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Could Everton’s Ambitions Ultimately Prove Costly?

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Everton's Ambitions Ultimately Prove Costly

For over a decade now, Everton Football Club have been the best of the rest. They have only finished outside of the top eight on two occasions since the 2005/06 season. Like Aston Villa before them, they have often provided the barrier between the big boys and everyone else. When Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri purchased a 49.9% stake in the club in February 2016, hopes were high that the Toffees would turn the so-called “Big Six” into a “Big Seven”. Despite a positive first full season under Moshiri resulting in a seventh placed finish, not everything has gone to plan since then. Could Everton’s ambitions ultimately prove costly?

Ronald Koeman was poached from Southampton after Moshiri offered him £6m a year and “the biggest transfer budget in Everton’s history” plus money received from the projected sales of John Stones and Romelu Lukaku. This turned out to be an initial £47.5m for Stones whilst Lukaku stayed another season.

Everton's Ambitions Ultimately Prove Costly

Koeman was recently sacked after a run of two wins in twelve despite spending over £140m in the summer. And one of those wins was against Championship basement boys Sunderland in the League Cup. Now attention turns to who will replace the Dutchman at the helm. David Unsworth is currently the favourite despite losing his first three games as caretaker manager before defeating Watford in the fourth. Other British managers have also been mentioned in the form of Burnley’s Sean Dyche, ex-England manager Sam Allardyce and David Moyes prior to his appointment by West Ham this week. But one name stands out above all others. That name is Diego Simeone.

The Atletico Madrid manager has led the Spanish giants to success in the Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana on top of reaching two Champions League finals. His most notable achievement was steering Los Rojiblancos to the 2013/14 La Liga title breaking up the Real Madrid/Barcelona hegemony for the first time since 2003/04.

Simeone is reportedly top of Moshiri’s managerial wish list, yet it seems inconceivable that the Argentine manager would swap glory in Spain’s capital for a potential relegation battle on Merseyside.

Moshiri’s ambitions draw parallels with those of Blackburn Rovers in 2011 when new owners the Venkys announced plans to bring David Beckham and Ronaldinho to the club. Six years later and it is the likes of Fleetwood Town and Rochdale coming to Ewood Park instead with the club languishing just inside the League One play-off positions. Similarly QPR attempted to recruit Beckham in 2012 having already signed Jose Bosingwa, Ji-Sung Park, Esteban Granero and Julio Cesar from big clubs that summer on extortionate wages. They were among several “marquee” signings for Rangers who subsequently finished bottom of the Premier League and have since struggled in the Championship.

Another bizarre story to come out of the blue half of Merseyside recently was that concerning the shirt number of summer signing Nikola Vlasic. Vlasic told the press that he wanted the number eight shirt, but that was already held by Ross Barkley, whilst the number nineteen was reserved for Diego Costa. The same Diego Costa who top-scored for the Premier League Champions last season. Costa most likely will play under Simeone soon, although it will be at the Wanda Metropolitano rather than Goodison Park with the Spain international having already re-joined his old club who are unable to play him until January due to a transfer ban.

If Everton are to turn their season around, they must begin to think realistically. Whilst Toffees fans would be rightfully underwhelmed to see the likes of Allardyce or Moyes or any other manager perennially linked to bottom-half Premier League clubs appointed, they must realise Simeone will have much better job offers should he leave Madrid.

Everton's Ambitions Ultimately Prove Costly

There are young British managers performing well who are not given a chance at a higher level since both they and their club are deemed too unfashionable. Dyche, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe and Graham Potter of Swedish club Ostersunds are examples of these. The latter led his club from the Swedish fourth division to the first in five seasons whilst winning the Svenska Cupen, their first major trophy last season. This saw them qualify for the Europa League in which they are currently top of their group having already deposed of relative heavyweights Galatasaray and PAOK in the qualifying rounds.

Yet Potter has not been linked to a single Premier League job with teams much preferring the usual suspects with the hope of securing a top-seventeen finish and nothing more. Huddersfield gambled on a relative unknown in the form of Borussia Dortmund’s reserve team manager David Wagner. The German has since led them to a shock promotion and they are currently in tenth place following a solid start to the season undoubtably topped by the recent 2-1 victory over Manchester United. Before them Southampton made an obscure appointment in 2013 by bringing in unknown manager Mauricio Pochettino to replace Nigel Adkins. The same Pochettino who is now reportedly towards the top of Real Madrid’s wishlist should Zinedine Zidane lose his job.

Everton should look towards a manager in the mould of the above names if they are to progress to the next level. Once they are competing for trophies and Champions League football on a regular basis they can look towards the likes of Simeone and Carlo Ancelotti, another name linked following his sacking from Bayern Munich.

There is a fine line between ambition and delusion, and if Everton are not careful, they may find themselves going the way of QPR or Blackburn Rovers rather than Tottenham and Manchester City. The most similar club to Everton right now in terms of business model is West Ham who are more interested in creating a 2012 Premier League all-stars eleven than a team worthy of competing for European football. The Hammers have just replaced the Toffees in the relegation zone. They have the money to spend on quality players, but they need these players to prove themselves and establish them as a serious challenger to the top six before individuals of the calibre of Simeone and Costa view Everton as an attractive proposition.

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How good is your FA Cup Knowledge?

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LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 27: The FA Cup Trophy is seen prior to The Emirates FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

How good is your FA Cup knowledge?

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Is the FA Cup losing it’s magic ?

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Having just seen the conclusion of the 3rd round of this seasons’ FA Cup we can’t help but think that much like the Premier League, trophy is Man City’s to lose, but is the magic of the FA Cup still alive?
The 4th round draw has hardly produced any must watch ties and we’ll probably see the top level teams progress further into the competition as expected, however…
The question remains is the gap decreasing or do the higher level players just care that bit less?
Shrewsbury deserved to beat West Ham, Fleetwood held Leicester, Wigan were pegged back late on by Bournemouth and these are all before Forest blew Arsenal away and Coventry City ended a managerial reign.
With the notable exception of Wengers’ men, we feel it only fair to say that the PL clubs sent out strong sides with a small number of changes that you would deem acceptable based on past seasons and a relatively busy recent schedule.
Dropping out of the big time you’d find an array of other “shocks.” Villa, Brentford and QPR all crashed out at home to lower league opposition whilst Mansfield and Carlisle held Championship opposition in 0-0 stalemates.
Yes, there will be the inevitable increase in performance from lower level players, especially when the TV cameras are in presence but is there more too it?
We genuinely believe the gap is closing between the 4 professional leagues in the English game. We are seeing bang average players be transferred for 10’s of millions and on some occasions it’s nothing more than footballing snobbery. Look at the lads at Bristol City, did many of us know of them? Why have they not been linked with bigger clubs? Are scouts just being sent abroad?
Prime example – 2 of the best performing left backs in the country are Barry Douglas (Wolves) & Andy Robertson (Liverpool) they have both plied their trade for Queens Park and Dundee United but it has taken needless additional years before having their talent recognised, they both transferred in the summer for a combined £11m, 1/3 of the fee for Luke Shaw or 1/5 of that for Benjamin Mendy.
The clubs without the guaranteed revenue streams which are provided to the top table teams are working harder, becoming more technically able and appear to just want it more.
The Prem does provide excitement but it is becoming far too much about the money and not about the football, it’s about not losing and only in the league. For many the FA Cup is nothing more than a distraction and you wouldn’t be surprised if the players were told “it’s all about next week and three points.”
With the top 4 virtually an exclusive club surely many of these managers need to finally realise that their best chance of recognition is a cup run with an “unfashionable club.” It would once again be refreshing to see a winner in the mould of a Wigan Athletic.
What this does mean, is that lower level clubs need to be taken a lot more seriously and the coming rounds treated just like a league game.
With only 4 PL sides guaranteed to progress could we be on for an all non PL final?
MK Dons vs Sheffield United anyone?
The FA Cup will continue to divide opinion amongst the purists, but for now it is still one of Europe’s premier competitions. We just need to hope that it is continued to be taken seriously by the majority and it creates similar magic and stories to those it has in the past.

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Has the January transfer window lost it’s purpose?

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 Like most things in football these days, or at least in the top leagues across the world, everything is done for the purpose of money. The clubs sing to the hymn sheets created by the constant search for financial gain. But, has it become such a way that the January transfer window has become another way to spin money and highlight the World elite to even more sponsors and the such like?

The Background

When the January transfer window was brought to the attention, as a concept, to Europe’s elite football associations it was initially frowned upon by most. That was in 1992/93, eventually in 1999 most of Europe had agreed to a transfer window commencing in mid-December through to the end of January. The Premier League, however, were relying on a final vote to determine whether or not the league and its clubs would be in or out.

Terry Venables. Godfarther of the 1992 Transfer window decision

In that vote 3-4 of the smaller clubs voted against the impending new transfer window in fear of their club collapsing if they couldn’t do business through other months of the year when profits could potentially be higher. The rest of the league voted in favour.
Then, in 2000, with FIFA under enormous pressure from the European Commission to wind up its whole transfer system, due to accusations being made that the system was breaching the Treaty of Rome. FIFA got an almighty kick up the rear and almost immediately came up with a compromise.
The compromise was to include compulsory transfer windows across its leagues, to prevent the issues that the Bosman debacle had created in 1995.

Jean-Marc Bosman – The game changer. Won a ruling in the European high court which banned restrictions on foreign EU players within national leagues and allowed players in the EU to move to another club at the end of a contract without a transfer fee being paid.

It got to 2001 and the Premier league had still not agreed to the proposals put forward by FIFA, however the rest of Europe had and even the European Commission were now on board with FIFA’s plans.
Finally, in 2002/03 the Premier League and its teams succumbed to mounting pressure and accepted the proposals.

As it stands…

You could probably ask all the managers in the Premier league for their opinions on the January window and the old fashioned managers (the likes of Pardew, Moyes & Allardyce) will tell you it causes unnecessary problems and disruption midway through a season.
The new managers, however, have almost been brought up on the reality of the format being here to stay. They almost certainly utilise it better and often, because of that, get more support and backing financially from the board above them at their respective clubs.
Ultimately, the idea of this current window wasn’t really something the Premier League wanted. That was before the enormous amounts of television money were poured into clubs and subsequently meant the Premier League was the biggest financial money churner the world over.

The windows current image

Put simply, it’s no longer about clubs strengthening their squads. Gone is the ideology of clubs selling players to buy players, because they just don’t need to do that anymore. There’s now enough money at each Premier league club to buy a player within their means without worrying about the cost.
The January transfer window is now purely a luxury for the bigger clubs to have another opportunity to flex their muscles and bring in the big names. Some might say that’s a cynical way of looking at it, but there’s no plausible way or reasonable fact to prove it’s any different. Rarely do the clubs below the bottom half of the league go out and buy 2-3 players like they might in the summer, because they don’t have the funds like they would in the summer from things such as TV deals and kit sponsors.
The only benefit this current period in the season has for clubs not in a financial position to buy players, is the option to loan them until the end of the season – usually to try and stave off the threat of relegation – often a temporary measure that will wind up with the club following the same process the following year.

Further afield…

When you look away from the Premier League you start to see that it’s a common theme that other leagues don’t spend much in the January window and instead opt for loan deals;
 
Bundesliga 16/17 season (January): £92,124,000.
Bundesliga 16/17 season (Summer): £498,944,250.
Loan deals – Departures in Jan: 62
Loan deals – Arrivals in Jan: 40
La Liga 16/17 season (January): £25,425,000.
La Liga 16/17 season (Summer): £439,051,500.
Loan deals – Departures in Jan: 59
Loan deals – Arrivals in Jan: 54
Serie A season 16/17 (January): £88,231,007.
Serie A season 16/17 (Summer): £662,917,461.
Loan deals – Departures in Jan: 217
Loan deals – Arrivals in Jan: 184
The best example that the loan option is being exploited because of the constraints of the transfer window, much against its intention, is that of Serie A. Of the 184 arrivals to clubs in Italy in January last season, on a loan basis, 54% of those were players returning to the club they were originally contracted at. Proving once more that so often players leave in January for 12 months and then return to their former clubs. That holds no benefit for the players involved in most cases.
Another case in point and more recently is ‘Barkley-gate’ between Everton and Chelsea. Between August 2017 and January 2018, a fee of £35 million was agreed on 31st August for the injured midfielder who’d been at Everton for 13 years. The player and his agent conspired to turn down that move. Just 4 months on and while he was still injured, a new fee was agreed between the clubs meaning the selling club (Everton in this case) gets £20 million less for the lad in whom they’d invested so much. Evidently, that deal would have been agreed between the clubs and then quietly between the player, his agent and Chelsea with the latter always focused on a deal in January.

To summarise

The January transfer was not something that the elite leagues and football associations all over Europe wanted. The window was formed by FIFA to appease the mounting pressure they were under from the European Commission. Surely it’s finally time to level the playing field by abandoning the January window and hand the Premier League’s struggling clubs and managers a greater degree of stability for a whole season at a time. Ultimately becoming a way to level up the money/no money situation thats obviously apparent every season across Europe.

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