Everton’s Identity Crisis – The New York Times

Frank Lampard can, at least, be sure that there will be no lasting damage. The disappointment at his dismissal as Everton manager will sting for a while, of course, but there is little reason to believe he will be blamed for it. A failure to live up to expectations at Everton has long since become the sort of thing that could happen to anyone.

After all, that didn’t stop Carlo Ancelotti – who propelled Everton to the dizzying heights of 10th place in the Premier League in his only full season at Goodison Park – getting the Real Madrid job. Less than a year after leaving Merseyside, Ancelotti lifted his fourth Champions League trophy (a record) and became the first manager in history to win domestic titles in the five most illustrious leagues in Europe. Europe.

Ancelotti’s predecessor at Goodison, Marco Silva, hasn’t fared as well, but his Fulham side currently sit seventh in the Premier League. Ronald Koeman left England with his reputation in tatters, but he has since managed the Dutch national team, Barcelona, ​​and the Dutch national team again. Roberto Martínez spent eight years in charge of Belgium; his next task is to take Portugal to the European Championship next summer.

Indeed, of the six most recent (permanent) managers to grab the great poisoned chalice of English football before Lampard, so far only one – Sam Allardyce – has failed to recover, and that could be attributed at least in part to its pre-existence, not a particularly flattering and largely self-inflicted caricature. (Rafa Benítez, whom Lampard replaced a year ago, has yet to return to work.)

It is instructive. Only one of these managers, Ancelotti, left the club on his terms and with the broad benevolence of the fans. The others left Goodison Park bilious, resentful and, more than once, on the verge of outright mutiny.

The fact that so few of these managers have been sullied by the manner of their departures indicates that football as a whole does not believe that Everton these days are the kind of place where the talent of a manager can be accurately measured. Lampard – now four years into his managerial career and with little evidence, anyway, whether he is particularly suited for the job or not – will benefit just like Koeman, Silva and everyone else.

Why that should be, of course, has been frequently explained since Lampard’s dismissal.

As reported in this newsletter last week, Everton majority owner Farhad Moshiri does not have a clear vision of what he wants the club to be, other than – as a statement put it – not in the zone. relegation from the Premier League. He has, in the six years since he bought Everton, spent something north of $500m on players, but recruitment has been so scattered that it has unquestionably made the team worse.

He appointed a director of football and then, by most accounts, didn’t give him authority to sign anyone. He hired and fired managers with such rapidity that Lampard’s squad for his final game, a defeat at West Ham, contained players brought in by four of his predecessors. Everton are a patchwork of different influences, ideas and policies, the consequence of years of failure.

Both among the club’s fans and among professional football commentators, wisdom dictates that it is from here that Everton’s tendrils of chronic disappointment, its permanent crisis, rise: not with the manager but with the system in which they are desperately expected to work. This is, of course, correct. However, it may not quite get to the root of the problem.

There’s no escaping Everton’s history. There he is, emblazoned on the stadium, in a series of photos commemorating the club’s finest teams, its greatest achievements. This is, in the words of “Grand Old Team”, the song that has long been one of the club’s pre-match standards. It even deserved a mention in the statement Lampard released after his departure, in which he paid tribute to the club’s ‘incredible’ history.

It’s understandable: Everton’s history is exceptionally illustrious. It is, depending on your preferred metric, either the fourth most successful team in English history – in terms of league titles won, ahead of Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham – or eighth, if total trophies are taken as a better measure. This story is, as it should be, a source of immense pride.

But it is also a prison. Football’s metastasis over the past two decades has, in fact, rendered history largely irrelevant as a marker of power. Everton’s nine league titles don’t mean they win more Premier League TV deals than Brentford, just as AC Milan’s seven European Cups don’t give them more financial power than Bournemouth ( Champions League titles: zero).

The old hierarchies no longer hold, as the rise of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain clearly show, toppled and leveled by the flood of money rushing into the game from broadcasters and sponsors, oligarchs and hedge funds. History is no longer a draw. Or rather, it is not as important a draw as wealth, prospects, status, facilities or projects.

This adjusted reality has of course affected the game’s self-proclaimed superpowers, just as surely as it has affected the vast majority of clubs, the minnows and the traditionally mediocre, all of whom have been forced to adapt to shrinking horizons and ambitions. limited.

The impact has been most profound, however, on the class of club to which Everton belong, those in the second rung of the game’s long-established and now defunct power structure, those best regarded as heavyweights. soccer.

These teams can be broadly classified into two categories. There are those who have adapted to the current situation, who have managed to carve out a new definition of success that allows them to find a certain contentment in a hostile environment.

For Benfica and Ajax, for example, this has taken the form of a trade-off of continental prominence for domestic supremacy, secured through a steady stream of young talent. For Borussia Dortmund, that has meant accepting a place as the game’s most reliable stepping stone, a midwifery role to greatness.

And then there are those who seem overwhelmed by the burden of their history: Valencia, Inter Milan, Marseille, Schalke, Hamburg, West Ham, Aston Villa and of course Everton, all unable or unwilling to adopt the methods of their old comrades to carve out a new place.

It’s no surprise that these teams have become, for the most part, the most unstable and unhappy clubs in Europe. Happiness is a fleeting thing in football; elite sport does not lend itself to lasting satisfaction. But these clubs often seem the most unhappy, caught in a never-ending, never-ending identity crisis, caught between what they used to be and what they are.

This is what is at the heart of modern Everton. Like Lampard, even Moshiri, to some extent, can be seen as a consequence as well as a cause of the problem. The club were so desperate to get back to what they once were that they sold themselves to someone who – for the past six years – has very little idea what they are doing other than hiring people. famous managers and signing expensive players and hoping for the best.

And that is what will continue to undermine Everton until it is resolved, as the teams above them drift away and the teams traditionally below them – the smartest and most progressive, at least – roar. Everton have never been willing to let go of the idea that they are more than a stage, that they are a sort of destination club, even if that is the first step to becoming relevant again. To do so would be to think small, and to think small is unimaginable when you believe, when history dictates, that you are big.

Thanks, first of all, to the half-dozen eagle-eyed readers who contacted me to inform me that I had confused my magical realms: Disney World is in Florida, by all accounts, while Disneyto land is in California. Alas, I was neither, due to a lifelong fear of – and to be honest, perfectly logical – giant anthropomorphized mice.

The question of parties, meanwhile, seems to animate you even more than the misattribution of amusement parks. “I wonder if goal celebrations can (or were) culture-specific,” wrote Thomas Bodenberg. “In 1994, Brazil faced Sweden at the late Pontiac Silverdome. When Kennet Andersson scored for Sweden, putting them 1-0 up, he just ran stoically to the end, waiting for kick-off. I wonder if it was more a product of Swedish culture than the individual.

What irritates Allan Culham, on the other hand, is how often scorers “don’t recognize whoever set them up to get it. Often the assist is the most impressive part, but players celebrate as if it were the result of their own efforts.

I feel like a lot of players these days go for the ’emphatic scoring’ method of celebrating, singling out the teammate who took a chance, but it touches on an issue that’s close to my heart and which I have discussed with a host of current and former players: the short cliché that scoring a goal is the hardest job in football, but I would argue that scoring one is infinitely harder. (They largely disagree with me.)

Dan Lachmann does not lack ambition. It is time, he wrote, to “retire” the tradition/habit/pretension of referring to players by the role apparently grounded in their numbers. “Does the casual fan have any idea what a ‘No. 6’ is? How about calling him defensive midfielder or defensive midfielder? go.

Curiously, this is a relatively new phenomenon: at first glance, the phrase “No. 6″ would never have appeared in the English commentary of a game even 10 years ago. It’s a recent (and totally harmless) import, and I agree that it doesn’t actually offer the clarity that people What a number 6 does in Spain, for example, is different from what one does in Germany, which is again different from how the Dutch perceive the position.

And a desperate request for Tony DePalma. “I can’t wait to hear what is being sung by the fans in Premier League stadiums,” he wrote. “I love the feel of the show, the ambient sound, but I am unable to make out all but the most well-known chants. How can I, as an American viewer, understand what these English fans are singing?”

Alas, Tony, the first assumption should always be that no matter what, the lyrics would almost certainly make the Gray Lady blush. I remember going to a baseball game in San Francisco a few years ago with my wife, who is not a fan of either sport. Social conditioning is so powerful, however, that after a few minutes, even she turned to me, looking like a disappointed supervisor conducting a performance review, and asked me why fans don’t do not insult the opposing team.

nytimes sport

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