By Tony Attwood
Last month every media outlet this side of Proxima Centuri told us at least 15 times that November was Arsenal’s worst month. Only one outlet (this one) gave the reason why November was Arsenal’s worst month.
The reason is that whereas in the olden days, the fixture list was drawn at random subject to specific agreed rules (such as Arsenal and Tottenham not playing at home on the same day, clubs generally alternating home and away games etc), now it is deliberately manipulated.
This manipulation is organised for media and promotional purposes so that designated “big” games come up at times of maximum attention, while games likely to get less publicity are shunted into midweek matches in December. Arsenal have tougher matches in November.
But this time (just before Xmas) is the time for getting rid of unwanted fixtures. Today we have Everton v Arsenal (which is designated the highlight match of this round) and Bournemouth v Leicester. Tomorrow it is
West Ham United
West Bromwich Albion
Hardly a highlight among them, and of the top teams Arsenal has the most difficult of the matches, although to be fair we have only lost one of the last 18 against Everton and they are in a bit of a dodgy run.
Everton drew with the Tiny Totts in the first game of the season and then won four in a row to take them ahead of ourselves (which shows how stupid the “only as good as the last game” commentaries are). After five the table looked like this…
They had three more points than us and a considerably better defence.
Since then they have won just one (against the State Aid Utd club) of the last ten. Defeats to Bournemouth, Burnley, Chelsea, Southampton and Watford have taken them down the table although amazingly after such a run they are still in the top half. Just.
Ronald Koeman, who did a fairly nifty job at Southampton has upsized and found out that the Everton team really is a mid-table outfit, with a not particularly balanced squad and a propensity of the board to give into fan protest and sack the manager. But he is seemingly quite a mild chap and his commentary, “We won’t win every game but one in 10 is under-performing by everybody, including me,” was about as strong as it gets.
His comments since the last game – a 2-3 away defeat to Watford – thus also make interesting reading and suggest that something is not quite right…
“The problem is now, we have to solve the problem now and we will see if we will fix it,” he said. “We need more balance in the team between individual qualities, football qualities and also physically and mentally. That is what we need to fix but that is not done in one day.
“What does it help if I talk about January or I talk about the summer? What helps the problem right now? That is trying to get the balance of the 11 that start. That is what I need to fix. If I don’t fix it, then you can criticise. No problem.”
That sounds fairly reasonable, but where I wonder about Mr Koeman is with some of his more detailed commentaries in which he has often spoken about the need for his forward line to be more productive (they have scored 19 this season, the same as Swansea) and where he has also be openly critical of individual players – and I am never sure that is the right thing to do.
Ross Barkley, the manager claimed, needs to improve “in all aspects” while Romelu Lukaku’s needs to adapt to a pressing game. But then Mr Koeman is also quoted (truly or falsely, one can never tell) as saying, “I don’t criticise my team. I protect my players. We need all the players. What you think? That I am criticising all my players? I criticise them now when they need to start tomorrow?… You don’t resolve a problem in two weeks… You think they don’t listen to the manager?”
Everton finished 11th in each of the past two seasons, which makes the whole managerial merry-go-round that the aaa are so anxious for Arsenal to join, look rather silly. As a result Roberto Martínez was pushed aside Koeman came in. And for what? For a manager who seemingly (according to the journos who interviewed him), said, “OK, I understand, but I don’t understand you.”
So how has Everton bought into the mess that the managerial merry-go-round invariably delivers? The obvious reason is by believing the journalistic tripe that some fans honestly believe which says changing managers works. Here is a list of Everton managers since 1990. The final column shows the relative success position of all the permanent managers measured by win percentages.
|Howard Kendall||Nov 1990||Dec 1993||162||63||40||59||38.9||4|
|Jimmy Gabriel*||Dec 1993||Jan 1994||7||0||1||6||0.0|
|Mike Walker||Jan 1994||Nov 1994||35||6||11||18||17.1||8|
|Joe Royle**||Nov 1994||Mar 1997||123||48||39||36||39.0||3|
|Dave Watson*||April 1997||May 1997||7||1||3||3||14.3|
|Howard Kendall||June 1997||May 1998||42||11||13||18||26.2||7|
|Walter Smith||Aug 1998||Mar 2002||173||56||50||67||32.4||6|
|David Moyes||Mar 2002||May 2013||516||217||139||160||42.1||2|
|Roberto Martínez||August 2013||May 2016||140||60||39||41||42.9||1|
|David Unsworth*||May 2016||May 2016||1||1||0||0||100.0|
|Ronald Koeman||June 2016||Present||15||5||5||5||33.3||5|
* Temp manager
** Won FA Cup and Charity Shield
Looking at this table above we can see that in terms of league win percentages Roberto Martínez was the most successful Everton manager during the reign of Mr Wenger (which is what the table above covers). Yet on 12 May 2016, Roberto Martínez was sacked by the club following protests by the Everton version of the aaa (presumably the AEE). And that after he had taken the club to the semi-finals of both domestic cups in that season.
What on earth can we make of such insanity? You have a club that has been going nowhere for a long time, you find the most successful manager in terms of league win percentage for a long time, a manager who also gets the club to two semi-finals, and then sack him. Because some of the fans say so.
It is as if the Everton board had looked at Tottenham’s approach and thought “we’ll have some of that” and then got the same result. Yes eventually you might get a winner, but most of the time you just get more of the same.
The latest in the long line of Everton managers however has described in detail his team’s failings at Watford in the last game saying, “First of all, you must understand that, in the Premier League, physicality is an important factor. It doesn’t start with quality on the ball and these kind of teams are different to ours. Or course we can do more, we need to do more, we need more aggression, I agree, but we have different players to Watford or Burnley or others.
“Every team who doesn’t have that physicality will struggle. The best example I can give you is Manchester City. I don’t compare Everton to Manchester City but Everton is selected on the qualities of the players and not about the physicality of the players. That’s the way of football, that’s why we struggle against these kind of teams.”
Everton will now probably change their line up – they have Bolasie, Besic and Pennington out on long term injuries but that’s it. Ross Barkley, Aaron Lennon and Enner Valencia might return, or maybe not.
Interestingly both Arsenal and Everton have one thing in common. Arsenal are unbeaten away since last March when we lost to Barcelona. Everton are unbeaten at home since last March when they were beaten by Arsenal. Here’s the current league table to contrast with that one above…
|8||West Bromwich Albion||15||3||2||2||13||10||2||3||3||7||8||+2||20|
Arsenal with five wins and two draws away, Everton with three wins and four draws at home. Arsenal scored 18 and let in five away, Everton scored 10 and let in five at home.
A final note
- Everton have not conceded a goal in just one of their last 11 Premier League fixtures.
- Mr Koeman is unbeaten in all five home matches as a manager against Arsene Wenger for Ajax, PSV, AZ Alkmaar and Southampton.
- Romelu Lukaku has scored nine and had three assists in Everton’s last 15 goals.
Maybe it won’t be so easy.
Next up, the teams.
Tales from Untold