Everton v Sunderland Preview: Clubs Should Follow Everton's Model For Success
Back in 1959, Motown also-ran Barrett Strong presciently captured the guiding motivation of the Premier League when he sang ‘Money, that’s what I want’. Because apparently that’s all that matters in the top-flight; the acquisition of greater and greater amounts of money, regardless of what it does to your club and its fans in the process.
But is it worth it? People look at what has happened at Manchester City and probably think that it is. After all, the massive injection of cash that City have enjoyed has not only given a fairly mediocre club the opportunity to win the league but also enabled them to do so over their long-hated rivals.
But there is another side to the story, one that reveals that money might not be as important to success as many pundits and fans like to believe. And to illustrate this point, it’s helpful to look at the contrasting fortunes of the two clubs that meet at Goodison Park this weekend; Everton and Sunderland.
Over the past five years it’s fair to say that Sunderland have been fairly active in the transfer market. Between the 2007/08 and the 2011/12 season, their net-spend on transfers was a staggering £57.6m, a figure that was bettered only by Liverpool, City and Chelsea.
This outlay could probably be justified if it had yielded success. And by success I really mean ways to recoup this lavish spending. But that hasn’t been the case. Sunderland’s highest league finish over the past five seasons has been tenth, not even close to a Champions League slot.
Like Liverpool, who have a net spend over the same period of £99.25m, the Black Cats have gambled on the prospect of future success but ultimately put their money on the wrong horses. Players have come and gone, sometimes reasonably priced but at other times woefully over-priced.
The Sunderland experience over the past five seasons is a cautionary tale. It undermines the strong-held belief that all a team needs to break into the top six is a bit more money.
Far better instead for those on meagre budgets to take a leaf from Everton’s books. Where clubs like Liverpool and Sunderland have pissed money away, the Toffees have displayed a sense of frugality that makes the Coalition Government seem profligate by comparison.
While Sunderland were spending like there was no tomorrow, Everton managed a net spend of just £5m over the past five seasons. And what did the club get for this paltry outlay? Well, granted, we never managed to breach the Champions League slots during this time, but Everton were able to come fifth on two occasions and never finish lower than eighth. That’s an average £1m outlay each season to consistently compete against the best clubs in the league and finish well above bigger-spending clubs.
Damningly for Sunderland, despite another mini-splurge in the summer, albeit a more modest £12.5m, it looks like it’s shaping up to be another disappointing season.
When the sides met last year at Goodison, there was a sense of parity about the fixture. Both were recovering from poor starts to the campaign, doing so by employing the kind of organised, combative football that the more technically gifted sides find it so hard to play against.
But since then the clubs fortunes have diverged. Sunderland have continued in the same vein, employing an excessively defensive approach to each game. This is probably why they have had so few shots on goal this season. In fact, the Black Cats have managed just twelve shots on target so far, at least twenty-one fewer than any other Premier League side - Aston Villa and Reading on thirty-three.
This is the second lowest number of shots taken by any side in Europe’s top five leagues and one contributory factor to their current position near the bottom of the league.
Everton by contrast, have embraced attacking football in the same way that I embrace a cheesecake; with gluttonous enthusiasm. So far this season, the long-regarded masters of negative football have attempted two-hundred shots on goal.
This is more than any other team in any of Europe’s big five leagues. And were it not for the positioning of the woodwork (which we have already hit eleven times), it’s likely that we would have amassed more points and been placed even higher up the league.
As it is, there are currently twelve places and wildly different footballing fortunes separating the two clubs. But it’s not just form that’s on Everton’s side. We have history too. Over the years that Sunderland have graced the Premiership with their presence, we have won eleven and lost none of our fifteen encounters with the Mackems.
With players of the quality of Marouane Fellaini, Kevin Mirallas, Leighton Baines, Leaon Osman and Steven Pienaar it would be difficult to bet against Everton for the win. Even with off-form Nikica Jelavic failing to contribute with goals, Everton still have enough guile, creativity and deadliness elsewhere in the side to make life very difficult for Sunderland.
But, not only would an Everton win be welcome for us Evertonians, it would also be further proof that success in the Premiership is not solely dependent upon how much money you spend. Equally important is the manager you have and the faith that the board place in him.
Over the last ten years, Everton have created a template which other teams, specifically those with more modest financial resources, would do well to emulate. Money can buy you success but equally it can land you with a shit load of mediocrity. The Everton way proves that frugality is an option.
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