EVERTON IN THE RISE

Everton must put their act together

For the first time in years, the Everton board are all walking in the same direction

In Summary

• The atmosphere around the training ground is positive and upbeat.

• Everton is a very strong club who will make good headway this season under Marco Silva.

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson in action with Wolverhampton Wanderers' Leander Dendoncker in recent match
Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson in action with Wolverhampton Wanderers' Leander Dendoncker in recent match
Image: REUTERS

It was only two years ago that Everton spent big and were completely lost under the coaching leadership of Ronald Koeman which included results like the 3-0 defeat to Tottenham.

That defeat emphasised all that was wrong with Everton. The directors had demanded a top four place under Koeman but were nearer to the bottom of the table than the top. Koeman’s team fielded Jordan Pickford, Cuco Martina, Davy Klassen, Sandro Ramirez and the heralded return of Mersey hero Wayne Rooney.

Now, only five of that starting team still play for the Toffees. A month after the Tottenham result came to a battering by Arsenal and the Dutch Koeman was fired, Steve Walsh had been made Everton’s first-ever Director of Football with the aim to identify new blood to strengthen the team.

At this point, Everton were in chaos. Sam Allardyce was appointed a manager and this did not please the fans who wanted Marco Silva but he rejected the offer. Allardyce and Walsh parted company with Everton pretty quickly after wasting £200million on transfer fees.

In came Marcel Brands to replace Walsh and Everton finally got their chosen manager Marco Silva. Good players arrived including Lucas Digne, Andre Gomez, Bernard and the highly talented Richarlison. Suddenly Everton looked a new team. Twelve months later, three superb players—Moise Kean, Alex Owobi and Fabian Delph—have also joined.

Two years ago, the Everton owners and board of directors were disagreeing amongst themselves, chaos reigned and they were responsible for much that was going wrong with the club. Everything is very different now.

Marcel Brands clearly has the support and respect of everyone at the club as he searches successfully for those players who are hidden golden nuggets within the European teams. And for the first time in years, the Everton board are all walking in the same direction. The atmosphere around the training ground is positive and upbeat and trust me, this is a very strong club who will make good headway this season under Marco Silva.

 

Matic criticises Solskjaer

 

I detected a note of sour proportions coming from Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic who is very unhappy that manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer has dropped him from the regular starting eleven. Matic said at the training ground this week, “I have been in football for a long time. I have played almost all the games for all the clubs I have been with during the last ten years…I recognize that in order to play it is necessary to sometimes sit on the bench and accept that fact and so I do now. The coach must opt for the team that will fight for the title and if he does not win, he bears the responsibility.” Matic was selected by Solskjaer to start all but two of United’s games last season but this year the manager changed from a 4-3-3 formation to 4-2-3-1 and preferred young Scott McTominay to play with Paul Pogba in the middle because Solskjaer feels he is more mobile than the ageing Matic. From what I have observed and heard, it is difficult to see a way back for Nemanja unless results go from reasonable to bad.

 

Ramos wants Pogba for Real Madrid

 

My sources in Madrid tell me that Real captain Sergio Ramos watches Manchester United matches every week and wants Paul Pogba at the Bernabeu Stadium. Pogba, if you remember, was destined for Madrid during the summer transfer break but it never quite happened. Ramos said this week, “I think Real Madrid always has a door open for good players and for me, Pogba is one of the great players. He is different and has shown his value at Juventus and United and we need players like him. He brings balance to a team and has great offensive influence and an amazing physique.”

Ramos was speaking at the launch of his new Amazon Prime documentary and as he admits, his influence and persuasion as captain of Madrid go a long way when decisions are made so I expect another assault on Manchester United for Pogba’s services next year.

 

Celso out until the end of October

Tottenham told me on Wednesday that attacking midfielder Giovani Lo Celso is likely to be out of action for up to six weeks following a hip injury sustained whilst playing for Argentina. Celso, who is on loan from Spain’s Real Betis and available permanently for £55m at the end of this season, will undergo intense treatment at the club with their doctor and physios. I understand that manager Mauricio Pochettino expects him to return to training sometime at the end of October and to add to his three substitute appearances since joining the club.

 

Rashford trusts his mother

There are many things that make Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford stand out from a crowd. That is one reason why many football agents have been chasing him for his signature over the past few months.

However, Marcus has ignored all their requests for interviews and discussions because he trusts the advice given to him by his mother Melanie who deals with most of his management and also close friend, and ex-United striker, Danny Welbeck.

Wayne Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford, who is among the top operators in the lucrative field of agents, is one of those chasing Marcus for his signature. By the way, Marcus has spent the week trying to out-score Tottenham’s Harry Kane during England’s national team matches this week. As it turned out, Kane won with a hat-trick but Marcus was a star performer and has been praised for his hard work creating opportunities for Kane.

 

Tyrone Mings learning from John Terry

A few years ago, Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings was spending his days on the telephone making calls trying to sell people family homes. Fast forward to this season and Tyrone is credited with making more blocks and clearances than anyone else in the Premier League. He thanks ex-Chelsea captain John Terry for making him a complete player although he says he can still improve. Tyrone said: “Our first-team coach John Terry has improved my game for sure. He’s been there, achieved everything I would hope to achieve and to learn from him and taking little pieces of advice make me very fortunate. We watch videos of my games and John will tell me what he likes and doesn’t like. We then try to implement that on the training pitch. He can be critical but usually, it’s very positive. What I like most about his advice is that a centre back should go through a game without being seen or being mentioned. Coming off the pitch and no one really knows what they have done and they have just gone about their business effectively and efficiently. That’s something I am trying to do more and more.”

Tyrone now has his heart set on an England career and I for one think he will achieve his biggest wish.

Which team has the most lethal strikers?

There is an exciting Premier League side show happening right now involving the big clubs and their three upfront strikers. Who has the best strike force? I was with other journalists this week and the debate was fast, loud and furious. Liverpool boasts Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Are they more potent than Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Dele Ali at Tottenham or Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Bernado Silva at Manchester City? City of course also have a potent second strike force in Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sane when he is fit but as the richest club in the world, I guess you can afford that sort of luxury. Those players could slot into any team and feel at home. Or there again is it Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe who are the most lethal combination? Ole Gunner Solskjaer has Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard at Manchester United and Chelsea have Olivier Giroud, Christian Pulisic and Pedro leading the Blues charge. So the big debate is: Which strike force is the most dangerous and will score the most goals this season? We have to wait until next May to find out but one thing is for sure…the quality of those front strikers tell exactly why the Premier League is the most exciting in the world – by a long way.

 

Shaqiri looking for more game time

On a visit to the northeast of England this week I was talking about Liverpool’s midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri. Several readers have asked why he isn’t being used more by the Reds so I asked Liverpool. They have played five matches so far this season and the Swiss international has been used for only 15 minutes! When he arrived at Merseyside Shaqiri made quite an impact and even resulted in manager Jurgen Klopp changing his preferred 4-3-3 system into a 4-2-3-1 and this gave Shaqiri a chance to show his creative flair as an attacking midfielder. Klopp used him to break down well-organised and difficult defences. However, Shaqiri doesn’t deliver a high work rate and also does little to help out the defence when things are tough at the back. Those facts saw him slip backwards in the pecking order. Manager Jurgen Klopp says he intends to use Shaqiri, Dejan Lovren and Adam Llallana more in the coming weeks and said: “They are all in really good shape despite not playing enough.” There is no doubt that Klopp’s 4-3-3 system gives the team more control and stability and it is true that Shaqiri, only measuring 5ft 7ins, is not of much value when defending free-kicks. Shaqiri’s accuracy passing statistics were only 79.5% for last season whereas Dejan Lovren managed 91.7%. Looking at Liverpool’s next few opponents, Burnley, Newcastle and Sheffield United, Shaqiri can expect to get some game time but Klopp will look at leaving him out against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.