Time to address the Spine

by   |   10/01/2022  16 Comments  [Jump to last]

The spine of a team,, as I see it, should be comprised of:

1 A commanding centre-back who organises the defence.

2 A midfield enforcer who sets the tone of a team. No backing down, no being bullied, athletic and a driving force both in dictating tempo and an in-built desire to feed the attack. A player who questions every dodgy refereeing decision with rabid fervour. A winner in spirit who demands, for 90 minutes, 100% from the team and never anything less.

3 A centre-forward who can be the focus of a team's attack. One who can get his head on crosses regularly, get on the end of low crosses, be in the right place at the right time. Can hold up play when necessary, win free-kicks and buy time.

One of our biggest issues and our current footballing malaise stems from the disappearance of our spine. Spinal surgery required…

1) Centre-Back

No Mina, who had become our best centre-back, has cost us dearly with his prolonged injury absences. Holgate has faltered; Godfrey is looking more like a high-class utility player. Branthwaite is 100% the future but is 19 and needs a managed introduction.

We desperately need Mina fit, but how long will that last? We have to do some trading and find a centre-back who can play with Keane, command and organise. A short-term on loan or a quality experienced centre-back on a short-term deal.

2 Midfield Enforcer

Both Allan and Doucouré are excellent players, but there is a missing link in our midfield. We have to be on the look-out now for this key player.

Don’t spare the horses, finances, FFP, (forget fair play)… get this player in to play in a midfield three with Allan and Doucouré.

3 Centre-Forward

Simple answer, get Calvert-Lewin fit. With Gray, Richarlison and Gordon providing chances and scraps to be fed off from their shots, Calvert-Lewin will be scoring regularly.

Also simple: Rondon has failed as an adequate back-up to Calvert-Lewin. This failing has to be addressed now, not in the summer. Say thanks but find a new club in Dubai or wherever. Simms is a better option, or get into the loan market now and get an adequate back-up.

Dobbin has been excellent but I see him as more of a wide forward rather than a focal point. He should also definitely be used more from the bench to inject essential pace for the last 20-30 mins in games.


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Reader Comments (16)

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Dave Williams
1 Posted 10/01/2022 at 11:13:41
Couldn’t agree more Tony. Very clear and sensible post but the two flies in the ointment are who is available and can we afford them with FFP to consider?
Who would you go for?
Danny O’Neill
2 Posted 10/01/2022 at 11:25:12
Danny the repeater alert.

Been going on about the centre back for almost 2 years now. I think I've bored everyone enough with that.

And the midfielder to plug the gap, which will stop leaving Allan and Doucoure exposed when they go hunting.

Up top I don't believe we're too bad in the context of where we are right now. Calvert-Lewin as point man with the options Richarlison, Gray, Gordon or Townsend behind him. As well as Simms and Dobbin coming through.

I don't think either Rondon or Benitez ever thought he'd be thrown in as often and frequently as he has been but even I'm struggling to understand the persistence in his inclusion. Saying that, for the sake of balance, in my opinion, he did show glimmers of doing some decent hold up play against Hull.

Dobbin; I see a potential number 10 rather than wide player. Not an out and out striker, but let's not fall into the English disease model of sticking him out wide because he's young and slight.

To the theme of your post though Tony, get the spine right and the body is strong.

Andrew Clare
3 Posted 10/01/2022 at 12:16:51
Totally agree. It is a pity that Yerry is often injured because he is definitely our best central defender. We do need a commanding figure in that position.
In midfield we need a powerhouse who allows the other players to play their preferred game.
We now have two good young full backs. Pickford has shown for sometime now good professionalism- his goalkeeping is top notch. DCL, Richarlison, Gray, Gordon, Doucoure & Allan are all good.
Team selection and tactics need big attention.
Sort it out and we will zoom up the table!
If only it was that simple. It should be.
Barry Ferguson
4 Posted 10/01/2022 at 12:35:51
Certainly hard to argue that we wouldn't benefit significantly from the recruitment approach you suggest. If we could shift on Mina, Holgate, Davies, Gbamin, Delph, Rondon and Tosun and find the 3 profiles you state, we would 100% be in a much better state.

However, that's unlikely to be achievable in january (or even in the summer) so it may now depend on who we can move on. Delph is out of contract in the summer (and a useless paper weight now), and if we can move Gbamin out (on loan if needed) then the midfield looks most bear to me. This should be our priority.

An 'enforcer' would be very good, but the number one characteristic for me here is being available in space to take the ball, retain it, and use it pro-actively. To develop attacks and see the key passes that initiate them. I'd certainly take a 'De Bruyne' over the 'Henderson' but I get the argument for the latter too.

Outside of that, I think the next biggest issue is the goal threat from the right. Gray and Richie give us plenty from the left, Gordon is 'getting there' on the right, and Townsend is a decent option for competition, but think we lack that outright attacker who could play on the right in a front 3 like the dark side do. Maybe this is where Dobbin can find his niche, but a 'Jarrod Bowen' type in the interim would be great too please santa. :)


Andrew Ellams
5 Posted 10/01/2022 at 12:40:21
I definitely think we need to go after at that CB and MF ball winner as the number 1 priority and maybe even more than 1 of each.

I think we're OK up top if we can keep players relatively injury free. Some of the link up play between Gordon and Grey on Saturday was great and desperately missing a goalscorer into the mix.

Eric Myles
6 Posted 10/01/2022 at 12:46:28
Controversial comment on Mina considering the number of posts I've read on this website that think he's not good enough.

Otherwise, exactly what Bill Shankly did in the early 1960's with our neighbours.

Alex Gray
7 Posted 10/01/2022 at 12:49:22
Fully agree with your post Tony. My only concern is that Rafa seems to only want to play two in the middle which has left us overrun most games.

I still don’t believe we’ve replaced Gana. Allan isn’t a holding midfielder for me and is much more effective at being aggressive and chasing the ball. With the players we’ve got i’ve often wondered why we’ve not gone for a narrow diamond in the middle with attacking wingbacks. You could have a holding player (gana/barry type) with Allan and Doucoure being box to box midfielders and use Richie as a attacking midfielder or second striker behind Dcl. We could then use attacking wingbacks or more defensive ones depending on the game. It would allow Doucoure or Allan to cover the wing backs when they go forward or they could push and the wingbacks could sit and focus on defending alongside a holding defensive midfielder.

When attacking teams we could use Gray/Gordon/Townsend and when we need to defend against tougher teams we could use Coleman or the new left back.

Either way a holding dm and extra body is 100% needed in the middle of the park and we need a CB who is aggressive and a leader!

Gerard McKean
8 Posted 10/01/2022 at 13:13:30
Very clear idea of how to set a team up and what you expect of each individual in their given role; fancy a job as our manager, Tony?

Midfield enforcer? I always thought Beni Baningime would be the man. He may still be judging by his performances for Hearts until he got a bad knee injury before Christmas. A good friend up there, a Celtic fan, rates Beni highly and speaks very well of Patterson, too, which is praise indeed from a Celtic supporter.

Jerome Shields
9 Posted 10/01/2022 at 15:53:00
This is the well observed crux of the problem, with the solution laid out. Could not agree more.
Jay Harris
10 Posted 10/01/2022 at 16:30:21
As regards the spine,
I don't think we will ever have the strength until we get rid of Michael Keane.

He insists on playing deep and therefore stops the MF from getting forward or leaves gaps between the MF and the defence.

He lacks the speed and concentration for a modern CB and for me he would be the one to replace first. Godfrey is not great in the air but has considerable pace about him. Holgate just needs to go as does Mina because of his injury record. Brandthwaite is a great future CB but just needs a bit more experience.

I don't think Allan And Doucoure are too bad but we do need a goalscoring centre mid similar to Manny Fernades. I was hoping Gbamin would be that man but that ship appears to have sailed.

Up front we are too reliant on DCL and have no natural deputy although I have high hope for Simms. Rondon is not the answer and neither is Tosun. Dobbin is too similar to Lookman.

Bob Parrington
11 Posted 10/01/2022 at 23:47:35
Spot on, Tony, in regards to the spine. Only, I'd like to see Keane replaced with a tall strong and composed centre-back.
Derek Thomas
12 Posted 11/01/2022 at 00:40:54
Preaching to the converted, Tony.

You know it's obvious; I know it, most people know it… maybe even the Caldy Clown does too – we shall see.

Don Alexander
13 Posted 11/01/2022 at 00:46:54
No trophy-winning club ever play a system determined by the inadequacies of their own players, never mind just the spine, but we do courtesy of our inept boardroom and owner.

Michael Keane has admirable qualities but pace is not one of them, by a distance. Therefore, with him in the team, we have no choice other than to defend deep. This imposes huge restrictions on us in terms of "transitioning" from defence to attack in a way to stretch any, repeat, any, opposing team, from Man City to Norwich City.

With him we have our goal-scoring potential limited because of the time afforded to the opposition to set their defensive stall out once, indeed if, we win the ball in our area. We therefore have our midfield stretched by having a vast area to cover between our area and the opposition's, and we have our one or two strikers feeling like the loneliest men on the planet unless we have a dead-ball opportunity.

According to the pacy Calvert-Lewin, Godfrey and Branthwaite are at least as quick as he is. Hopefully Patterson and Mykolenko have that sort of pace too. If those four can soon gel together into a competent high defensive line, I'd expect results to improve no end.

Dave Abrahams
14 Posted 12/01/2022 at 11:00:06
As others have said Tony you have got the whole point in why the team are not doing better than we should be, and until we get that third midfield enforcer we will continue to struggle to get the points we should already have.

Centre back position is also the area needed to concentrate on just not strong enough, I had enough of Michael Keane three years ago and he hasn’t changed since then. Mina should be at Butlins, the holiday camp would suit him,mind you Finch Farm is a more up to date holiday camp and suits quite a few of the players.

Jerome Shields
15 Posted 12/01/2022 at 11:35:39
As Brands said the January transfer window is a panic window. Benitez needs so many players. Existing players will be resist to change and won't want competition for their positions. They are not beyond acting up either.

Benitez has to advance on four fronts, increase the number of players available by decreasing the injury recovery times, introduced younger players on the books, improve the players he has, and bring in strategic transfers.

He has brought in a right and left fullback. He needs a good midfielder and a attacker. It will take all his experience to get a value for money player for these two positions. He has made changes in Medical Services and Training, which should kick in the coming months. Young players are being tried and selected on a regular bases

. My disappointment is the improvement in performances from individual players, compared to Ancelotti. Ancelotti did improve some players, though there where still inconsistencies in individual performances, Evidence of individual player coaching from Benitez is not as forthcoming.

This puts more pressure on Benitez to bring in players to fill the technical and tactical gap , that does exist in the Everton squad.

the January Transfer window is not a easy window.

Alan McMillan
16 Posted 12/01/2022 at 14:20:10
While this type of set up is part of the Everton identity throughout the years, I can't help but feel it is a bit dated these days. Modern, successful teams seem to have no "focal" point but can come at you from all angles; think of Barcelona a few years back, City and even those across the park..

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