Everton manager search: Importance of alignment, clarity & consistency
Written by Simon Austin — January 25, 2023
WHEN Frank Lampard was sacked by Everton on Monday, four of his staff left too: assistant Joe Edwards, first-team coaches Paul Clement and Ashley Cole, and Head of Performance Chris Jones.
This was a familiar story, because a year earlier Rafa Benitez had exited, along with a quartet of his staff (assistant Francisco de Miguel Moreno, first-team coach Antonio Gomez, Head of Sport Science Jamie Harley and fitness coach Cristian Fernandez).
At the end of 2020/21, six assistants departed with Carlo Ancelotti, and so on and so on during the seven years that Farhad Moshiri has owned the Premier League club.
During his tenure, which began in February 2016, there have been seven managers and a huge churn of staff, as you can see from the list of Everton's senior staff during that period at the bottom of this page.
In total, there have been three Sporting Directors (or equivalent), eight Heads of Performance, three Heads of Medical and three Academy Managers. By way of comparison, during the same period, Liverpool have had one manager, two Sporting Directors, one Academy Manager and two Head Physios.
Brentford - a club that have managed to out-perform Everton despite having a much lower outlay on transfers and wages - have had even greater consistency. Their Director of Football, Phil Giles, has been in place since 2015 and their manager, Thomas Frank, has been there since 2018 (having previously been assistant). Head of Performance Chris Haslam has been with the Bees since 2016 and Head of Medical Neil Greig since 2010.
When Frank was appointed, he brought one assistant, Brian Riemer, and the rest of the staff were club appointments. The idea was that even if the manager changed, the overall structure and approach wouldn't. Of course other staff and roles were added, especially as the club climbed the divisions, but the overall strategy remained the same.
This is what Everton's new Sporting Director, Kevin Thelwell, has been trying to do at Everton, too. Since arriving last March he has hired a number of staff for new roles, in the Academy, performance and coaching departments, and when Lampard left, Head of Sport Science Jack Nayler, for example, remained in place.
APPOINTING A MANAGER WHO FITS YOUR CLUB
This brings us onto the next question: has there been consistency of approach in appointing managers during Moshiri's time at Everton?
The answer would have to be no, because it's difficult to see a golden thread linking the playing styles of Marco Silva, Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez, Frank Lampard and Marcelo Bielsa, who is reported to be Moshiri's first choice as new manager.
The owner has been heavily involved in both Head Coach and player recruitment during his time at Everton, sometimes overruling his Sporting Directors.
The approach at other clubs has been different. Clubs like Brighton and Brentford use data to objectively define their playing style and this has informed their decision-making on player and Head Coach recruitment.
When Brighton appointed Roberto De Zerbi in September, owner Tony Bloom explained: "I think Roberto is a really good fit for this football club, a really good fit for the set of players we have and the style."
Professor David Sumpter, who has worked as a data scientist with teams including Ajax, Hammarby and England, has helped clubs quantify and then visualise their playing styles.
"Every club is different and every club wants to have their own style of play," he said during our xG Masterclass yesterday. "The Machine Learning you do and the modelling you do should reflect that style of play.
"What we’ve been doing - and we work with some of the richest clubs in the world to some of the poorest - is we help them with this type of thing. So thinking out what is important to them, what are the KPIs that are important to them, in scouting, performance, opposition analysis, and then building and delivering metrics that describe how they want to play."
If a manager fits a club's style, this means there won't have to be a major changes in terms of playing squad or staff when they come in.
In February 2021, the CIES Football Observatory assessed net transfer spend in the top five European leagues over the previous 10 transfer windows, going back to the summer of 2016. Everton were sixth. Their €346m net loss put them 'ahead' of Chelsea, AC Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich.
Kia Joorabchian, who has acted as an agent and some-time advisor to Moshiri, alluded to the reasons for this player churn in an interview with Talksport today. Explaining why Anwar El Ghazi's spell at the club had ended disappointingly, he said: “Unfortunately, when there was a change of manager (Benitez to Lampard), that (his client's move) didn’t work out.”
Joorabchian argued that the decision to appoint Lampard had been a collective one, rather than being solely down to Moshiri, but the fact remains that the final decision has always rested with the British-Iranian businessman.
So what is the owner's overall vision and ambition for the club?
Speaking at Everton’s Annual General Meeting in January 2019, when Silva was still manager, he said: “We look at the (Premier League) table and know it’s not good enough. We need to go up the table and we need to utilise the fans’ impatience to drive the club.
“We always want to be top of the table, we want to be consistent, we want to do well, but very much like Arsenal and Tottenham, who had to build new stadiums, we need to play a style of football which fills a 52,000 stadium."
He didn't explain how he intended to achieve these results though. Perhaps that was the job of Sporting Director Marcel Brands - but then Moshiri overruled him on the appointment of Benitez, as well as several players.
Focusing purely on results can lead to short-term decision-making and constant change, as we've seen. Speaking on the Training Ground Guru Podcast last year, Damian Comolli explained that he had spent his first few months as Chairman of Toulouse working out the club's overall vision.
“When we came in we did a lot of work on the Toulouse FC identity, culture and DNA,” the former Liverpool and Tottenham Director of Football told TGG. "I met everyone involved with the club - coaches, playing staff, the mayor, the previous owner, the fan groups - and realised that the relationship between the city and football club was disjointed. There was no communication, no relationship.
“They wanted to create a high-performance culture based on excellence and to go from Tou-lose to Tou-win; to develop the fanbase of tomorrow; to have club with a vision; and to have a clear playing style in the first team that is taken from what the Academy is doing.”
And Brentford Director of Football Giles has told TGG: “My job is to be as unemotional about results as possible and look at the underlying performance and not get too carried away by one performance either way; to look for trends and patterns and try and identify what the underlying causes might be.
“For the players and coaching staff, they have to crack on and try and win the game, that’s their focus. They don’t have to worry too much about the long term, they can leave that to myself and the team around me."
Or, as Norwich Sporting Director Stuart Webber has succinctly put it, it's about focusing on the "root and not the fruit."
EVERTON KEY FOOTBALL STAFF SINCE FEBRUARY 2016
Director of Football:
- Steve Walsh
- Marcel Brands
- Kevin Thelwell
- Roberto Martinez
- Ronald Koeman
- Sam Allardyce
- Marco Silva
- Carlo Ancelotti
- Rafa Benitez
- Frank Lampard
- Joel Waldron
- David Unsworth
- Gareth Prosser
Head of Performance/ Head of Sport Science:
- Richard Evans
- Jan Kluitenberg
- Ryland Morgans
- Bruno Mendes
- Francesco Mauri
- Jamie Harley
- Chris Jones
- Jack Nayler
Head of Medical:
- Matt Connery
- Danny Donachie
- Adam Newell