Everton FC 1.0 – Introduction, Pre-Season, First Half-Season

Tea and Busquets is a place where people can have their work hosted if they wish too, without the hassle of running a blog themselves. We welcome all guest authors no matter what they want to write about. This new piece is from another new guest author we'd like to welcome to the site  @edinh_96

I know what those of you who stumble upon this piece may be thinking; “This is your first FM18 save? Dude, FM19 is almost out!” I know, I know, but that doesn’t mean that I just started this career recently. I actually started it a few months ago but barely had the time to play as I’ve been focused on college, work, sick parents, and dealing with health issues of my own. That’s the main reason I’ve sorta disappeared from the analysis scene on Twitter and other platforms over the past year to year and a half. But now I’m back and ready to get back into the analysis game.

Anyways, I don’t really plan on getting FM19 as the game has hardly changed much over the past 3 years and I have a ton of careers that I planned on getting to on 18 that I’m clearly behind on so I’ll just stick with this edition for a while. I’ve not really done FM writing before so this is a bit new to me, but hopefully it’ll allow me to get more invested in the saves that I do and be of some interest to those who read about it too. A big thank you to Cleon also, who was kind enough to host my pieces on his fantastic site, Tea and Busquets.

Right, so let’s hop into the save now, shall we?

INTRODUCTION

Why Everton?

Well, I feel that out of all the clubs hanging around the league outside the established 'Big Six' that Everton has the most potential to break that sextet, if you can call it that. The club is in good health financially nowadays with the cash injection provided by Iranian billionaire Farhad Moshiri who bought a large share in the club in early 2016 and although Everton's spending power doesn't quite match up to the very best in the country, they're still in a good enough condition to be able to cause unrest to the teams who are at the top every season.

Where Everton is one of the best in the country, and another reason why I chose them, is youth development and recruitment. Although the club has been able to increase its spending power in recent years and have made some lucrative transfers in that time, they are also responsible for some shrewd acquisitions for low fees like Baines, Holgate, Jagielka, and Gueye just to name a few. They’ve also managed to acquire some silverware at youth level, with 5 national honors in under a decade, which is more than even some of the very top clubs in England can hold claim to. There were 5 Evertonians present in England’s U-20 World Cup winning squad in the early summer, more than any other club was represented. These successes have played a part in the first team squad largely consisting of English players, including 6 players who have already been capped internationally at senior level.

It’s an impressive resume that was crucial in my decision to pick Everton for my first FM18 journey, as I wanted to take a club that possesses a good base youth system and the resources to be able to recruit some of the most promising talent from all around the world. Everton have both and are still a club with plenty of room for growth and expansion, which made it an exciting first challenge for me in my first foray on this edition of the game.

SEASON & CAREER OBJECTIVES

My personal objectives for the season are largely in line with the board's. They expect me to finish in the top half of the league, which I think is fair and realistic with the squad that we have, but they also expect me to go deep in the Europa League, despite us having to start our journey in the third qualifying round. Not impossible or far off the stretch mind you, but of course the draws we get will play a part in whether we can achieve this or not. If we end up losing to Real Madrid in the Round of 32, then I don't think the board can seriously complain about us not meeting their targets, no? The last 16 of the FA Cup seems a realistic expectation for us, though.

As far as the career and long-term objectives go, there is a lot of things that I’ll be looking to achieve and several goals I’m setting from the beginning that I’m hoping to stay true to as I get deeper into the save. Although I touched on it a bit earlier, youth development and recruitment is going to be essential to my plans here as I want to make the most out of Everton’s strength in that area, especially as I have the resources at hand to improve the quality of the young players currently at the club as well as those coming in the future.

To achieve that, we’ll be looking to bring in quality modern and innovative staff members to work in different areas around each of the three teams at the club, particularly in the coaching department which is where the difference will be made as to how much success we’ll have in developing our young players to one day become good enough to be key parts and mainstays of the first team. I want to open pathways and present opportunities for them to show what they can do on the biggest stage and prove whether or not they have what it takes to represent the blue of Everton at Goodison Park and other big grounds on a weekly basis.

Although the focus will be mainly on bringing through the youth in the long run, that doesn’t mean that I’m putting all my marbles on every talented young player at the club making the grade. We will still be active in the transfer market and not just to bring in more youth prospects, but also to bring in proven, ready-made players who can offer something to the team that the club does not already have at hand. If someone is available for a reasonable price and can raise the quality of a position that is at a deficit, we will certainly explore our options and consider the possibilities of making a bid to sign him.

I want to adopt an attractive, attacking brand of football and ensure that our philosophy extends into the reserve and U18 team as well and not just the first team. I believe that the best way to win games is through a progressive and offensive approach and that if every team at the club plays that way, we’ll acquaint our talents well with the style that we want to play and they’ll know how to play the Everton way before they’ve even played for the first team rather than having to shoehorn them into completely different roles and systems than what they’re used to playing in the youth and reserve leagues. This way everyone benefits from this philosophy, from the players to the staff to the fans who’ll get to enjoy exciting afternoons of football each weekend at Goodison Park and Finch Farm.

Improving the infrastructure and financial condition of the club will also be a priority, after all we can’t expect to have success with youth development or challenge the big sides if we don’t have the proper environment or means to do so. Staying within the FFP regulations, maintaining a high balance each year, paying off any debts, and keeping our wage budget under control will be paramount to our future plans, which could allow us more room and resources to further invest in improving the standards of youth recruitment, junior coaching, and facilities at the club, and perhaps even renovate Goodison Park or build a big new stadium that we can call home at some point. These ideas may not be in the works now or in the next year or two, but the healthier we become on an economical level, the more we’ll be able to do to help the club get to that next level.

I’d also like to play whatever part I can in improving the club’s brand on a national and global level by working with the board to find suitable domestic and international affiliates that make sense for us while also it’s important for me to try to maintain a harmonious, balanced dressing room as the manager, which is vital for anyone who wants to succeed at any level in FM nowadays with the addition of the squad dynamics. Our squad is quite big at the moment so it won’t be easy to keep everyone happy at first, but it’ll be imperative on my part to keep the locker room largely problem-free. Speaking of which...

SQUAD

I’ve decided that, with 31 players in my first team squad, I will not be signing anyone this season and will instead give everyone a chance to prove their worth and fight for their future at the club. Some of those players include a few youngsters who will largely be in the U-23s where they can play regularly and continue their growth, but they’ll still get some games here and there and be called upon when we need them.

Still, there’s plenty of seniority within the squad and a nice blend of youth and experience and with European commitments that start in the qualifying rounds to contend with, most players should get ample amounts of game time throughout the year and show what they can do. No one will be written off as deadwood from my very arrival.

PRE-SEASON

Our preparations went well for the most part, although the defending raised some concerns that need to be addressed in the competitive matches. Offensively everything clicked together without much hassle against, with all due respect, lesser opposition, even in the Crawley game where we actually created more chances than in any other game with 30 in total but lost to an own goal, of course on one of those ‘unfortunate’ FM days. We scored plenty of goals which is an early sign that our intent to play attack based football suits this group of players and that we’ll have success with it, but again, it’s important to reserve judgement until we’ve come across some sterner opposition like those that we’ll have in the Premier League all year-long.

We successfully negotiated our first Europa League tie against Aberdeen which thankfully wasn’t a very long trip to make which usually isn’t the case in the qualifying rounds, although we play with a man up for much of the first leg without being able to make it count. The main regret for me came in the fact that we weren’t at full strength from my first day with the handicap of Coleman, Funes Mori, McCarthy, and Bolasie all having long-term injuries to contend with while a couple of others picked up some knocks during the friendlies. It obviously affected my plans going into the season and meant that I still had some question marks in regards to what our best XI was ahead of opening day in the EPL, but the lighter nature of our Europa League assignments gave me more room to experiment and tinker as I looked for our most comfortable fit selection-wise while we waited for some of those injured players to return to the fold.

1ST HALF OF SEASON

Unfortunately, the defensive creaks that we saw in pre-season carried into the official matches. We only managed three shut-outs in the league in the first four months of the campaign, all at home and two of them against the top two sides. As the table below will show, we currently have the best attack in the league at the mid-way point of the year with 39 goals which means that our attacking approach is paying dividends but we’re also on course to concede 64 goals for the season which certainly isn’t very encouraging.

Despite those struggles at the back, we lie in 5th place, just four points off a Champions League spot and ahead of the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, and Tottenham. Stoke, who were relegated in reality, are sitting in 3rd though which is crazy. Seeing as this is planned to be a long-term career and the board only expect a top half finish while I’m just trying to get to know my players and create a base foundation this season, it’s pretty hard to be too displeased with the results so far even with our atrocious defending.

With that said, it’s also pretty hard to see those big teams behind us do worse in 2018 than they have done until now so holding onto that 5th spot, or even finishing higher, won’t be easy for us. It’s been a strange season in the league so far though so who knows what may unfold in the second half of the campaign the way things are going so far.

In the cup competitions, we suffered an early exit in the Carabao Cup after losing 3-2 at home to Championship side Sunderland which was frustrating as I saw that tournament as a good opportunity to get the players on the fringes more playing time to show what they can do as the room to tinker with the lineup is minuscule in the league and in Europe.

Speaking of Europe, we negotiated our passage into the knockout phase successfully and scored plenty of goals in doing so with 32 in our 10 games (counting the qualifiers) to date. 3-0 and 7-0 aggregate wins over Aberdeen and Rosenborg respectively were followed by crushing 9-1 and 7-2 wins against Swiss side Lugano who looked way out of their element in this group. We didn’t manage to do enough to take first place in the group though, as a terrible first half in Italy which saw us concede 4 times in an eventual 5-0 defeat to Lazio that cost us in the end, despite a 4-0 win in the reverse fixture over them.

That awful 45 minutes aside though, our European adventure has been going quite smooth so far and we can now look forward to a Round of 32 tie against Braga of Portugal, with the first leg taking place at Goodison. Testy draw against a side that will pose us problems, but given that they’re primarily a defensive minded team, I do feel that they’re a suitable opponent for our style of play and as long as we can minimize the mistakes that we’ve been making at the back so far this season, I think we can overcome them over the two legs and make our way into the last 16.

All in all, it’s been a mixed season up until now for the Toffees. As proud as I am of the team’s offensive productivity which has made us the top scorers in England and among the top in Europe at the halfway point of the campaign, I similarly can’t hide my frustrations with our defensive efforts or lack thereof as well. The results have not changed our targets for the season, but with some of the big clubs under-performing thus far, our chances of finishing in a European spot in the league have increased from what they were before a ball was even kicked. We’re making good progress in the Europa League as well and are on course to meet our objectives, while we still have the FA Cup to contend with too.

The second half of the season looks to be a promising one and although we still have lots to work on, we still hold the key to our own destiny and will look to continue to make waves in both England and Europe as 2018 looms large.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

2 thoughts on “Everton FC 1.0 – Introduction, Pre-Season, First Half-Season”

  1. Nice read thanks mate. I like your patient approach (from a squad perspective) and keeping in mind your long term goals.

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