We’ve seen monumental change at Goodison Park this summer as former Evertonians David Moyes and Marouane Fellaini jump ship to Manchester United to make way for Roberto Martinez and his former Wigan cast to launch a new era for the Toffees.
On the surface, it seems losing a manager who has served on the Blue half of Merseyside for over a decade, propelling them from a Premier League survival outfit to European contenders during that time period, before showing enough potential to be announced as the rightful successor to Sir Alex Ferguson, could only weaken Everton, especially considering they lost an international midfielder who racked up over 177 appearances for the Toffees and netted 11 goals last season in the same transfer window.
But could it be possible that the departures of Moyes and Fellaini to the Premier League champions could actually make the Goodison club even stronger? Perhaps not this season, or the next, but in the long-term, Everton could well be better off without two of the most iconic figures from their recent history.
Roberto Martinez is a talented manager, but at this point in time he’s quite frankly no David Moyes. Taking the Everton post in 2002 off the back of a successful tenure with Preston North End, the Scot lead the Toffees to nine top eight finishes during his 11 year and a half year reign, despite the Merseyside outfit finishing just once in the Premier League’s top half the decade previous.
An astonishing feat by all means, despite Moyes’ lack of silverware, considering Everton’s finances have been some way short of their divisional rivals. However, it’s been four years since the Toffees have qualified for continental football under David Moyes, and in order to keep the Scot from jumping ship to a more financially equipped club, Chief Executive Bill Kenwright had been forking out £4million a year for his manager’s services – that’s a higher wage than any player on the Goodison roster, and only £1million less than Roberto Mancini was reportedly on at Manchester City.
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For a club of Everton’s limited budgets, £4million is a lot of money, especially considering it appeared some time ago that Moyes had reached his maxim with the Toffees in terms of league standing, and the likes of Phil Jagileka, Sylvain Distin, Tim Howard, Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar, all focal points of the first team under the Scot, have now reached veteran age. If Everton were ever going to move forward, they’d need either a transfer master-stroke or an evolution of the way they play.
And the latter is exactly what Roberto Martinez offered, in addition to his potential of becoming a leading Premier League manager one day. The Spaniard is the brains behind Swansea’s institutionalised technical philosophy, and during his four years at Wigan he displayed his ability to instigate a style of incredibly attractive football that could outlive any serious change in personnel.
It took a compensation package reportedly between £1.5million and £2million on Bill Kenwright’s part to convince Latics chief Dave Whelan to allow his manager to leave for Goodison, but it was undoubtedly money well spent; Martinez’s wage package is considerably less lucrative than his predecessor’s, and whilst Everton’s potential appeared saturated under Moyes, the Spaniard possesses the ability to take the Toffees in a new direction that in the long run could lead to the regular Champions League qualification that the new United boss was always dreaming of.
We’ve already seen a distinct change in Everton’s style from their opening three Premier League fixtures this season, averaging 64% ball possession – a large improvement on last season’s 52% -and an overall 86% pass success rate, whilst their short passing bias is now at 83%.
To suggest the Toffees were a long-ball side under Moyes would be wrong; they were a direct footballing outfit at best, utilising the likes of Fellaini and Leighton Baines to their full worth. But there’s little doubt that the emphasis has changed under the new Everton boss, and the deadline day addition of former Latics midfielder James McCarthy for a £13million fee is perhaps the strongest illustration to date of Martinez’s intentions.
The former Wigan manager’s Goodison revolution is in full swing, but from the moment of his appointment it seemed that Marouane Fellaini wouldn’t and couldn’t be a part of it. Toffees fans would have feared the worst if they’d lost Baines to Manchester United this summer, being the first team’s most prolific creator from left-back, but it’s been speculated for some time at Goodison Park that the Belgian was being window shopped to other Premier League clubs.
A combination of his potential worth and his questionable attitude always meant that Fellaini was more valuable to Everton as a product to sell rather than a cog in the first team, despite his enigmatic attacking displays last season, and his lanky and physical style would never have been well-fitting of the footballing philosophy Martinez is trying to implement. Leon Osman, Darron Gibson, Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines already possess great quality on the ball and could easily adapt to the Spaniard’s ethos, but the United signing would always have stuck out as an individual component rather than part of a well-oiled tica-taca machine under the new Toffees boss.
Additionally, Martinez desperately needed a source of finance to kick-start his Goodison project. Fellaini’s departure to Manchester United brought in £27.5million, whilst it also eliminated one of Everton’s highest earners, reportedly paid around £75k per-week, from the wage-bill. The money was used to bring in new players in key areas, including James McCarthy in central midfield, but perhaps most vitally two strikers in Arouna Kone from Wigan and Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea – a lack of firepower up front was Everton’s intrinsic flaw during Moyes’ 12 year reign on Merseyside.
Former Latics duo Antolin Alcaraz and Joel Robles were brought in on free contracts to improve the defense and goalkeeping departments respectively, and Gareth Barry brings great experience and utility on his season-long loan from Manchester City.
That being said, the Martinez revolution will undoubtedly suffer it’s fair share of teething pains. Everton’s start to the 2013/2014 campaign, with three draws against Norwich, West Brom and Cardiff consecutively, has hardly produced inspiring results and suggests a season of mid-table mediocrity.
But what the 40 year-old is trying to implement at his new club is something special; something which pushed Swansea from League 1 to the Premier League’s top half in the space of five years, something which helped Wigan survive for three seasons under Martinez in the top flight despite averaging attendances of just 15,000 and having their best players leaving to divisional rivals for better wages on a yearly basis. That something is football in its purest sense – ball retention, technical ability, creativity and aesthetic quality – and it could one day help Everton achieve their Champions League aims.
The debate is now whether the change in approach under Martinez will take Everton forwards or sideways – I may be optimistic, but I can’t see a side with such talents as Leighton Baines, Steven Pienaar and Romelu Lukaku slipping too far down the league table.
But either way, Moyes’ monolithic era had to come to an end, and whether the Toffees maintain their top eight status at reduced cost under their new manager or the attractive brand of football he installs pushes them closer to the ultimate goal of Champions League qualification, it was a change that needed to take place.
A continuation of the old regime, centred around Fellaini and Moyes’ tenures, would have lead to an unhealthy imbalance that could have eventually proved detrimental to the Toffees cause, and the Goodison outfit are better off in the long-term for taking a new path.
Are Everton better off without Moyes and Fellaini?
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