I think my non-Everton supporting friends and family are beginning to worry about me. They don’t understand why one day every weekend, by the time they see me, I’ve lost my will to live.
They know I’ve gotten up early to watch Everton, and I’ve probably told them about the Ronald Koeman fiasco that started the 2017-18 season.
So when they say, “What happened now? I thought they fired that terrible manager,” I have to try to explain to them the raging dumpster fire that’s emerged over the last two months.
If they enjoy football, I try to explain to them some of the complex minutiae that have made David Unsworth’s tenure as caretaker manager of Everton to be such an enormous disaster. If they aren‘t football fans, I simply tell them this:
Ronald Koeman was a manager with ideas — mostly bad ideas, admittedly, but he did have ideas. I don’t think David Unsworth has had any idea what he’s doing from the moment he was put in charge.
It was certainly on display again this week, when Everton played Southampton. The Saints, like Crystal Palace last week, were a struggling club. Coming into the match, Southampton had nine goals in 12 matches — among the worst in the Premier League.
So what did Unsworth have his players do? Just like against Crystal Palace, he instructed them to literally never try to keep the ball.
Now, I’ve no possession fetish like some fans and managers have, but I do pretty strongly believe that if you concede 75% possession to an objectively struggling football team, you’ve done something wrong.
For two consecutive weeks, Unsworth set up his team to sit insanely deep, defend in numbers, and hoof the ball down the field blindly whenever getting onto it.
Forget that Gylfi Sigurdsson and Morgan Schneiderlin are two of the team’s most gifted players — bypass them completely.
Forget that Everton no longer has Romelu Lukaku to launch long balls to — just pretend that Oumar Niasse and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are as capable as the Belgian.
Forget that Crystal Palace had four PL goals entering their match with the Toffees, and Southampton nine in theirs — play a system instead like you’re a League Two side playing against Barcelona.
It’s unbelievable how blind Unsworth must be not only to attempt this style of play once, but to continue going back to it repeatedly!
And this sense of ultra-conservative play hasn’t only come against Palace and Southampton — recall also the Watford FC match. A conservative, tactically naive Everton side went down 2-0 against Marco Silva’s men, meaning the Toffees had to come out of their shell.
Sure, Everton needed a little luck to get back into that one — but once Unsworth unshackled his players, they put together several cohesive attacks, finding three quick goals.
In fairness to Unsworth, he does face some challenges beyond his control. It isn’t his fault that his best striker is Oumar Niasse, that he had to rely on Ashley Williams yesterday, or that there’s no back-up left-back in sight at Goodison Park. I totally acknowledge the holes in this roster, a roster that he had no part in assembling.
But — and I can’t believe I need to say this — actively trying to not have the ball against teams with inferior talent is a bad tactical move. But, it hasn’t stopped David from adopting the plan as his own, insofar as you can call it a plan at all.
Everton needs a new manager — and fast — but it likely won’t happen before two massively important matches this week against West Ham United and Huddersfield Town. Please David, learn your lesson from these matches, and actually have your players try to play football this week.