This site contains commercial content

football | Wednesday, December 1, 2021 7:29 AM
Talking Football with....Tony Cottee: Benetiz Was A High Risk Appointment At Everton
Talking Football with....Tony Cottee: Benetiz Was A High Risk Appointment At Everton
Sportimage / Alamy Stock Photo

In part one of our interview with Tony Cottee he discussed the future of his former club West Ham. Today Tony shares his thoughts on two of his other former clubs, Everton and Leicester City.

Everton is currently sitting in 14th. What has been their biggest issue so far, and how do they turn it around?

“They’ve got two top players in my opinion. They’ve got Richarlison who has been injured and come back and hasn’t quite been on his game. And they’ve got Dominic Calvert Lewin. I think they’re the top two players. I know they’ve got a good keeper in Jordan Pickford, but I think when you’ve got your two star forwards out, it makes life very very difficult.”

“Personally, this is only my own personal feelings, I think it was a massive, massive risk taking on Rafa Benitez, I really do. There is so much animosity between Everton and Liverpool. The two big rivals, and I think it was a real risk by the club. If Rafa goes and wins games, everything goes well, your players are fit, you’re winning cup competitions then you’re a genius. But if you go in and your star players are injured, there’s a lack of confidence, which there obviously is, then the fans are going to get on your back. Not only will they get on your back, they’ll get on your back even more because Rafa was the manager of Liverpool. And that’s a fact.”

“And that’s not just to Liverpool, it could be West Ham, Tottenham, it could be Manchester City, Manchester United. It could be at Newcastle, Sunderland, it is around the world. And I always think it’s very, very high risk to appoint someone like Benetiz at Everton. I wasn’t in favor of it. I thought it was a poor move. I don’t think they should have done that. But they’ve done it and they’re going to have to live with it now.”

“And the challenge for Everton, for the manager and for the players is to get out of the situation.”

“But I think they 2 points out of 21in the league, they have been knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Queens Park Rangers, which quite simply is not good enough for Everton who is a massive club. The potential is there. They’ve got a new stadium coming and Everton need to be trying to mix in with the so called top six.”

“They need to get results quickly. But there’s only one way out of it. And that’s to work hard. And there’s no other way to solve the problem. They’ve got to believe in their manager, they’ve got to believe in their own players and they are bleeding themselves and trying to get their heads down and work even harder. And hopefully they might get a result. And then you go on a little run and everything looks a lot better. But at the moment, it’s very difficult. And they’ve got a nice easy game tomorrow, at home playing Liverpool. So you know, with the fans back in there, you can only imagine what’s going to happen if they, as you maybe would expect with their current form, go and lose 3 or 4 to nil il. If that happens, I dread to think what the atmosphere will be like at Goodison. It will probably be very hostile, but not towards the Liverpool players and fans, but I think towards Rafa Benitez.”

James Maddison could have been sold to Arsenal this summer, but they brought in Martin Ødegaard instead. Do you think James Maddison will be a big part of Leicester moving forward?

“He’s had a very difficult year or so. You know, there’s no doubt in my mind that James Madison is a top player. He’s one of those rarities that we’re getting in England. You mentioned Ødegaard. He’s a very skillful, creative player. Historically English midfield players haven’t been creative, skillful players. But if you look at James Madison, he’s fantastic. He can score from free kicks, take the corners etc. So the dead balls are really good. And he gets on the ball, he’s always looking forward and trying to make things happen. So it’s unusual to be an English attacking midfield player, if you like. So I understand why Arsenal we’re after him, because he’s a really, really good player.”

“The problem James has had, he’s been injured, and when you’re injured, you come back and you’re not quite right. And you probably need at least six or seven games to get going again and get your fitness, but the problem at Leicester is that they’re a victim of their own success as well.”

“Under Brendan Rodgers, and before that with the previous managers, they won the Premier League, they won the FA Cup. And as a result of that, they’ve got a fantastic squad of players there. And the problem being, is that if you get injured, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get back straight back into the team. You look at some wonderful players. We’ve got the likes of (Timothy) Castagne, Ricardo (Pereira), (Wesley) Fofana is out injured now, and when they come back, there’s no guarantee that they will go straight back into that team. And that’s what happened for James Madison.”

“Instead of getting the six, seven games on the trot to get his fitness back, he played, he was taken off, he played, he was taken off. And I think over the last 2-3-4 games, Brendan’s decided now that James is back in the team. And when he’s on form, he’s got to be in that Leicester team. He’s such a good player. And you need him in there. And of course, it probably helps that (Youri) Tielemans was injured, because he has been outstanding for at least a year. He has been wonderful. By far Leicester’s best player. Of course, he’s injured at the moment. So when you lose your best player, you’ve got to replace him, and do that with James Madison. It’s not too bad of a substitution.”

James Maddison (second right) celebrates scoring their side's second goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League

PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Leicester has been performing below expectations this season, currently sitting in 10th. Where should they look to improve their squad if they want to compete for the remainder of the season?

“They’ve finally managed to get their campaign together in the Europa League where they have had some poor results. They are top of the group now, so if they win their last game, which is away in Napoli, a tough game, there’s no guarantee that they get through in the Europa League.”

“But in terms of their Premier League form, right from the start, they’ve had awful problems with defensive injuries. And one time I think they had Johnny Evans out, they had Fofana out, Castagne was out, James Justin was out, and Ricardo was out. There were about five or six defenders out. Wilfred Ndidi has been out for times. And then you had the likes of Madison and Harvey Barnes coming back from injury as well. So a lot of Leicester’s form has been down to the injuries without making excuses, because they still got good players. But when you lose top players, it makes it really difficult.”

“I think we’ve seen that the problem for Leicester this season has been conceding goals. It’s not been scoring goals. Jamie Vardy has been scoring as we know, and they’ve got good players going forward. As I said, Tielemans has been outstanding. So they’ve been fine going forward. Just conceding goals that have been a problem, and Kasper (Schmeichel) must be pulling his hair out. ‘The big Dane’ in goal, I love him. He’s a fantastic goalkeeper but you know he must be frustrated. They’ve been conceding goals, particularly from set pieces. So it’s certainly been a season of frustration, but I’d like to spin it around, and then say that the last two seasons Leicester have been up in the top four both seasons. Top four, top four, top four, top four only to lose the last game and finish fifth.”

“In terms of the Premier League this year, I mean, it’s going to be an exciting season, there’s no doubt about that. But I don’t know who’s going to win it, but I know one thing. I think the top three will be Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester City. They will be at least 10 points away from whoever is going to be in fourth position. It means the fourth position is going to be open for a club like Leicester, for a club like West Ham, or even Everton if they can get their act together now. Aston Villa, Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United. Wolves are a good team, Aston Villa got Steven Gerrard now, you know, so it’s gonna be really exciting. I think there will be an excitement for that fourth place and coming back to Leicester if they get their players back from injury and they go on a little bit of a run. With all the fixtures in December, you play six or seven league games, you’ve got the the quarterfinal of the Carabao Cup, which they’re in, they’ve got the Europa League, which they’re in, a lot of games and if we look at the end of January, we might be looking at Leicester in a much better position now.”