was harshly treated by Watford and he has performed well with Burnley by building layers over the seasons until he has the right type of player and spirit.
Burnley have grown stronger and hungrier over the years and Dyche must take the credit for putting together a squad that is stronger than the sum of its parts. But Dyche is a five-year man. He has been relegated with Burnley and promoted twice. The question is, has Moshri the patience for a man that needs five years to hunt down the top four? Because that’s the target for Everton. Then again, can Everton find a manager that can achieve the goal quicker than Dyche will need to pull it off?
And there is Everton’s problem. Any new manager will have to contend with a squad of players that are struggling badly and a team that is so lopsided that if just one more player is banished to the left-hand side then Goodison Park could well tip over.
Former manager Ronald Koeman can romanticise as much as he likes about how things may have been different if Everton had secured the services of Olivier Giroud in the summer, but would Giroud have made the difference that the club need to find.
The positives in the squad are few and far between. They have a young goalkeeper who I like very much but in front of him the back four are his best training aid. Everton’s Match of the Day highlights have often looked akin to a training session for Jordan Pickford. It’s a lot to ask of a 23-year-old and it says everything about Everton’s defensive capabilities when they concede five goals against Arsenal and the goalkeeper is rated in the papers the next day as the Toffees’ best player. I’ve never seen that before.
Everton’s fans are decent, however. I have to say it. But the club are asking them to suck it up for five more years on the off chance that Moshiri’s plan of appointing Dyche somehow reaps success. But the alternative isn’t too attractive either. Everton are not the kind of club that benefit from a whirlwind like Jose Mourinho coming in and steamrolling his way to glory inside two years. They simply aren’t in a position to attract that calibre of manager.
Something inside tells me that Dyche isn’t the right man and that he will make the decision to join Everton because he fears not getting another crack at a sleeping giant or better. If I look at Everton as Dyche might, I would see a club with a certain amount of potential, some money to spend presumably, and a name steeped in history; a big club. But I would also see a club that has some players that are very tricky to shift, like Rooney, and capable only of attracting a certain level of player that would need a long time to gel into anything consistent. I’d see a back four that desperately needs updating and a massive great hole upfront where Lukaku used be.
Of course, it is Moshiri that will make the call and so far he hasn’t got too many of the major decisions right as the owner of a Premier League football club.
One more poor piece of judgment and he may just wonder if this football stuff is all it’s cracked up to be. Who’d be an owner? Constantly Dyching with death.
Our man inside the game suspects the impressive Burnley boss isn’t the answer to Everton’s prayers