I think we are all finding out why the FA Cup is important. So that you don’t pull your hair out with the numerous two-week breaks between Premier League matches.
I know that I am not the only Everton fan who feels like the season has been more stop-start than Ross Barkley’s career.
It is interesting to think on what impact these types of layoffs will have on the team. Having taken off to Dubai after the Middlesbrough disappointment, it stands to reason that Ronald Koeman thinks keeping the team occupied is job number 1.
He knew that if the team just went about their business, coming in for training as if it were a regular week, this time between matches would have allowed for boredom to set in. You can only do but so many passing drills and inter-squad scrimmages on your own training ground before you get antsy to get on the pitch again.
Koeman would have gotten angry at the lack of focus and everyone would come into the Sunderland match happy to get away from the coaching staff’s yelling.
Plus it’s cold.
So the team jetted off to warmer climates and scheduled a friendly against a Chinese side also in town, and let the team spend some time together.
Romelu Lukaku stayed behind to nurse a small calf problem back in his home country of Belgium and be ready for the week of training leading up to this weekends match versus Sunderland, while Muhamed Besic and Dominic Calvert-Lewin looked to use the trip as a way to slide back into the side as they progress in their rehab from their respective injuries.
No #PL football for @RonaldKoeman's side this weekend...On the bright side, enjoy our latest Everton Show episode ➡️ https://t.co/qVkYmuNPrc pic.twitter.com/q8iLEs8l11— Everton (@Everton) February 18, 2017
With brand new faces Morgan Schneiderlin and Ademola Lookman having joined only a few weeks ago, and a handful of other players still only six months into their Everton careers, this was also a perfect time to take stock of the season so far and create/tighten the bonds within the squad so that they are equal parts competitive and respectful on the training and playing pitch.
So how did it go? Well, one of the new guys thinks the team got something out of it:
As he told evertontv :
These are the types of little things that really bring the team together and forge the inherent trust necessary to be a winning team game-in and game-out.
If we are going to be in Europe next year (see below) and/or the year after, we will need to have a team with a solid, unified spirit.
Plus, who knows, maybe Morgan hit it off with someone on the squad he didn’t know he had a lot in common with!
Speaking of Everton midfielders, I want to finish up my thoughts on the current situation of Everton’s engine room I started in last week’s column, this time specifically focusing on Tom Davies.
(Side note: if you are looking for
even more better analysis of the midfield check out Adam Braun’s column from last week.)
The Ketwig Kaiser has become one of, if not THE, fan favorite at Goodison Park due to his local roots, unique playing style, and unquestioned commitment on the pitch.
He stormed onto the scene early this season, and I don’t think it’s a reach to say some Toffees supporters wish they would see more of him on a regular basis.
The only reason that the call for Davies to see more playing time hasn’t been louder is because of the competition he has for minutes.
Everton fans may be loyal, but they aren’t stupid. They know that Schneiderlin, Idrissa Gueye, Barkley and James McCarthy (Gareth Barry ehhh..) are of equal, if not greater, quality than the young Englishman is as he currently stands, and know he must earn his place.
Supporters, though, REEAAAALLLY want him to earn it, which begs the question (local ties aside), why?
To answer that, you have to figure out where he is best.
Is he more of a true attacking midfielder like Ross Barkley? Or more of a defensive center-mid like Gueye?
First, let’s see how he compares with those two defensively:
While his playing time is far less than his counterparts, he has played enough to get a good picture of his skills, or at least the ones Koeman seeks to emphasize.
To start, from looking at the chart above, it doesn’t appear as though his defensive skills are what get him on the pitch, at least not on their merits alone.
While Davies does rack up tackles and interceptions at a rate slightly above his countryman Barkley, his numbers are simply dwarfed by Gueye, who is among the European leaders in interceptions and tackles.
Ok, so Koeman doesn’t use him to get the dirty work done. How about in the attacking end??
It seems as though, the problem is the same, Barkley and Gueye have just flipped roles. This time though it’s Ross who is head and shoulders above the other two.
Plus, just like Davies defensive stats were a bit above Barkley’s, Davies offensive contributions are comparable to, if not better than, Gueye’s.
Barkley’s impressive season makes his production incomparable, but Davies has certainly done his part to contribute when he is one the field, just like he did in the defensive third.
While his average shots and key passes per game are almost identical to Gueye, it’s in the final third where Davies pulls ahead from the former Aston Villa man,
In limited action Tom has chipped in a goal (anyone remember it??) and two assists. Gueye has definitely surprised me with his penchant for getting into the attack, but Davies has displayed the quality to create and/or finish off the final move.
Add in the fact that Schneiderlin is well-versed at both ends of the pitch and a Koeman favorite, and you start to wonder how the teenager gets on the field at all!
It’s true you can argue that Davies stats reflect what Koeman asks him to do, and I would counter that the Dutch legend emphasizes your strengths (see Barkley and Gueye) and that is what he is doing with Davies.
Maybe he is a true shuttling #8 type?? Having his duty be getting the ball from back to front and giving Lukaku and the rest of the attackers opportunities to score would certainly explain his stats.
There is a problem with this logic, however.
Close your eyes and think of Tom Davies on the pitch.
Do you picture a calm, tempo controlling midfielder who just connects the team?
You picture a swashbuckling, tackling, shooting, fouling, chance-creating sharknado.
So if it’s not purely his defensive abilities or his attacking abilities…
WHAT THE BLEEP IS IT THEN!!!?!
It IS it.
It is what he has.
Tom Davies has an IT factor that you just can’t quantify. That thing that the greats have that you just don’t know how to describe. You know it when you see it, but you just can’t put it down on paper.
Except in this case, there IS one stat that both sums up Tom Davies and explains why the highly demanding Koeman puts him on the pitch,
Everton’s record in the 11 Premier League matches he has appeared in this season:
So WINNING is the quality that Koeman accentuates with Davies!!
Whatever the match calls for, the young man has shown time and time again the ability to drive the team to victory, whether it be via a crunching tackle or a gloriously taken goal.
He’s only 18, has TONS of growing to do, but is destined to be the great player we all know he can become. Koeman will groom him and once he is ready the Dutchman will adjust the team to suit Davies on a more permanent basis.
Koeman won’t just let the youngest run around and play because the team seems to win. Rather, Davies will learn how to channel his unique winning mentality into a structured (not limiting) game plan to both be the best payer he can be and help the team.
Koeman will unleash Davies aura and drive for victory when the team needs it most, whether it be as a starter or off the bench. Seeing what Koeman has already doen with Barkley, I have no doubt he will mold Davies into a force to be reckoned with for a long time.
In the meantime, get excited knowing that as long as Tom Davies steps on the field, we are guaranteed not to lose!
@foleysthoughts @RBMersey what're the chances this squad could make a champions league push?— Joshua West (@WMWest11) February 20, 2017
I LOVE my man’s positivity, something I’m sure won’t surprise those of you (Mom) who read this column on a regular basis.
I definitely think this season is a stretch, though I will NEVER SAY NEVER. There are 42 points still left to earn or drop.
That is an incredible amount of mistakes teams can make, and with a big pool of prospective relegation nominees, every match will be tougher than the last.
I know it may seem unrealistic to think we could make up upwards of 10 points over the course of the next few months, I like to think it’s crazier to say it CAN’T happen.
By the way, anyone who thinks there is much of a difference between our chances to make Europa League and Champions League need just look at the table.
Toss in the fact that we are talking about a league where the defending Champions may get relegated and the favorites to win it this year aren’t even in Europe. Anything is possible.
The inevitable push will serve the Toffees well though, as I do think the squad stands a really good chance to making top four next year, assuming we see the depth (and quality) of additions this summer we all assume we will see. This drive to get to Europe can only help for the future.
I’m not going to say NO, but let’s just say I wouldn’t bet any of the very little amount of money in my pockets that our beloved Toffees will finish in the top four.