Season start shows importance of finding a working defensive partnership

Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Just three defensive pairings that have been instrumental to the success of previous Premier League title winners.

But while Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have received plenty of plaudits in the opening fortnight of the season, it is the sight of Callum Wilson running through the centre of the London Stadium like on a Boxing Day raid of Westfields that is my takeaway image.

In those seven seconds worth of distance run, the Bournemouth striker provided the perfect example of why finding the right defensive double act is paramount to success at any level of the game.

With Fabián Balbuena dangling a leg, former strikers Ian Wright and Chris Sutton debated on BBC 5Live this week how many goals they would score in the English top flight if they were still playing.

It’s not the first time this has been a subject of conversation among TV pundits in recent seasons, but it has never been more pertinent.

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho lamented the club’s failure to land his primary target of a centre-back with the summer transfer window drawing to an end.

Prior to United’s pre-season friendly defeat at Bayern Munich, he said: “My CEO knows what I want and I still have a few days to wait and see what happens.

“The other clubs who compete with us are really strong and already have fantastic teams. Or they are investing massively like Liverpool, who are buying everything and everybody.

“If we don’t make our team better, it will be a difficult season for us.”

After the unconvincing win over Leicester, the defeat by Brighton served to underline Mourinho’s point, as Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof showcased their deficiencies with the 34-year-old Glenn Murray running amok against a defensive partnership worth £60million.

The United manager has tried several different combinations involving Bailly, Lindelof, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, but with his third season now underway, the highest proportion of games played by a given partnership is Jones and Smalling on 13.

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In a managerial tenure that now stretches to 78 league games, the numbers indicate that Mourinho isn’t convinced by any of the six combinations – and his failure to identify the bedrock of his side has influenced how his team is structured, throughout.

The presence of Toby Alderweireld returning to the Tottenham defence on Monday night against United will be a sore point for Mourinho, even if the Belgian was reportedly overlooked based on his preference to play in a back three.

Conversely, Liverpool look set to thrive this term after solving their defensive issues. From the opening match, the absence of Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren has allowed Gomez to form a partnership with Van Dijk.

Gomez is very highly regarded by Gareth Southgate – and would have gone to the World Cup were it not for the need for ankle surgery – but England’s loss is proving to be Liverpool’s gain so far after an encouraging start alongside the world’s most expensive defender and in front of the world’s second most expensive goalkeeper.

For Klopp, it has paid to find a working partnership in defence, and Everton manager Marco Silva had seen enough in a run of five pre-season games without a win to convince his sporting director Marcel Brands that something simply had to be done.

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Brands worked tirelessly to bring Yerry Mina to the club, in the face of United being touted as a potential alternative and with his rising cost following his displays at the World Cup with Colombia.

But Mina has thus far had to watch on from the stands, nursing an injury sustained in Russia, while fellow deadline-day arrival Kurt Zouma will also need to bide his time for opportunities.

While both Zouma – on a season-long loan from Chelsea – and Mina will have been penned in as Silva’s first-choice pairing, the Portuguese has been impressed by Mason Holgate’s first start since January in the 2-1 win over Southampton.

Mina has been ruled out until mid-September, meaning Holgate and Zouma will once more be fighting over one spot against Bournemouth alongside Michael Keane, who looks to have reacted well to two new arrivals in his position.

A clean sheet at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday would further enhance Holgate’s claims to retain the jersey, even when Mina is fit and raring to go. Van Dijk’s £75m fee is now seen as a bargain but unearthing the best defensive partnership doesn’t always come at a price.

Silva has been careful not to blood all five of his new signings at once, an issue that has been handled differently elsewhere in the Premier League, with contrasting results.

Fulham have lost both their opening games having brought in 12 new faces, while Fabri has faced faced 15 shots already this term – more than any other goalkeeper.

West Ham are also on zero points as Manuel Pellegrini seeks solutions to an early-season injury crisis coupled with the need to blood nine new players. Calls for £24m buy Issa Diop to start at Arsenal could be met after Angelo Ogbonna’s horror-show against Wilson.

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Gunners boss Unai Emery and his desire to implement his own style with players who appear incapable of fitting to his set philosophy has filled plenty of column inches this week – but while on another day, more clinical finishing against Chelsea might have brought about a different end result, it was in defence that the same old weaknesses were laid bare.

The absence of Laurent Koscielny coupled with an unkind set of opening fixtures meant that Sokratis Papastathopoulos was always in for a baptism of fire, even before he was partnered alongside Shkodran Mustafi.

Having conceded at least twice in their opening two games, Arsenal’s array of attacking talent face having to score a minimum of three goals to win games at present, and while Chelsea were victorious last Saturday, Maurizio Sarri’s change in formation has left them potentially more exposed at the back.

David Luiz has been reinstated alongside Antonio Rudiger, while Cesar Azpilicueta has been moved to right back. Sarri knows the importance of a strong defensive unit having signed Allan for £10.3m from Udinese to play alongside Jorginho as a protective shield in his first season at Napoli.

But Sarri didn’t seek to sign a centre-back, and in earmarking Jorginho as his primary target and essential to achieving his objectives, the 59-year-old has thus taken a different approach.

Luiz has been identified as the mercurial footballer that he is; ruffle him up the wrong way, and he can be a liability, but he showed he can be a world-beater in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge.

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Sarri will hope that the Brazilian forges a relationship with the Portuguese-speaking Jorginho in front of him, while having a point to prove after being cast aside by Conte last season. If Luiz repays the faith instilled in him, the loss of Thibaut Courtois will be significantly minimised as Kepa Arrizabalaga finds his feet in England.

Pep Guardiola is known for rotating but even the Manchester City manager acknowledges the importance of stability in the heart of defence. John Stones – who was victim of his reluctance to tinker during the run-in last season – has been restored after a good summer with England.

His partnership with Aymeric Laporte looks set to flourish as Vincent Kompany is gradually phased out, and the importance of deciding on a first-choice pairing is only more critical beyond the top six.

Huddersfield conceded six goals at the Etihad in the absence of Mathias Jorgensen, while Crystal Palace lost for the first time in 16 games with Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins as their defensive partnership against Liverpool last Monday.

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The sale of Van Dijk to Liverpool midway through last season severely compromised Southampton’s chances of survival, achieved on the final day despite the 1-0 loss to City, and Mark Hughes will hope the Dutchman’s replacement Jannik Vestergaard provides greater solidity.

Having made an encouraging start in keeping a clean sheet against Burnley, illness kept Vestergaard out of the defeat at Everton, where the Denmark international’s aerial presence would have been felt as Richarlison rose to head in what proved the decisive second goal.

Van Dijk has seen his stock rise at a time when the art of defending has been lost; Jamie Carragher described him as capable of surpassing Alan Hansen at Liverpool.

Tipping him to become a “legend” is high praise indeed and reflects the influence he has since his arrival at Anfield – but the defender’s performances have been accentuated by the struggles experienced elsewhere throughout the league.

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Premier League 2018/19 preview: Liverpool likeliest to push Manchester City in title battle

Manchester City signalled their intentions to continue where they left off in the Community Shield victory over Chelsea, but Pep Guardiola knows a repeat of last season’s exploits will be difficult.

The Catalan failed to win any silverware in his first season in England, while the Premier League has not been retained since Manchester United in 2009, but you get the sense that he is just embarking on his work on these shores.

Competition for places has been boosted by the return to fitness of Benjamin Mendy, while Phil Foden looks ready for this level despite only just turning 18; Aymeric Laporte will be better for his first pre-season at the club, and the only area that City appear slightly light in is cover for Fernandinho at the base of midfield.

Jose Mourinho can only wish for such minor concerns. United were a distant second last season, 19 points adrift, and the Portuguese admits he is relieved a tumultuous summer is coming to an end. He has been unable to strengthen his first-team squad beyond the arrivals of Fred and Diogo Dalot, both of whom will take time to adjust to England.

Liverpool have been hailed by many as the summer’s big winners having kept hold of their star names and added four keys signings to bolster their hopes of a first league title since 1990. The 5-0 dismantling of Napoli in Dublin was further proof of their credentials, and Jurgen Klopp has identified and acted upon areas of weakness.

Tottenham head into a new era at a new stadium having committed Mauricio Pochettino and Harry Kane to long-term contracts, but a failure to bring in new faces in addition to the uncertainty surrounding the future of Toby Alderweireld means supporters are understandably concerned about whether a title challenge is possible in this transitional year.

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Both Arsenal and Chelsea are under new management and face the prospect of a season dictated by Thursday-Sunday football due to their Europa League commitments; while Unai Emery can reflect upon an unbeaten pre-season within 90 minutes, Maurizio Sarri has swiftly become aware of the difficulties he faces, from choosing his preferred formation to having the right personnel to carry out his tactics.

Chelsea are likely to be without Thibaut Courtois, who has refused to return to training, while Eden Hazard has already set his heart on a move to Real Madrid. Losing both at this stage of the window would be catastrophic to the club’s chances of at least returning to the top four.

With two of the traditional top six at a stage in their cycles that is far from conducive to a title tilt, it does open the door to a possible outsider to break the status quo. Everton had been expected to do so last term, but poor investment left a lopsided squad that did well to recover eighth place. Marco Silva has been streamlining, but defensive weaknesses are yet to be fully addressed, so patience will be needed.

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West Ham co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan backed their new manager Mauricio Pellegrini by bringing in seven new recruits, spearheaded by club-record signing Felipe Anderson, while Jack Wilshere will be hoping to have more joy than Joe Hart in relaunching his career in East London. An intriguing season awaits even if the long-term absence of Manuel Lanzini comes as a major blow.

Leicester manager Claude Puel has thus far been frugal in the market since the departure of Riyad Mahrez, and while Jonny Evans’ arrival for £3.5m could prove the snip of the season, a lot rests on whether they can keep Harry Maguire away from the clutches of United. Kelechi Iheanacho has enjoyed a productive pre-season, scoring four goals in three games, and Foxes fans will hope he can fill the void in supporting Jamie Vardy.

Newcastle finished 10th last campaign, but that was largely due to a terrific spike in results after March, and with the players fighting with the club over bonuses, optimism is in short supply on Tyneside. A lot will depend on whether Rafa Benitez stays, but the Spaniard has at least secured striker Salomon Rondon, a player he rates highly and is capable of becoming a cult figure at St. James’ Park.

Another side who finished last season strongly are Crystal Palace under Roy Hodgson. The Eagles have thus far managed to keep hold of Wilfried Zaha despite interest from Chelsea and Tottenham, and the arrival of Max Meyer is somewhat of a coup, offsetting the return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek to Chelsea following his loan spell. If Palace can avoid their annual poor start, a productive campaign awaits.

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Bournemouth have taken their time to quietly go about their business with David Brooks joining from Sheffield United, while Diego Rico and Jefferson Lerma have cost a combined £35m, a year after they joined Levante and Leganes respectively for less than £1m. Eddie Howe will continue to play enterprising football that will win games, and keeping hold of Lewis Cook is a major boost, but the club are yet to strengthen at centre-half having conceded 61 goals last term.

Burnley were the surprise package in 2017/18, set on day one by their 3-2 win at champions Chelsea – but they have only added Ben Gibson and Joe Hart to a squad that will be stretched to the limit if they reach the Europa League group stage. Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes are one of the most underrated partnerships in the league, but clubs will be far more alert to their danger this time around. Sean Dyche will have a dilemma when all three of his goalkeepers are fit.

Watford, Brighton, Huddersfield and Southampton – four teams who ended within five points of each other last time out – will all target consolidation but the strength of two of the promoted sides means another wide-open relegation battle looms. Javi Gracia initially steadied the ship at Watford following the departure of Silva, but a poor end to the season and the sale of Richarlison points to an arduous nine months ahead.

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Brighton have added Alireza Jahanbakhsh for a club-record fee in the region of £17m and his versatility across the forward line will take the burden off Pascal Gross. Goals could again prove hard to come by with just 34 scored last term (the fourth fewest), so Chris Hughton’s search for a central defender in the coming days takes on greater significance.

Southampton moved to appoint Mark Hughes on a permanent basis after he managed to keep the club up at the expense of Swansea City, but the 3-0 home defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach in their final pre-season game underlines fears that were heightened by Hughes’ admission the further business is unlikely to be forthcoming. Stuart Armstrong will be keen to prove a point having made the £7m switch from Celtic.

Huddersfield performed miracles in staying afloat last season, with Jonas Lossl’s heroics in the 1-1 draw at Chelsea epitomising the team ethos under David Wagner. The Terriers have a new badge while there have been eight new arrivals which have included Terence Kongolo and Florent Hadergjonaj’s loans being made permanent. The players now know what to expect, but offloading Tom Ince to Stoke for £12m could come back to haunt them given their dearth of creative options.

Such attacking flair propelled Wolves and Fulham back into the top flight, and both can be confident of avoiding a relegation scrap. Nuno Espirito Santo has become the Pied Piper of the West Midlands in coaxing big names to the Premier League newcomers; it is a project that will either catch fire or spectacularly fail, but the quality and experience of Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho means a mid-table finish should be the target.

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Fulham have enjoyed a fruitful pre-season with the surprise addition of Jean Michel Seri, while there was a surprising lack of competition in attracting Alfie Mawson and Aleksandar Mitrovic on a permanent deal. Slavisa Jokanovic is hopeful of adding Calum Chambers on loan from Arsenal with Southampton now reluctant to strengthen a potential rival by selling Matt Targett. A lot will depend on how Ryan Sessegnon adjusts to the step-up in class having scored 16 Championship goals last term.

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock admits it would be his biggest achievement in football if he manages to keep his odds-on relegation favourites up, but with very little pressure on the Bluebirds, they will take heart from Huddersfield’s maiden Premier League season. Warnock will relish coming up against the likes of Guardiola, Mourinho and Klopp for what could his final time, so expect fireworks if nothing else.

Predicted Premier League table

  1. Manchester City
  2. Liverpool
  3. Tottenham
  4. Arsenal
  5. Manchester United
  6. Chelsea
  7. Everton
  8. West Ham
  9. Crystal Palace
  10. Leicester City
  11. Wolves
  12. Burnley
  13. Fulham
  14. Bournemouth
  15. Newcastle
  16. Brighton
  17. Southampton
  18. Watford
  19. Huddersfield
  20. Cardiff City

Silva yet to make a signing but keeping hold of Lookman would be Everton’s shrewdest piece of summer business

The summer of 2017 was like no other in Everton’s recent history. The club had just finished seventh under Ronald Koeman, and while all the talk was of Romelu Lukaku being sold after the bombshell of him not signing a new contract, Everton were on a huge spending spree.

What followed was the creation of a bloated squad, leading to the need for new manager Marco Silva to offload players, ship out deadwood, and start again under a restructured recruitment drive. Everton want to learn from the mistakes of last summer.

Nurturing youth is at the heart of this new transfer policy. The Blues have already sold Wayne Rooney to DC United, released goalkeeper Joel Robles and offloaded Ramiro Funes Mori to Villarreal, while the future of Kevin Mirallas remains uncertain after he returned to pre-season training following his loan spell at Olympiacos.

These players have served Everton well at times, but they won’t be those who take the club onto the next level.

RB Leipzig v VfL Wolfsburg - BundesligaThere are likely to be more departures as Silva shapes the squad in his image but in rejecting RB Leipzig’s starting bid for Ademola Lookman, the Portuguese has given the first indication that he is ready to make use of the talent already at his disposal.

And Lookman has plenty of talent. Quite often under David Moyes, it was said that on leaving Everton, the only way was down. But Lookman can quite reasonably argue that his career has stalled since his £10m move from Charlton in January 2016.

His impact was immediate, coming off the bench to score in the memorable 4-0 win over Manchester City, the highlight of Koeman’s tenure, but he was subsequently mismanaged and under-appreciated at a time when fans were craving the sight of a young Englishman in the side.

Everton were in no real danger of being relegated, out of all three cup competitions, and still licking their wounds from the worst Europa League campaign from an English side ever. Giving Lookman – who had shown his undoubted ability in the 3-0 win over Apollon Limassol in December – half a season to make the left side of midfield his own was denied.

GettyImages-957652064.jpgBut, unlike those who looked elsewhere often under Moyes, the youngster chased down a Champions League berth at RB Leipzig and thrived away from what was known to be a tense environment at Finch Farm.

Silva has belatedly arrived at the club and his first port of call has been to assess his squad, but streamlining was a necessity, freeing up funds with the removal of players beyond their peak from the wage bill.

Everton plunged an inordinate sum of money courtesy of their billionaire owner Farhad Moshiri last summer on players that have yet to provide a return, barring the notable exception of Jordan Pickford.

Davy Klaassen has reiterated his determination to make a success out of his £24m move from Ajax a year ago, while the hope is that Theo Walcott and Gylfi Sigurdsson can build on promising moments last season to produce the level of consistency needed to challenge for the European spots.

Everton v West Bromwich Albion - Premier LeagueNews of Everton’s hands-off message to Leipzig over Lookman comes in the same week that the club have underlined their position on Mason Holgate’s future, with the defender seen as an important member of the first team squad.

The sale of Funes Mori and advancing years of both Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka mean that Holgate is expected to feature more in his preferred position of centre-back, but restructuring the defence is at the forefront of Silva’s plans.

Michael Keane experienced a difficult first season following his £30m move from Burnley, but Pickford’s exploits for England at the World Cup could prove a vital bargaining chip for potential defensive targets this summer.

The signs are that going forward, Everton will need the raw pace and goal threat of Lookman, whose mistreatment from Sam Allardyce was one of the early signs of distrust between fans and their old manager.

Olympique Lyon v Everton FC - UEFA Europa LeagueHis impact off the bench in the FA Cup third-round encounter with Liverpool was one of the few positives to draw from the 2-1 defeat, but after Allardyce had dismissed reports he would be loaned out last January, he insisted on being allowed to sample regular first-team football at Leipzig.

Lookman seemed to be spurred on by Allardyce’s disrespectful comments to the media on the matter, becoming an integral part of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side that finished sixth in the Bundesliga.

Five goals and three assists in 11 league matches tells its own story, and Silva is keen to see how Lookman reacts to the reported £12m bid being rejected. He should have more opportunities under a manager who relishes attacking football.

The pathway to more minutes is being cleared. Mirallas is likely to be sold while Yannick Bolasie has been linked with a move to Turkish side Fenerbahce after a disappointing return from injury.

The winger made an encouraging start to life at Goodison Park, linking up well with former striker Lukaku, but a serious knee injury has taken away the player’s most valuable asset, and pace is what this Everton side need.

Crystal Palace v Everton - Premier LeagueThere were rumours Silva would look to prise Richarlison from Watford even before he was confirmed as the new Everton boss, but Lookman now deserves his chance to make the left side of the three behind a striker his own.

Director of football Marcel Brands has quietly gone about his work during his first month at the club, and the Dutchman has previously spoken in glowing terms about how much he values Lookman’s technical qualities.

He tried to sign him whilst as sporting director at PSV Eindhoven when Lookman was still a Charlton player. Everton are yet to make a signing under Silva but keeping hold of the 20-year-old could prove to be the shrewdest piece of business this close season.

Having taken his chance at Leipzig, Lookman must now do the same at Everton.

Who is Marvin Plattenhardt and why are Everton after him?

Everton are in talks with Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin over the signing of defender Marvin Plattenhardt, but who is he and what would he bring to the club?

The German full-back is currently preparing for the World Cup, but the Blues are keen to push through a deal before a ball is kicked in Russia.

Put simply, Everton are in desperate need of a left-back. They’ve needed one to provide Leighton Baines with competition for several years, but previous managers have opted to strengthen elsewhere.

David Moyes and Roberto Martinez both used centre-halves Sylvain Distin and Antolin Alcaraz to cover the England left-back during rare moments of his absence through injury, while Luke Garbutt convinced neither that he was an able deputy.

Ronald Koeman’s problems only really started to surface after his refusal to act on what appeared patently obvious to fans last summer when he brought in right-back Cuco Martina on a free transfer, convinced he could operate on the opposite flank.

New boss Marco Silva is keen to avoid the same pitfalls, and while talk of Baines’ departure in order to free up transfer funds has proven inaccurate, it is high time the club began preparing his successor after 11 seasons at the club.

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Bristol City’s Joe Bryan was linked with a move to Goodison Park while Sam Allardyce was in charge, but Silva has been sounding out his own targets and Plattenhardt could be his first signing since being appointed this month.

Everton’s new director of football Marcel Brands has been tracking the Hertha Berlin man for the past few seasons while in his role at PSV Eindhoven, and it has been swiftly agreed that the left-back deficiency at Finch Farm should not be fixed from within.

Antonee Robinson earned his first senior call-up with USA after an impressive season on loan in the Championship with Bolton Wanderers – playing in the 1-1 draw against France last week – but he is not yet ready to make the step up in class to Premier League level.

Plattenhardt is not someone who is overly reliable defensively, but his attacking instincts down the left would complement the runs of Seamus Coleman on the opposite flank. Everton were at their best last season when Baines returned to bring balance to their attacks, and it is what he contributes going forward that has attracted interest.

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With six caps for Germany to his name, he is battling it out with Jonas Hector to be selected as the national team’s first-choice left back at the World Cup, and as such, he represents a more experienced target than Celtic’s Kieran Tierney, another named linked with a move further south.

Everton will have scouts out in Russia to watch Joachim Low’s opening game against Mexico in Moscow on Sunday hoping that Plattenhardt gets the nod, and the 26-year-old is equally adept playing at wing-back should Low opt to play a three-man defence.

Silva’s preferred formation is 4-2-3-1, but it is the player’s willingness to get forward as well as providing a lethal free-kick delivery that has caught his eye.

Plattenhardt scored three set pieces during the 2016/17 season, contributing a team-high seven assists during that campaign as Hertha finished sixth, but the club could only muster a mid-table finish last term.

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He still managed to provide eight assists for his club, and it is this creativity that has drawn interest previously from Watford. With his contract at Berlin running until June 2023, it may take a significant fee to prise him away from the Bundesliga.

Plattenhardt remains one of the least well-known of the 23-man squad for the reigning world champions, but Silva is aware that should he become Germany’s first-choice left-back at the tournament, his price tag is only likely to rise. Everton want to strike a deal with Hertha before the tournament gets underway.

His confident manner with the German media and stylish appearance suggests he could become a cult figure on the blue half of Merseyside.

Everton improved significantly after Baines return from injury following a three-month lay-off, but Plattenhardt would not be put off by arriving at Goodison in need of fighting for his place in the team given his battle with Hector at international level.

He told Sport Bild: “If you believe what you hear and read, then Hector is set in stone and I’m his back-up. But I’ll show everything in training so my team-mates know they can rely on me.

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“Of course, I want to play. It wouldn’t be nice to head home having not played.”

Having surprised many back in Germany, but not himself, in surviving the cut from 27 players to 23, the former Nurnberg defender may relish the opportunity of becoming the long-term replacement for Baines.

Having missed 15 games with a calf injury, it’s imperative that the 33-year-old is provided with cover, and aged just seven years younger than the Everton icon, Silva may look to Plattenhardt as a ready-made replacement.

 

Marco Silva and Marcel Brands welcome in new era at Everton as Wayne Rooney heads for the exit

It was all fairly low-key until Marcel Brands was asked for an update on Wayne Rooney, but the readiness with which came the response suggests that the departing ‘legend’ is already old news.

Marco Silva was here at Finch Farm to talk about the present and the future, not of his acrimonious past, the club’s on-going legal dispute with Watford, and Rooney the player – it would appear – has also been consigned to history.

“There is the possibility that he will leave. He’s talking with Washington and it’s not a secret,” Brands told the assembled media on Monday.

“Of course, we will talk with him, and if this is the move that he wants to make and the next step in his career, then I hope he will return when he’s finished there because he is still a legend at this club.

“I did so at PSV and I also hope to do so here, which is to use the legends at the club.”

Duncan Ferguson and David Unsworth have both survived recent managerial changes, and Silva added on Rooney’s expected departure: “It was something before I arrived that was already done. Not done but has already started, this deal with Washington.

“It’s something we expect in the next few days. We’ll talk with Rooney because he’s a club legend, and we need to understand everything. Of course, as Marcel said, the door is open every time for him.

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“Of course, we’ll talk with him and we’ll see what’s happened up until this moment, and then it is Wayne’s decision.”

Rooney was an 18-year-old destined for big things when he left Everton for Manchester United on transfer deadline day in 2004, but his departure this time around has left many shrugging their shoulders.

Many fans were unsure of his return just a short 12 months ago when his fiercest critics towards the end of his time at Old Trafford described him then as washed up, finished, damaged goods.

But Everton are now left with a bloated squad, marked at being 38-men deep in Brands eyes. Before transfer targets are brought in and greater competition for places created, the new double act are clear in their message of wanting to assess which players must be moved on.

Rooney is Everton’s highest earner with the club having agreed last summer to pay £10m-a-year towards his wages when he took a 50 per cent pay-cut to re-join his boyhood club.

Getting the former England captain off the books entirely will free up additional funds for potential signings that are more in keeping with the long-term vision rather than players targeted by Koeman who were expected to make an instant impact.

While Silva and Brands spoke fondly of the door ‘always being open’ to Rooney, the conversations that will take place between the player and management team in the coming days are unlikely to change anything.

Silva was reluctant to pinpoint what the priority is as he embarks on his third job in English football, but the Portuguese admitted that there are ‘a lot of things’ that need to be addressed having done his homework alongside Brands.

While he will still want to be a part of the new era, Rooney’s exit is just the start of the reboot. Even he may acknowledge the need to seeks pastures new in order for the club as a whole to move forward with a vibrant, dynamic team capable of challenging for a top six spot.

Just as with his phasing out at United, Everton want to handle Rooney’s departure in a delicate manner that appears only reserved for players of a certain status, but the greater significance is that it allows for the new era to begin with a bold statement.

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There were very few to come from a rather inauspicious opening press conference from Silva, where the club’s new insightful director of football Marcel Brands left more of an impression.

Brands is a no-nonsense Dutchman aware of the clear-up operation that has been left behind by the old regime that had left many supporters apathetic under Sam Allardyce despite the eighth-place finish.

Steve Walsh experienced abysmal returns on his £239m recruitment drive and left along with Allardyce, and the former PSV Eindhoven director of football wasted little time in appointing his successor. On Monday, he gave his reasons for choosing Silva as the man to take Everton forward.

“The reasons we chose Marco as the new manager is because he is a young, ambitious and modern coach,” added Brands, who was in attendance at Anfield to watch Brazil face Croatia at the weekend.

“He is also a coach with international and Premier League experience. This was one of the most important things to choose when considering the new manager at Everton.”

“He is a coach that is aware of the academy and he wants to give young players chances [in the first team]. That’s important for the future of Everton.

“I know what our fans expect, and I know what they want to see every time in our team: a big commitment, a big attitude and always a big motivation and big ambitions in our team as well. It is our obligation, and it’s something you have to put every day into your work.”

Everton lacked creativity under Allardyce, but it is something that Koeman pinpointed as an area in need of improvement only last summer following the sale of Romelu Lukaku and long-term absence of Ross Barkley.

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Koeman sought to address the shortage of productivity by signing three players who would all vie for the same position behind a striker, and Silva was asked about how he would seek to address a squad that had the fewest number of shots on target of any Premier league side last season.

“It’s easy to see how my teams have played in the past, and now it’s the chance to prove it again here,” said Silva, who has signed a three-year deal.

“It’s a big challenge for us, we know what we want for our team but first we will look inside and analyse what we have. Afterwards, we will be assertive, and find the right targets for us.”

Silva was unmoved when asked about potential transfer targets. Richarlison, Jamaal Lascelles and William Carvalho have all be linked with moves to Goodison Park, but Brands reaffirmed the process of assessing the current squad before any concrete bid is made.

Brands explained that both he and Silva will sign off any incoming or outgoing transfer, believing that a collective decision can be reached on each potential target.

“He is going to make the starting XI, and that’s not my job. I’ve worked with a lot of good coaches, Louis van Gaal, Ronald Koeman and Philipp Cocu and I never had one player that we both didn’t agree on, and that will be the case with Marco.”

Brands admitted that when he began his new job on Friday, he was making several phone calls regarding new players, while agents were calling him about potential departures.

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The director of football admitted that a squad of over 30 players will need to be streamlined before the August 9 deadline.

Silva, meanwhile, did well not to fall into the trap of outlining a specific target in terms of league position next season after the wave of optimism which came with spending over £150m last summer following the sale of Lukaku.

While he has developed an unwanted reputation of not sticking around at any of his previous club for too long, the former Sporting Lisbon and Olympiacos boss appreciates that this will be his biggest challenge yet.

He had barely been at Watford for five minutes when he appeared to have his head turned by Everton last autumn.

He was sacked two months after his former employers rejected a £12m compensation offer, but Silva will now need to convince some that he’s in it for the long haul after his new club showed such an interest in him.

“I’m not here for one, two, three years. I’m here for something more,” he added.

“It’s a big project and big challenge for us as a technical staff. Every day over the past two years, at Hull and Watford, I heard that Everton are a club that want to take the next step.

“This is something that will take some time, but you have to get results from the first moment as well.

“We are ready to prove every day what we want. First, we want to make the fans proud of our team. We need to build a strong connection between the team and them.”

Manchester City en busca de la perfección, ¿pero cómo puede ser conquistado?

Todo parece indicar que Pep Guardiola se detendrá ante nada en busca de la perfección.

“Con 93 goles a favor, 25 en contra y 87 puntos en 33 jornadas, el brillo del recorrido no tiene precedentes,” dice el reportaje en El País este lunes.

El entrenador de Manchester City avisó que jugaría al golf ayer por la tarde tras vencer al Tottenham en Wembley (3:1) – haciéndose eco de la crónica mitológica de Sir Alex Ferguson en los greens de Mottram Hall, en Cheshire 25 anos atrás cuando el Oldham derrotó al Aston Villa para confirmar su primer título de Liga de los 13 ganado con el Manchester United.

Pero Guardiola sabe que su equipo debe mantener el ritmo para acabar la campaña batiendo récords de victorias, puntos y goles.

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City puede superar el récord de Chelsea por el numero de victorias en una temporada: ya tiene 28 triunfos, y solo necesita tres más en los últimos cinco partidos para alcanzar el clima delante de los 30 conseguido por Los Blues el año pasado.

Los campeones de Conte establecieron un record de 15 victorias fuera de casa en la temporada 2016/17, y City solo falta una para emparejar el hito.

El equipo de Guardiola todavía tiene partidos fuera del Etihad Stadium contra West Ham y un débil Southampton a St Mary’s en la ultima ronda.

Los Citizens ya tiene 87 puntos después de 33 partidos, así que hay 15 puntos disponible – cabe la posibilidad de que alcancen 102 puntos con cinco victorias más para establecer un record de puntos en la Premier.

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El Chelsea anotó 95 puntos en 2004/05 mientras que sus campeones de 2009/10 marcaron 103 goles. El City solo necesita 11 goles más para subir este record.

Lo mejor diferencia de goles fue establecido por el equipo de Carlo Ancelotti en 2010 también, con +71 pero el City ya tiene +68 antes de los últimos cinco partidos.

La sorprendente derrota de Manchester United contra West Brom supuso la primera liga de un entrenador español en Inglaterra, y el City mantuvo su ventaja de 16 puntos a la cumbre. Los campeones tienen en su punto de mira el record de 18 puntos de ventaja conseguido por sus vecinos en 2001.

“Somos los maestros de la complicación,” dijo José Mourinho tras la derrota. Pero Guardiola no ha perdido su identidad y sabe que hay mucho trabajo por hacer para coronarse campeón de la Premier League por cuarto vez el próximo ano.

“Claro que la figura de Guardiola divide la gente en España,” dijo periodista español Guillem Balague a Sky Sports.

“Hasta este punto, existen los que han sido vencido a él que han buscado una excusa para explicar los eventos mientras que hay otras que tenían éxito contra el entrenador, y ahora le felicitan sobre el éxito.

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“Sinceramente, la única cosa que la prensa y el pueblo español necesitan hacer es leer las estadísticas para admirar el catalán después de una temporada inolvidable.

“Incluso los periódicos de Madrid aquí en España son lleno de admiración por Guardiola, no solo por el hecho de que ganó el titulo sino también que lo ha hecho con estilo, adhiriéndose a sus principios, estableciendo nuevos records en el proceso.”

Guardiola no quiso llegar a un acuerdo entre su filosofía y una estrategia mas pragmática. Ha confirmado que puede ganar títulos en Inglaterra.

El entrenador tiene historia de quitar sus clubes después de poco tiempo – tres temporadas como visto en Bayern de Múnich – pero Balague piensa que el proyecto al City es solo al inicio.

“La razón por la cual no prolongó su estancia al Camp Nou en 2012 no fue relacionado a los resultados en el campo,” añado el periodista. “Sino una falta de apoyo mostrado por la junta directiva después del salido del expresidente, Joan Laporta.

“Cuando era en Alemania, tenía que defender y contestar sus métodos con frecuencia, incluso si el Bayern ganara. Tenía que explicar a la prensa y a sus jugadores el proceso de pensamiento y no había una sinergia con la junta directiva.”

Por otra parte, las opiniones no están dividas en el pueblo City. Sus amigos – Txiki Begiristain y Ferran Soriano – tienen las llaves mientras que las instalaciones están entre los mejores en el mundo.

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La plantilla ya esta creada en su imagen, con la promesa de mas fichajes este verano. Kevin De Bruyne, a pesar de ser comprado bajo la dirección de Manuel Pellegrini, esta considerado como emblemático de los métodos de Guardiola.

Eso es una plantilla joven lleno de potencial, y la falta de sostenibilidad mostrado por los últimos campeones ingleses es otro factor en la decisión esperada de firmar un nuevo contrato a largo plazo.

Guardiola le ha asaltado el mercado español en el pasado, con la llegado de Aymeric Laporte hace cuatro meses, pero va a ser mas difícil encontrar jugadores del nivel suficiente este verano para mejorar la plantilla.

El club se ha gastado más de 500 millones de euros desde 2016, pero Balague concluyo, “Si están buscando por un delantero, un lateral o centrocampista defensiva, va a ser complicado dado a la falta de opciones adecuadas en La Liga.”

Es inconcebible que la liga más extenuante de Europa va a ser tan fácil para ganar el año que viene.

El refuerzo visto en Liverpool bajo el entrenador Jurgen Klopp y el cambio probable en el liderazgo a Chelsea son solo dos rivales de la corona. El acto de crear una dinastía a City será lo más exigente desafío en la carrera de Pep.