Lampard: How lack of strategy & alignment under Moshiri cost Everton
Written by Simon Austin — January 30, 2024
IN many ways, Everton seemed set up for success.
They had a decent structure, with a Sporting Director at the top, and an owner who was eager to invest heavily in the playing squad. In the 10 transfer windows to February 2021, the Toffees were the sixth highest net spenders in the whole of Europe, ahead of Chelsea, Juventus and Bayern Munich (source: CIES Football Observatory).
However, this had an inverse effect on performance, the exact opposite of what you’d expect. The club’s league finishes from 2016/17, when they were seventh, read eighth, eighth, 12th, 10th, 16th and 17th.
Why, during the course of Farhad Moshiri’s eight years at Everton, did things go so drastically wrong? The answer to the question was laid out by Frank Lampard on The Overlap last week.
When asked whether the club had been ‘joined up’ during his time as manager, from January 2022 to January 2023, he said, quite categorically, “No, it wasn’t.”
He added: “There was definitely a different strategy from the owner to what the Chairman’s (Bill Kenwright’s) idea was about it to what Denise’s (Barrett-Baxendale’s) was.”
“You could then see why, in the last five years, they had spent a lot of money in recruitment and it hadn’t been joined up. That came to roost and we’re seeing the aftermath of that now.”
The aftermath is, of course, a 10-point deduction for breaching Profit and Sustainability Rules and another season fighting relegation.
In addition to Moshiri, Kenwright and CEO Barrett-Baxendale, there was another key football decision-maker: the Director of Football. During Lampard’s time in charge, this was Kevin Thelwell, who was preceded by Steve Walsh (2016 to 2018) and Marcel Brands (from 2018 to 2021).
In theory, this person is in place to formulate and oversee the long-term football strategy of the club. The problem was that Moshiri frequently overruled Brands, in particular, when it came to big decisions like managerial appointments and expensive signings.
Since leaving Everton, Brands has said he wanted Mikel Arteta to succeed Carlo Ancelotti as manager in the summer of 2021, only for Moshiri, who had Kia Joorabchian in place as an adviser, to opt instead for Rafa Benitez.
There had been signs of divergence in views and vision throughout Brands’ time at the club. When the Dutchman spoke at the club’s AGM in January 2019, he emphasised the importance of the Academy and developing young players to his strategy. Moshiri then came on stage to reveal his impatience for success.
“We look at the (Premier League) table and know it’s not good enough,” he said. “We need to go up the table and we need to utilise the fans’ impatience to drive the club.”
"You could see, in terms of the squad, that there wasn't a strategy" Frank Lampard
At the time, Marco Silva’s side were 11th in the table. The owner's impatience, plus the lack of a unified vision, was catastrophic, and not only for developing young players (Everton have consistently been near bottom in the Premier League for club-trained players).
During Moshiri's tenure there has been a massive churn of both staff and players. In total, there have been eight different managers, with the squad often reflecting this fact, amalgamating a number of different styles and game models.
Lampard explained: “(When) I came in, you could see, in terms of the squad, that there wasn’t a strategy. This happens at football clubs: new managers come in and want to go a different way, but if you can have a bit of a strategy of what you want to be. I wasn’t sure what it was.
“We were having conversations about, ‘Frank, how do you want to coach the team?’ I’ve got an idea, so you go, ‘Ok, I want to do that, but we’re going to have to recruit a bit for that, because I can’t make this team exactly what I want it to be now.’
“As soon as January (2023) came in, it was like the Wild West. Agents and everyone, what’s it going to be, who are we going to bring in. The squad needed a lot of work and it wasn’t just the idea of bringing players in, it was the idea of getting players to move on.
“Some of those players were of an age in their career, and had signed long contracts, that they’re not going to go anywhere and you’re a little bit hamstrung by that.”
Thelwell, who was appointed as Everton's Director of Football in February 2022, has recognised these problems and has been busy trying to put them right. With Moshiri now taking a back seat and eager to sell (an agreement has been reached with 777 Partners), Thelwell has been able to establish a clear identity and vision and reduce the churn.
On Episode #58 of the TGG Podcast, he talked about the club’s four strategic pillars and game model, both of which would survive any potential change of manager.
“There has been lots of change at Everton and we all know that having a very clear identity is a very strong marker for success,” he said.
Unfortunately, the damage of the Moshiri era has already been done, leaving Thelwell, manager Sean Dyche, the rest of the staff and the fans to pick up the pieces.