Saturday, August 6, 2022

Everton chase wins without spending as Lampard fights years of waste

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Frank Lampard had jumped from the roof of an executive box about half an hour earlier. Indeed, the loudspeaker announcer at Goodison Park spoke up to warn of the dangers without saying that one of those delighted at Everton’s escape from relegation was their manager.

Lampard didn’t crash through the ceiling and into the posh seats, but there was a way to get him down to earth quickly. After retiring to the press lounge, he was soon asked whether, despite remaining in the Premier League, Everton would need to sell to buy if one of the prizewinners left this summer.

The answer was reasonable and realistic. “If that’s the case, we’ll sit down and try to find the best way,” he said. He hoped to keep Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jordan Pickford but made no promises that everyone would stay.

Instead, the Brazilian proved his last goal for Everton in his landmark comeback against Crystal Palace in May. His £60million move to Tottenham is a price Everton paid for their past. After years of heavy losses, with questions about passing profit and sustainability regulations, their days of big spending, whether permanent or temporary, are over.

There is a new era of austerity and a new ethos. It’s perhaps too easy to say that Everton’s goal is to be the opposite of what they were: Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin and Pickford have been among the good signings in recent years, along with Demarai Gray, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Ben Godfrey, but they were outnumbered by bad buys. The headline was that more than half a billion transfer fees were spent under Farhad Moshiri’s ownership, arguably too little of it. That needs to change.

Everton, courtesy of chairman Bill Kenwright and chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale, launched a strategic review in December; in itself that was remarkable.

It was an acknowledgment that mistakes had been made; Indeed, in recent years it has sometimes been tempting to question whether there was any strategy at all. A first summer window since is an attempt to learn lessons.

In that context, James Tarkowski is a highly symbolic first signing. Partly because the centre-back arrived on a free transfer – often overspending, Everton got a player others had offered £30m for in previous windows – but partly because of his appearance record: he played in 175 of Burnleys last 190 Premier League games.

In contrast, continuity in Lampard’s tenure was rendered impossible by a series of injuries, which forced the manager to regularly change personnel and tactics. Everton are now placing more emphasis on the fitness record of potential recruits.

Too many newcomers – Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Yerry Mina, Fabian Delph, James Rodriguez, Andre Gomes, Allan – were injury-prone. Everton want to prevent a repeat.

The theme of the window is low-risk; maybe cheap too.

Jesse Lingard, also available on a free transfer, is of interest although Everton will be vying for his signature. Like Tarkowski, he brings Premier League experience which makes him a safe bet: in short, the opposite of the talented but expensive Moise Kean, who has spent the last two seasons on loan.

Everton are now less likely to sign another Kean, although – along with the likes of Gbamin and Gomes – he is a reminder that their squad includes some they would be happy to sell, and not just to boost funds. But at least Richarlison’s exit removes the need to forego another of her crown jewels, which includes Newcastle target Anthony Gordon.

With a limited budget, Everton can pursue loans with an option to buy or a commitment to buy. One of those who would cost more, Harry Winks, is on the radar but not an active target for a club that needs to box cleverly.

If it’s more of a test in the transfer market, there’s less room for Moshiri’s agent-related blunders: Former director of football Marcel Brands recalled trying to negotiate a player’s salary down from £50,000 to £45,000 in an interview in his native Holland last weekend £ a week just so the owner can talk about offering a further £175k.

Brands’ successor, Kevin Thelwell, is attempting to implement a larger structure. He and Lampard have bestowed more coherent thinking.

Everton, who find the value for money too low, need to find more. After narrowly avoiding relegation and selling the player who scored the most goals and assists last season, they can hardly afford any more mistakes. After rolling Danger, the goal is to make this summer a low-risk, high-reward summer.

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