Playing squad needing more than a freshen up?

By Matt Lavery 12/05/2016  0 Comments  [Jump to last]

A new dawn is about to begin...

It wasn't until the coming of Spring that I turned from a Martinez supporter to a Martinez "out" kind of guy. I'd like to add to the sentiment and shouts of Martinez being a "nice guy", but it was clear that the first season of positivity under his stewardship were well and truly over and those initial feelings of excitement were simply gone. As someone has said on one of the fan threads, we don't need a nice guy, we need a winner.

I think that Baines's comments were key to signalling Roberto's end as it was clear people within and without the club were no longer "buying" what he was selling. As an aside, I do believe Baines' comments were unprofessional to an extent (his somewhat apologetic tone in my opinion prove this) but nonetheless his actions highlighted the need to go a different route.

So, what of that route? It remains to be seen who will be entrusted with a truly monumental task at Everton to get us fans (what Roberto had us believe was possible once more) - success. Not the "success" that Sky et al suggest is what "plucky" Everton should be happy with, but instead the success that Leicester and Atletico Madrid have had recently. And then some! Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.

So, it got me wondering what any potential manager had in store come the summer in order to take Everton back to where they once belonged. The "Special One" has suggested today that any manager taking over the reigns during a summer period are at a disadvantage as the transfer targets, pre-season trips, business ventures etc have already been put in place to a certain extent by the previous incumbents.

However, surely the players who will start the 2016-17 season are largely a mystery until the transfer window countdown clock rears its ugly head? Last minute opportunities come up when least expected, injuries happen, chairmen panic etc. Added to this is the fact that this is a Euros summer; and as usual, most managers will be observing it for talent and therefore won't have finalised their plans regarding players until much later in the summer. The possibilities are endless. Aimar anyone?!

So, finally (sorry!) to the point of this article: what do Everton FC need regarding their playing staff and how much "tinkering" is required from the new manager and new major shareholder?

By position:


Joel Robles
Janick Staneck
Russell Griffiths
(Howard already leaving)

I don't personally feel 100% or even remotely close to the idea that Robles is the man to take the sticks for the foreseeable future, never mind for the years to come. I can't help but think that Robles will never be quite the same leader or all-round keeper that Howard was in his prime, but even then, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum and all, neither come close to the great Neville Southall. If we are serious about being masters of Europe once more, a top class keeper is a must.

Defence (left)

Leighton Baines
Bryan Oviedo
Luke Garbutt

Due to the requirement of the other positions I think with Luke back from loan, this is one position that should be left alone for now. As much as I like Oviedo, he's not even second choice in my opinion and despite Luke's disappointment in the Championship, I think he'll make for good competition. With better coaching in defence (an obvious must at Everton!) Garbutt could yet be one to watch this coming season. Baines, especially as a local lad should be given the support to make him one of the leaders on the pitch, however, I don't foresee him returning to his prowess like during his Pienaar/Baines axis days. Still, I think we're doing fine in that position for one more year.

Defence (right)

Seamus Coleman
Tony Hibbert

As has been posted on numerous occasions, the obvious requirement here is a new right-back (either as cover with a view to replacing Coleman long term or to take his starting spot). A proper defender or an attacking type? I think that depends on the feft-back player. I think one of them (long term) needs to be more defensively minded with the ability to also pick a pass. It is a shame Hibbert is well passed his "sell by" date as again, I think having someone who is one of our own is vitally important in the dressing room. Plus his reading of the game is not half bad!

What I'd love to see most here is for Coleman to get back to his old self! I don't think he has been close for the past two seasons. At his best he was unpredictable, full of pace, tough and not only did we not know what he was going to do when he got the ball, the opposition didn't know and half the time I don't think Seamus did either! (& that was a good thing in my opinion).

Defence (centre)

Phil Jagielka
John Stones
Ramiro Funes Mori
Brendan Galloway
Martin Holgate
Matthew Pennington
Tyias Browning

Now, I like Jagielka but am not sure he's the tough bastard, with the captain quality required (snarling, frothing at the mouth and dragging the boys together when under the cosh). I think he's a starter but I would love to see a proper "old school" defender along side him. Stones needs to be spoken to and coached in the art of defending. I think he has all the potential in the world and genuinely should be encouraged to settle down for the foreseeable future for his and our good.

Of course I envisage plenty of game time for him along with Jags, but until he sorts his stupid mistakes out, he's a massive liability. Funes Mori is a head scratcher. He's ace in the opposition box but I think he's another that needs to be coached to do some of the simple things better and I am not certain he's long term the best fit for us. I hope he is, but this year will have done him some good, but he has to get used to the league pronto!

The others? Pennington seems like a nice lad and there is potential there, however, I don't see an awful lot of raw quality to be coached in to a superstar. Another Hibbert type but at centre-back? Galloway impressed when deputising at left-backbut again, not certain he should remain there. A case of square peg, round hole. Could (with a bit of beef) end up being a good, solid defender for us in the left centre back role but still early days.

Tyias seems decent but not sure he's got what it takes. I think a good long loan to a lower league to see if he has the mentality going forward is a must. Holgate sounds very promising but as long as he isn't coached to make the mistakes of Stones then his future by all accounts is very bright.

Having said this about Stones (& this is true of all the young lads), being a teacher and seeing the pressure on young individuals create all kinds of havoc academically and mentally, the scrutiny of the young lads at times borders on crazy. I think as fans we need to be a bit more empathetic (regardless of their wages that they didn't force on the management!) and I also think that managers need to do a better job at protecting some lads when it is obvious their situation dictates it (Ross is a prime example IMO).

Midfield (left)

Steven Pienaar

A quality left midfielder is another MUST in my opinion. Pienaar was quality in his day but needs to be moved on and there is nobody else. As much as I'd love to see Yarmolenko (not sure their chairman would let him come to us by all accounts) it is a genuine must of a position and I don't think there would be a better candidate than the Ukrainian. Cleverley, Arouna and Mirallas are definite nos for me in this position.

Midfield (right)

Aiden McGeady
Aaron Lennon
Gerard Deulofeu

I thought Aiden would at some point come good (but I'm a glass half full type) but he's an obvious one to get rid of. Either released for free or sell(!) Lennon has done reasonably well with goals and some strong wing play (crossing has never been his strength) and works hard but again, not sure he is top class. Surely we want someone to put it "on a plate" for the forward consistently?

A starter for me as long as he can be coached to keep his head in the game and beefs up is Deulofeu. I was extremely excited about his return and I thought his permanent signing was Martinez's best piece of business over the summer. He started well this season but lost focus and needs to (and more importantly can) return to his very best. He is still raw but his potential is exciting. A good coach is a must though! I think with Deulofeu and Lennon we're reasonably well covered here.

Midfield (centre-mid)

Darron Gibson
Tom Cleverley
Gareth Barry
Joe Williams
Liam Walsh
Conor Grant

I'd release Gibbo – if he stayed fit he could be great and he's the right side of 30 as well! (Martinez mentioning he wasn't injury prone was the writing on the wall I chose to ignore regarding his inability to manage effectively!) Tom Cleverley has done a decent job since he arrived with plenty of endeavour and at times has shown some class. He would act as good cover.

Barry needs to stay but with a replacement lined up to take his reigns this coming summer. A younger version of Barry (Wijnaldum?!) being shown the ropes is a must in my opinion because as has been stated many times, it is scary how much Everton have relied on an ageing player such as Barry. Where would we have ended up without him this year? A seasoned pro, a cool head, superb spacial awareness and some neat touches (and the odd quality pass).

Walsh appears to be another "next big thing" from what I have seen (am I right?!) but not sure about Grant and Williams although genuinely uncertain so I can't make a comment!

Midfield (defensive mid)

James McCarthy
Muhamed Besic
Ryan Ledson

Jimmy needs a kick up the arse. He's a headless chicken who's not shown the quality required in my opinion. In his first season he chased everything down like a rabid dog but now I'm not quite as enthralled by him. With a bit of coaching (he's getting longer in the tooth though!) he could begin to do the chasing and THEN the easy pass to a more technical player but he needs to contribute more than he has done this season.

Mo, sorry but he's a mystery to me. As much as I love a good tackle, he's got little to no positional sense in the game. On the ball he can do some wonderful stuff but he can't be relied upon to keep the shape when defending or offer space when attacking. Some quality coaching might help him but it's needed now otherwise he'll not fulfil his potential in my opinion. I would not have started him as much as some fans wanted this year either. I actually think at the stage he's currently at we may have actually lost more points (if that's possible!)

Ryan was given a fair bit of praise over the last few years but not sure how far he's progressed and perhaps stars like Walsh and Dowell have superseded him?

Midfield (attack)

Ross Barkley
Leon Osman
Kieran Dowell
Conor McAleny
Leandro Rodriguez

Osman is another local lad who from all accounts helps create a good changing room atmosphere. Hardly seen this year and I think it's time for him to seek pastures new (especially as he's been quite vocal about this recently). Will be a shame to have one of our own leave but he's passed it.

Another in danger of being passed it is young Ross. Soon he won't be YOUNG and it is clear he's someone who thrives on positivity and good performances. He needs to be taken out of the limelight in my opinion and given a long rest with a quality AM/#10 that Roberto spoke of coming in to provide competition and help spark the blues in to gear. When Ross is at his best, running at players and having a pop, he is a joy to watch, particularly as he's another local lad. However, I genuinely fear the abuse he receives from fans will be his undoing. Great potential but will he achieve what we hope for him? I think we are/were all hoping he'd be our answer to Stevie G Laa but time is a ticking...

And of course, the new boy on the block Kieran is a genuine success story surely waiting to happen. I do hope he's given the match on Sunday to showcase his ability and with a bit of good management I have high hopes for this left footed (albeit it raw) local lad. Again, I can only hope fans have patience with him.

McAleny has done some good things but has also come up short with some of his opportunities in my opinion. It has been a decent loan year for him but I'm not convinced with his maturing years that he's got what it takes at Everton. Perhaps another Leon though?

Leandro has certainly unimpressed thus far and with the noises from the management recently about his need to get a strong pre-season, this is a defining moment for him. A phenomenon waiting to happen or a phantom?


Arouna Kone
Kevin Mirallas
Oumar Niasse
Romelu Lukaku
Courtney Duffus
Sam Byrne
David Henen

Arouna has scored some decent goals throughout his career but surely must move on now Roberto has gone? By all accounts, a good lad and at the beginning of the year put in some surprising performances, but surely a lesser team would give us a few £million for him? He is also a notoriously slow starter each new season due to his fasting (fair enough) but he seems to take ages getting in to any form thereafter.

Mirallas is a genuine frustration. On his day he can be a real threat but it is precisely this (his verbal threats every time he goes on international duty) that leaves me wondering what good he does to the camaraderie in the dressing room? If as Baines says it is suffering, then I'd now say "get rid". He's done it every season he's been here and I think he's replaceable.

Oumar is another head scratcher to say the least! A bizarre signing all things considered and he's so far off the pace there is real worry he's not going to make it even close to NSNO. Still, dare I say it (as this is being kind) it is early days...

The other young lads don't set the pulse racing. Courtney seems like a decent target man but not of the same calibre as Anichebe and he wasn't good enough. Henen despite his early promise appeared to really struggle in a conference league(!) and Sam, despite the more positive messages from Finch Farm again doesn't set the pulse racing.

Our only true striker and potential superstar is Romelu. Again, he suffers much the same as Kev on international duty, however, at least his words have some substance to them. Anybody who thinks the boy is garbage is in my opinion just frustrated with him and the season in general. Yes, he couldn't hold the ball up like we like to see at Goodison Park on a consistent basis (at times it is laughable and is a clear opposition tactic to go all in on him when his back is to goal) and yes, at times he makes some glaring errors, many of them unfortunately when they truly matter, however, when was the last time Everton had a goalscorer who came even close to such figures? He is arguably Martinez's best piece of business. If he stays another year he will get us goals yet again and they are a commodity in short supply, particularly when it comes to the Premier League.

How many foreign imports who have "done it" abroad come up short? How much money is wasted? A quick glance along the bench is a case in point with Niasse. Do we play to his strengths? I haven't seen the same quality service to him on a consistent basis this year. Deulofeu offered some superb opportunities earlier in the season but it is clear Romelu is getting more and more frustrated as the year goes by. If he were to be sold this summer (& only for big money would I let him go) we would have to replace him but also buy another to take the burden. Even if we keep him, we need that second top quality striker to create competition and provide assistance. His attitude does need improving, but again, he's a young man who needs to be sold the dream at Goodison. Not, in my opinion, sold.

So, after all that, I can only see five players in the list that I would be excited to see as starters come season 2016-17.

LB - Baines (& on pens)
RB - Coleman (of old)
CB - Jagielka (dependable)
CB - ? (Maybe Stones if he can remember how to defend!)
LM - ?
CM - ? (Maybe McCarthy if he learns how to pass and chip in with the odd goal/assist whilst keeping up the work rate)
CM - ? (Barry but not all season)
RM - Deulofeu
AM/CF - ? (Maybe Ross if he starts to take responsibility, learns to enjoy his football again and matures quickly so as to deal with the pressure)
CF - Lukaku

IMO only Coleman, Del Boy and Lukaku from this list are currently either good enough to be truly excited by or have the potential to return or become top class. Ross maybe.

Subs: Robles, Stones (could be superb), Garbutt, Barry, Cleverly, Walsh (unknown), Dowell (unknown), Lennon.

I can't say the "best squad" in a generation fills me with that much confidence to be honest. I told myself over the past 3 years that it was good enough, however, that was when some of the old guard were still around. We've waited too long with some of them, missed the boat with others and if we're not careful, we'll have an even bigger "touch up" job to do this year or next. But a word of caution; a whole host of changes could lead to a lack of cohesion and we only need look at the worrying trend of teams that buy, buy, buy (Leeds, Newcastle this year, QPR) for the problems that that in itself creates.

Either way, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum. I truly hope whoever is the next manager can bring back the School of Science once and for all and that we see a bunch of players hungry for success next year but most importantly, willing and wanting to play as the winning team.


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