Friday, October 14, 2011
Moyes still proving a shrewd operator
ESPN analyst Kevin Keegan is one of English football's most respected figures and he will be writing for ESPNsoccernet throughout the season. As a player, Kevin represented Liverpool with distinction, winning numerous titles in domestic and European football, and was twice named European Footballer of the Year during his time at Hamburg. Kevin has also managed England, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Fulham.
This weekend sees the return of Premier League football after the international break, with managers the country over dealing with the consequences of players' successes and failures with their national teams. The aftermath of international breaks can be a difficult time and I've been in the situation where I've had 20-odd players go away, some to South America and other corners of the world, and you just hope they get back on one piece.
It can be a nervous wait, hoping that your players come back unharmed and in the right frame of mind. If a player has gone away and scored a couple of goals or your goalkeeper has kept a clean sheet and had a good game, you reap the rewards of their confidence and the high that they're on. The opposite is true if they've played badly or suffered a disappointing result. Add in the travelling time and they can return feeling quite mentally tired - it obviously has a major impact on the club and it's up to the manager to build them back up.
One man with more to worry about than most during international breaks is Everton's David Moyes, who has one of the smallest squads in the Premier League. Everton are playing at Chelsea this weekend and when you look at the strength in depth of the two clubs, they're worlds apart. While Andre Villas-Boas has plenty of options in every position, David's done a terrific job of building a reputation as a really astute manager able to operate on a shoestring budget. It'd be interesting to see what would happen if he got an opportunity at a bigger club and only when that happens will you know if he is able to do it when there's money at his disposal. At Preston and Everton, he's never really had the transfer funds that the managers around him have had.
When you don't have money available you have to build a club a different way. It's about making all the players feel important, you get a good team spirit and you get a siege mentality. David will be stressing to them that despite the not possessing funds in abundance, they have still made the top six on a regular basis. What's also encouraging is the young players he's bringing through as well, with the likes of Jack Rodwell and Seamus Coleman showing that they can more than hold their own in the first-team and teenagers Ross Barkley and Apostolos Vellios looking exciting prospects.
The lack of finances at the club makes operating in the transfer market a real challenge. I've heard David talk about how the signing of Denis Stracqualursi was a gamble and often that's what your forced into; when you haven't got a big transfer kitty, you have to take more chances. If a scout comes to you who you respect, you will sometimes just have to trust their decision. When I signed Sebastien Bassong at Newcastle, I was told 'Kevin, this guy has just got relegated with Metz and you can get him for £500,000 and he's worth much more than that'. I had him in for a week's training and that was enough for me - it was a no-brainer because he was athletic, strong and had a good left foot. Everton can't pay £20 million for proven players, so they have to take a chance. But if one comes off then they have hit the jackpot.
The more frustrating thing for David will be having to let players leave the club, as was the case with Mikel Arteta - arguably his best player. It was right at the end of the transfer window as well so he didn't have anyone to replace him - you'd think that if the club wanted to sell they would at least give you time to search for a replacement.
Selling Arteta and announcing at the beginning of the season that the club didn't have money to spend will not have been that well received among the players. Contrary to what a lot of people say, players love it when a club makes new signings. Fans have this notion that there will be tension because of a fear of them having their place taken. But they don't think like that - they view signings as a demonstration of a club's intent and it excites them. Everything that has come out of Everton recently has been negative and that can easily transmit to the players.
You get some owners coming in who make empty promises and don't really care about the club, but Kenwright does care.
-- Kevin Keegan on Bill Kenwright
Some people have been pointing the finger of blame at chairman Bill Kenwright but I think there's no question that he loves Everton Football Club. He's a fan of Everton and would love nothing more than to pass the club to someone who has got a bit more financial clout than him - the game's passing people like Bill Kenwright by now, as you need to be mega wealthy to run a club.
Everton fans might sometimes get angry but I think that deep down they know he's a man who has genuinely tried to run the club to the best of his ability. He's never tried to kid the fans by promising big money signings, he's tried to manage their expectations. You get some owners coming in who make empty promises and don't really care about the club, but Kenwright does care and he will always look after it because he's a fan. He wants whoever buys the club to have Everton's best interests at heart.
Despite the lack of signings and the frustrations of the fans, there's a good spirit in that Everton dressing-room and lot of players who definitely respond to David Moyes' management. Away at Chelsea, there will probably be a slight sense of trepidation as Everton don't really have the armoury at the moment to go to there and win, but they'll still be a tough nut to crack and will be resilient because that's what the manager and his players are like.
We saw them knock Chelsea out of the FA Cup on penalties last year on ESPN and their record against Chelsea is good, but David will also know deep down that this is one of the weakest squads he'll have taken down there in the last few years. If he can get his best XI out he might think they have a chance of getting a point but if he is playing kids - no matter how talented - at Chelsea, getting a result may be difficult.