The Moshiri Era – Part One

On the 27th February 2016 it was announced that the Iranain billionaire Farhad Moshiri had acquired a 49.9% stake in Everton football club making him the club’s largest stakeholder and since then he has increased his share of the club to upwards of 75%.

Despite him not holding total control of the club it did effectively mount towards a takeover due to the high position he would hold in the boardroom and the say he would have in major decisions. Bill Kenwright at the time labelled Farhad Moshiri as “the perfect partner”, with the billionaire expected to finally provide Everton with the funds to be able to compete with the elite clubs and hopefully guide us to the Champions League.

However, neither have happened with Everton being in the exact same place positionally as we were when Moshiri first came in and that is mid-table. His ambitious three-year plan to deliver Champions League football has been a failure, but has his total tenure at Everton (so far) been as underwhelming as some people make out?

This is what I will look at throughout the rest of the article by reviewing the recruitment, footballing decisions and overall performance during the first two seasons of the Moshiri era.

2016/17 Season

Footballing Decisions

As stated before Moshiri actually joined the blues during late February of the 15/16 season but as there were only two months left of the football at that point there’s no point in giving it its own full section, however there was something which happened shortly after this point which has to be included and that is the sacking of Roberto Martinez.

It was a 3-0 beating to Sunderland which drew the final straw for Martinez that led to Moshiri showing his first statement of intent by firing him just before the final game of the season was played. I imagine that Farhad played quite a big part in Bobby’s departure as shortly after he was sacked news came out that it took him a while to get his way with it being suggested that he wanted Martinez out a month before he was actually sacked.

Moshiri and co were then tasked with the job of replacing the Spaniard of whom they opted for the man who’d finished 6th with Southampton the season prior, Ronald Koeman. Ronald was supposedly Kenwright and Moshiri’s first choice to bring in as manager and only briefly did they have a look at other options, something which is clear now was a mistake. Everton should’ve maybe looked at bringing in a manager who was more tactically flexible and had the experience of building a squad, two qualities of a manager which Koeman did not possess as he mostly inherited Mauricio Pochettino’s squad at Southampton. There were some more versatile managers out there like Lucien Favre who we could have had before Martinez’s reign or possibly Manuel Pellegrini both held the attributes and experience that we were after.

Another big change for the clubs staff that summer was the appointment of the clubs first ever Director of Football, Steve Walsh. Steve Walsh was the man that was credited with the signings of Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante and Jamie Vardy for Leicester City, all three players highly influential throughout their title success in the 15/16 season. However, the role that Walsh would go on to have for Everton was extremely different to the one he held Leicester which was the Head of Recruitment.

Head of recruitment will mainly be scouting players and searching for talent to then pass on to the manager and more senior figures at the club when the Director of Football, while still scouting and watching players, will have to have excellent negotiation skills and will have to develop a long-term strategy for the club and will have a lot more on their plate that a Head of Recruitment would, so while there is no denying that Steve Walsh is an excellent scout he wasn’t the best choice for DOF and was definitely not the man to take the club forward.

Things could’ve gone very differently if we would have appointed Monchi of Seville (who was heavily linked at the time) into the role of DOF rather than Walsh. The relationship between the man who is DOF and the manager is also highly important to whether the DOF is successful and the two have to have a solid understanding of where they want the club to be and the manager has to trust the DOF to make the right transfers for the club – The lack of understanding between Koeman and Walsh was one of the main reasons for the pairs failure at the club.

Recruitment

The summer window of 2016 was a massive window for Everton and also for Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh for them to embark on their rebuild of the club. The window saw us spend a total of £55 million (we also purchased Morgan Schneiderlin in January for £20 million) and gain £53 million of departures, £50 million of that amount coming from the exit of John Stones to Manchester City, so there’s no doubt that we had money to spend. Below, is a graph which shows what players we bought that summer, their age and what the transfer fee amounted to of each player with the y-axis being in millions.

Let’s begin with the more obscure signing of 33 year old Maarten Steklenburg signed to replace the retired Tim Howard. This transfer was highly a disappointing one and one that I think was made by Koeman due to his previous time with him at Southampton, signing a player at 33 to start in your side is a bad buy and I would’ve much preferred us to go for a much younger option in goal, someone who could’ve be our number 1 for years to come.

The same can also be said for the purchase of Ashley Williams. It was evident we needed a centre-back after the Stones departure – we had Phil Jagielka, (33) Funes Mori and Mason Holgate, who weren’t anywhere near first team football, so why would we then bring in an ageing Ashley Williams? There would have been plenty more options around Europe for us to sign who were much younger and also would have been around the same price.

We also lacked a true ball winner in midfield, and this was solved perfectly with the purchase of Idrissa Gana Gueye for just short of £8 million and Steve Walsh has to be given credit for this. Gueye in my opinion was the best signing we made under Koeman, eventually we went on to sell the Senegalese midfielder for around £30 million making a £22 million profit on the now PSG man.

The recruitment of Ademola Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin were also clever buys, who were more players ‘for the future’ but then on the other hand we went about spending a combined 47 million on two 27 year olds when we would’ve been able to find much better options around Europe. Bolasie for example only managed 8 goal contributions the season before for Crystal Palace and with Everton lacking creativity, Bolasie wasn’t going to be the man to fix that and paying nearly £30 million for him was just ludicrous.

This is becoming a recurring theme under Koeman and halted our rebuild and ability to take that step forward and that was only buying Premier League experienced players and not willing to take the risk of bringing in a younger player (22-24) from clubs around Europe due to fear of them not adapting and not working out. In my opinion this Koeman’s doing as unfortunately for us he saw Everton as a stepping stone and was afraid of taking a risk in case it would damage his reputation, however him making this decision ended up with him damaging his reputation anyway.

Season Overview

Ronald Koeman’s first season at Goodison saw Everton comfortably finishing 7th and for a transitional season, getting us back into Europe, the campaign wasn’t all that bad. No doubt that Romelu Lukaku’s 25 goals that season really helped us but at times Ronald Koeman set us up quite good tactically especially throughout the January-March period where the dutchman set us up in 3-5-2 formation which proceeded us to go nine games unbeaten but unfortunately due to Seamus Coleman’s injury we have to result back to a 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1 which didn’t work anywhere near as well as three at the back set-up did.

Ronald also managed to regain the once great home-form of the David Moyes years only suffering two defeats at Goodison Park which was a considerable improvement to how we were at home under Roberto Martinez the previous term where we only won five of our nineteen home games in his last season.

There was still much room open for improvement, an ageing back-line, lack of creativity, a long-term injury at right back and an unsettled twenty goal a season striker. All of these issues had to be resolved in the forthcoming summer, Steve Walsh and Ronald Koeman had to get this window spot on if they wanted the club to progress forward.

2017/18 Season

Recruitment

As there weren’t any major decisions made by the board before the start of the season, I think a good place to start is to address the recruitment for this campaign. There’s no doubt that this was a massive window for Everton following the sale of our star player Romelu Lukaku, the highest fee that Everton have ever received for a player standing at a gargantuan £75 million which saw the Belgian move to the red side of Manchester.

Obviously, his departure left a massive hole in our eleven and the 25 goals he bagged the season before can’t be replaced easily, this why this window would be even more crucial for the development of the club as a whole for years to come. We brought in a total of £90 million, in sales, that summer and ended up spending around £125 million – with that amount spent we had to get it right and a lot of signings were needed especially with us competing in the Europa League.

There’s no hiding that this summer window was an utter disaster but where and why did it go wrong? Let’s begin with the good transfers of that window which in my opinion there were only three. Jordan Pickford being the first. After failing at finding a decent replacement for Tim Howard the season prior we managed to snap up the Mackem for around £25 million. Pickford was a decent buy at the time, coming off a good season at Sunderland and at only 23 he had a lot of potential. The other two good buys were the ones of Nikola Vlasic and Henry Onyekuru, two players who were more for the future and ones that if it didn’t work out on the pitch then we would be able to sell for a profit (which we did with both).

Now for the rest. A good place to start is from the back with Michael Keane. We spent quite a large amount on Keane and there’s no doubt that we needed a centre back but was he the right fit for Koeman’s side. Keane had came from playing from a team whose sole focus is to defend and whose backline spend most of their time on the edge of their penalty area, this would not be the case at Everton as Koeman opted for quite a high line and the centre back pairing had to be agile, quick and good at defending space and unfortunately Keane didn’t have these traits as a player. We also lacked depth at full-back, on both sides actually. Leighton Baines was getting old and we had Seamus out with a long term injury, so Koeman tried to hit two birds with one stone by signing Cuco Martina a player who only featured nine times for Koeman at Southampton and putting it nicely he isn’t good enough for Everton and we should have looked to bring in a separate right back and left back.

Now this is where Koeman completely disregarded the fact that pace was a massive factor in football with the signings of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wayne Rooney and Davy Klaassen. These three were all similar types of players and ones which you’d associate with the 10 role which represents a lack of transfer strategy and this became a common theme for that summer. Gylfi is a good player and in that right system can be a real asset but is he worth spending nearly £50 million on? No.

Wayne Rooney was a singing that in my opinion never should’ve happened at 31 he was a player that we would be looking to move on in a year or two and was one that wasn’t going to take us to the next level and with Klaassen, we should have had our reservations about signing from the Dutch league, especially with a player who doesn’t look up to the standards physically as was this case with Klaassen. These three transfers alone show the awful recruitment our club went through under the realm of Walsh and Koeman.

Now, arguably the biggest task of the summer was replacing Romelu Lukaku. The man that Koeman and Walsh selected was Sandro Ramirez of Malaga after fighting off the likes of Atletico Madrid for his signature. Now I’ll be honest I did get fairly excited at the signing of Sandro after watching his goals on YouTube but since then I’ve come across data in football and in particular the xG stat (expected goals). The season that pushed Everton into signing Sandro was the one in which he scored 14 goals, them 14 finishers coming off an xG of 7 for the total season, this in simple form, means that Sandro was heavily overachieving and Walsh and Koeman should’ve definitely took this into account.

Also in my opinion Sandro is more of a second striker rather than a lone striker one which he was assigned to playing at Goodison. All in all I feel sorry for Sandro that he couldn’t adapt and that it’s most likely his confidence was crushed after that season and I hope he can regain his form from that 16/17 season with Malaga. The paragraphs above show what an absolute shambles that season’s summer window was and how Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh aimlessly recruited without a plan or strategy. From these signings you’d expect that we would set up in a narrow 4-2-3-1 but what if this system failed, we would have no other set-up to fall back on due to the players signed lack of versatility. Overall then Everton ruined their biggest chance of spending wisely and bridging the gap between the elite clubs of the division and Koeman and Walsh wasted this opportunity. Here’s a piece from another one of our writers who goes into more detail on how we could have gone about our business that summer.

Footballing Decisions

The main decision that the board had to make that season was the sacking of Ronald Koeman, a sacking which I do think was definitely warranted. Ronald had a poor start to the season and simply couldn’t adjust to different styles of play and this was mainly because of his poor building of the squad in the previous summer which restricted him towards using one style of play and his inability to recognise his tactical errors ultimately led to his sacking. Koeman had great youth at his disposal which he didn’t utilise properly, and in the end, he just didn’t care about the club.

Moshiri and the rest of the board then had to replace Koeman, in the end selecting none other than Sam Allardyce. Big Sam was brought in after David Unsworth managed 5 games picking up a total of 7 points leaving us 13th in the table, therefore the shouts that Allardyce came in to save us from relegation are utter nonsense which makes me wonder why we didn’t just go for someone who would be able to keep us up with no hassle but then over the course of the season they would have developed an idea of the squad and what they like and don’t and then in the next window would’ve been able to build their own squad because let’s be honest despite Allardyce’s talk he was never going to be here for the foreseeable future which makes me question why he was allowed to squander £50 million in the January window on Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott, if Allardyce wasn’t going to be here next season why would we allow him to put together players that fit his idea of what he wants when it might not fit the idea of the next man to take charge.

Maybe we should have thrown the kitchen sink at someone like Julian Nagelsmann who had Hoffenhiem playing some excellent football at the time, or maybe Andre Villas-Boas or dare I say it Rafa Benitez and more ambitiously Thomas Tuchel. There were so many more options better than Allardyce that we could have gone for and his appointment was a really bad call by Moshiri and co.

Season Overview

The start to this season with Koeman in charge was nothing short of horrendous, from Ashley Williams punching people in Europe and less than half of the ground full to witness our 5-1 smacking at home to Atlanta, Koemans involvement in the 17/18 season was grim. As mentioned we were back in Europe playing in the Europa League and this should’ve been a big deal for Everton and we should have made the most of it but instead we went crashing out in the group stages picking up a mere 4 points and it was nothing short of an utter embarrassment. In the Premier League Koeman showed no tactical flexibility and honestly looked like he didn’t have the slightest clue how to set us up more notably at the end of his spell. My personal favourite was Ronald deciding to play DCL right wing back on the opening day. He was then eventually sacked after match week nine when Everton sat 18th in the league. Koeman has no one other than himself to blame for his sacking, his poor building of the squad and the lack of tactical strength that ultimately led to his departure from the club.

His replacement was nothing short of disappointing with Sam Allardyce replacing him at the helm. While the results did improve, the overall performance on the pitch certainly did not, I’ll let the image below explain:

After setting your eyes upon this it’s somewhat remarkable how we managed to finish 8th this season, that being said however, as I said before Allardyce was coming into a team who were 13th in the league so it’s not like he came in and was our saviour that stopped us being relegated. His total style of play was the opposite to what us Everton fans wanted to be displayed by any manager at the club and it was the right decision by the club to sack him which I will go into more in the second part.

After setting your eyes upon this it’s somewhat remarkable how we managed to finish 8th this season, that being said however, as I said before Allardyce was coming into a team who were 13th in the league so it’s not like he came in and was our saviour that stopped us being relegated. His total style of play was the opposite to what us Everton fans wanted to be displayed by any manager at the club and it was the right decision by the club to sack him which I will go into more in the second part.

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