Drenthe’s benching is a terrible defeat for entertainment

Everton’s re-signing of Steven Pienaar in the final seconds of the January transfer window may well spell the end of Royston Drenthe’s long-term hopes of remaining at Everton, and is the latest example of the David Moyes mantra of perspiration over inspiration.

Royson Drenthe has come off the bench eight times in the Premier League for Everton this season.

Royston Drenthe has undoubtedly sparkled and frustrated in equal measure since joining the club back in August. His chequered past and questionable attitude precedes him, and explains (much like Louis Saha’s injury problems before Moyes signed him) why such a naturally talented player is plying his trade at Goodison Park.

David Moyes, like with Saha, has shown shrewdness in picking up a bargain. However, if anybody truly expects Drenthe to be anything other than a short-term move then they will be sadly disappointed. In a rigidly negative tactical set up that demands work ethic over skill, the wildcard option will never truly flourish. See Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, a talented ball player ostracised to left wings or benches. The key question remains unanswered: Why does Moyes bring in skill players and try to change them when he clearly values natural workhorses more strongly? Earlier this season he spoke of Drenthe’s limitations: “We want [players] to entertain, but for the right reasons…Sometimes in the Premier League, the harder side of it is defending”.

Drenthe’s supposed inability to defend corners cannot detract from some great moments so far this season. As well as a 30-yard screamer against Fulham, his direct running has often caused havoc and his danger around the box is unquestionable, with several brilliantly drilled balls along the six-yard line that the geriatric Saha could never reach immediately springing to mind. Even when off-form, such as during his disappointing performance in the victory over Manchester City, Drenthe provided a spark with a driving run drawing in defenders before a lay off to Baines that led to Darron Gibson’s winning goal.

His bottom line stats are impressive. Drenthe has started 7 Premier League games (albeit finishing only two of them) and has come off the bench in 8, always between minutes 54 and 73. Overall, he has scored twice and achieved five assists. By way of contrast, in 101 Premier League starts for Everton his teammate Steven Pienaar has achieved 9 goals and 16 assists. Pienaar’s ball retention and hard work is impressive but his figures, however, are not.  A goal every 11.2 games and an assist every 6.3 clearly illustrate this. Even if I was to wrongly count all of Drenthe’s fifteen Premier League appearances as starts, he would still average a goal every 7.5 games and an assist every 3.

Steven Pienaar has scored 9 goals in 101 Premier League starts for Everton

It could be argued that upon Landon Donovan’s return to the MLS at the end of the month, Drenthe will be given a run of games on the right wing. However, with the return of future-right-back Seamus Coleman as the reliable and hard working option, Royston will likely be avoiding splinters on the bench once more. And who could blame him for being a little annoyed, having lost his place firstly to Donovan, a loan signing only available for two months and then to a former player in Pienaar who had left in search of riches before begging to return a year later.

Sadly, on Saturday it is likely that the spark that Everton have often lacked this season will sit once more on the bench, kept away from the pitch due to his rash decisions, rushes of blood and occasional taste for playing questionable passes in dangerous positions. Steven Pienaar will start, his return to link up with Leighton Baines having been met with delight from Everton’s manager and fans. However, Pienaar is truly a percentage player, with his poor record of goals and assists masked by his ability in holding the ball, turning in circles and constant hard work. He is also aging at 29, in contrast to Drenthe’s room for improvement at 24. No disrespect to Pienaar, but he sums up Moyes perfectly. Moyes is an adequate but truly overrated manager outside of Goodison Park, a negative tactician who adores ageing players and bemoans the lack of entertainment his team has offered this season whilst leaving his wildcard option on the bench, choosing to bring Phil Neville on for Tim Cahill while his team are drawing against Wigan.

So the “fancy dan” Double-R Drenthe would probably be best off elsewhere, as much as I’d love to see him stay. You will struggle to find a player with such natural ability available and obtainable for no transfer fee, but under a manager who values perspiration over inspiration he will never truly succeed. Drenthe is a wildcard, a footballing madman even, equally capable of winning games alone and frustrating you in to submission. But isn’t it the surprise factor and the hope of entertainment that puts backsides on seats? If so, then no wonder there are more than ten thousand of them empty at Goodison Park these days.

The Author

Stephen Maunder

Stephen Maunder has completed Journalism MA and English BA degrees at the University of Kent. He has written for BBC News and several sports blogs.

28 thoughts on “Drenthe’s benching is a terrible defeat for entertainment

  1. I’d like to see him get a run in the middle, playing off Jelavic/Anichebe. As well as a lack of creativity, our main problem at the start of the season was having no pace to hit teams on the break…. we played a high line as a result, and lost a lot of sloppy goals. With two holding midfielders and a pacy/skilful 3 in Pienaar/Drenthe/Donovan (or Coleman) I think we could get back to playing some really exciting counter attacking football.

  2. A brilliant article which gets right to the heart of everton’s problems using factual data and stats as well as an insight into the mind of the man who has demoralized fans and match of the day neutrals a like into not having any enthusiasm to watch Everton FC what so ever. A real problem when trying to attract future supporters to the club and one which, if continued, will end in a downward spiral both financially and in terms of footballing quality for the future. Get Drenthe on the pitch and on the books!!!! Steven, flatter to deceive, Piennar should be cover for him and not Vica versa. If those stats don’t spell it out to you then their is truly nothing that will.

  3. Do me a favour Stephen – there are 2 sides to Mr Drenthe. There’s the upside you wax lyrically above, but there’s also the downside – the fact that he simply cannot play to instructions, that he makes the wrong decision 9 times out of 10, that he sulks when he doesn’t get his own way, that he would seem to lack basic football intelligence. Oh, and it seems like he’s not the easiest person in the world to get on with.
    So I would venture to suggest that it’s not all about ability – which I agree he has in abundance – but that you have to look at the whole package. The package which none of his previous employers seem happy with……

  4. Moyes’ priorities is Everton winning not entertaining neutral fans. he said before this season started it was going to be a hard season and avioding relegation was top priority we expected to keep it tight throughout. from a ST holder that has seen Drenthe play i have to say he is a liability, best used of the bench when we need an impact. Pienaar makes the rest of the team play its not about HIS “bottom line” stats its about the TEAMS “bottom line” stats when he’s in it.

  5. While I agree on the whole with your comments on Drenthe, I think you’re being rather harsh on Pienaar.

    While his stats admittedly aren’t great, he brings so much more to the team than stats can reflect. For one thing, he’s a top ‘assist assister’, in that his combinations with other players (Baines in particular) lead to those players laying on goals. Just look at how much Baines has suffered in the past year in Pienaar’s absence for proof of this.

    He improves our attacking play immeasurably by always wanting the ball, taking up intelligent positions, linking up well and winning numerous free-kicks. His value to the side is clear, and that’s why the other players love him.

    But back to Drenthe. Moyes does irk me with his reluctance to use him. When Donovan is gone, Drenthe really should be starting in home games. Like many others, I’d really like to see him in a free role behind the striker in place of Cahill.

    We’ve been crying out for a player like Royston for years, and now that we’ve got him Moyes is far too afraid to take risks. Every time he’s been played on the right he’s looked extremely dangerous. If we can afford his wages, we’d be mad not to try and sign him on a free.

    1. I certainly seem harsh on Pienaar after yesterday’s showing! If he continues like that for the rest of the season I shall have to eat my words. Time will tell.

  6. What a well articulted article. I, along with many others totally agree with all that you say. Except you are being a little polite (and I am guessing reserved) in your assessment of Moyes’ negativity.
    If only the people who matter would take note.

  7. Hi Stephen,

    I enjoyed this article – well written and backed up with some solid stats. As you’ve outlined, Drenthe has performed well for Everton this season according to the stats but I firmly believe they flatter him. He clearly has plenty of talent but having watched Everton a lot this season he’s both exciting and frustrating in equal measure. For every moment of quality, there are three dispossesions/aimless passes. You could argue that many players with ‘x-factor’ are risk-takers and risk-takers will on occasion get burned. But Drenthe is unpredictable for both the opposition and his teammates. I recall Johnny Giles being driven demented in the 90s by Villa enigma within a riddle, Tony Daley. According to Giles, Daley was a manager’s nightmare, clearly talented but as likely to cost the team a goal as score or set one up. Drenthe is that player. Moyes is not being overly pragmatic in not trusting the Dutchman, he is being a good manager, using Drenthe as an impact sub, where he can worry tired defences with his electric pace.
    If you measure Drenthe against Pienaar, one aspect you’ve failed to mention is the relationship between the South African and Leighton Baines. Pienaar brings out the best in Baines and most Everton fans would agree it was his presence and their understanding that helped Baines develop into the best all round left back in the premier league.
    Finally, you’re assessment of Moyes as ‘adequate’ is incredibly harsh. When he took over, Walter Smith had squandered millions and guided the team to consecutive 16th and 15th place league finishes respectively. Moyes has taken the team into the Champion’s League and in the past 5years guided the team to 6th, 5th, 5th, 8th and 7th in an increasingly competitive, increasingly rich league. I hardly need to tell you that he’s done this by spending only when he can sell his best players. He is one of the finest manager’s in the EPL, a consistent overachiever, it’s a shame he has yet to adorn that record with a piece of silverware. He is pragmatic, sensible and yes, at time, frustratingly conservative but this is a results business. If you have money, you can worry about entertaining the faithful, everyone else needs to survive.


  8. Great article and fairly sums up the way Dave Moyes thinks….We have had a few similar managers in the past including Catterick even though he had success..He disliked so called flair players and soon got rid of Vernon and Young….he preferred players who chased back.
    Most of the entertainers in football are forwards who never chased back eg; Di Stefano, Puskas, Greaves, Young, Vernon, Pele, Eusebio, Hurst etc etc etc.
    Our best have included , Cottee, Heath, Latchford and Linekar none of whom were workhorses…..but our manager has a project of survival at all costs, spoiling and stopping better footballing teams and entertainment for the fans is not a requirement.

  9. While i agree with some of your comments the thing about roy is his questinable attittude you watch in the warm ups he never follows the others in what they are being Told what do he just does what he wants to do which he carries over in his play and this is i think he does not start many games and this is why moyes mainly uses him as an impact player by coming of the bench.

  10. Introduce him to the concept that in this country the opposition may try to take the ball off you (“man on”), and he may stand a chance of a career in football at a decent level.

  11. An excellent article, one of the best I have read. Accurate with evidences that even Johnnie Cochran (whilst alive) wouldn’t of been able to argue against, which highlights that glaring fact that many an Evertonian (with intelligence that is) has known for years: Moyes is a limited and over-rated tactical dinosaur!

    Not to say Moyes has always been like this, however after the successful 2004 – 05 season it has been groundhog day tactically ever since. I cringe when remembering players like Manuel Fernandes getting a public dress down for daring to attempt skillful maneuvers, while Phil Neville and Tony Hibbert were commended for being hard workers yet in reality were and are flawed skill-less nomads. That’s Moyes way, a way which has seen the demise of many a good player like Yakubu and Johnson, which unfortunately may claim Drenthe and Jelavic!? For those who do say Drenthe has a lot to learn, yes that is correct. However given playing time and a clear license to express himself would benefit him more than changing him, as Yakubu said recently on the BBC that a manager will never the best out of him by forcing him to chase punts into the corner flag!

    While crowds continue to shrink, nothing will change until the majority of the fans publicly show dissent and unite against both Moyes and the puppet-master Kenwright. If not, as unfortunately Everton fans generally dislike foreign things (anything outside of Liverpool) yet seem meek like a beaten girlfriend too afraid to speak out against their lover to fight the club they love for the greater good! If I am wrong then prove it people……..

    Support the BLUE UNION, or we are all to blame for the demise of this once great club!

  12. Everton are not challenging for european football and are not going to be relegated, so how about improving the entertainment value, put drenthe in

  13. Sadly the fact is that Moyes has no idea how to utilize players with skill in a forward position. Over the last ten years NOT one striker has been successful under him and EVERY skillful midfielder or forward has left the club. The school of science is now the peoples club. If you think about it, one embodied skill the other collective work. Moyes would no doubt thrive in a Russian club…

  14. There comes a time when every player and manager should leave a club, it’s a natural end. Moyes came in and did a job for which we thank him but he has also been well rewarded for his efforts and our situation has moved on, we need a different vision than the one he brings.
    People are voting with their feet and the club cannot let that continue.
    Moyes may well be gone sooner than later as Kenwright will look to curry favor and appease the banks by letting him go. The sooner the better

  15. Are you a kopite? I guess you don’t watch Everton every week regardless as I disagree with most of the comments you make in this article. Granted Drenthe is a great spark, I always wish for the best in players, but he lacks the complete basic knowledge of don’t dribble across your own box, don’t play balls across your own box, listen to the “man on” shout and don’t over do it. The only way in which Royston could be a half decent player in this league is if he played up top or in the Thierry Henry wing position in which you aren’t needed in your own half. Until then good luck to him, I hope he comes good, but keep him on the bench, Peanuts anyday of the week boy.

    CaptainFerguson10 – change your tag name you are giving my all time hero a bad name with your stupidity. Wind your neck in.

    1. It’s a little unfair to tell somebody to “wind [their] neck in” when you’re accusing people with differing views from yourself as being a kopite.

      My views differ from yours. But this issue whereby some Everton fans label anybody who criticises the team or protests against the board as a “kopite” is childish.

      I pay my £35 a week for the home games and go to many of the aways. Your opinion on Drenthe is different to mine and is absolutely valid, yet you undermine it by calling people “kopites” and suggesting they’re lesser fans when they probably attend the same amount of games you do.

      And yep, Pienaar was certainly excellent yesterday. I hope he plays like that every week.

  16. David Aden. I never said Drenthe was the finished article, however if you actually read what I said as opposed to tripping on Kenwrights happy tablets I agreed Drenthe has a lot to do. But as other more mature comments have stated, skillful players never flourish under Moyes due frankly to his rigid coaching and apparent stubborness.

    What isn’t a surprise Mr Aden is the batterd girlfriend syndrome you perfectly demostrated, anyone who wants change/points Moyes flaws/supports the Blue Union is labeled a kopite. Frankly it’s unfortunate some fans are so blinked to change, however Aden I suggest researching Duncan Ferguson support of groups like KEIOC amongst his other views before embarrassing yourself again!

    Support Blue Union!

    1. I very much agree with your first point. Regardless of whether people support the BU/Kenwright/Moyes etc, the inability to have a mature debate without childish name calling becomes tiresome.

      In some fans eyes criticism equates to mutiny and abandonment. In others, they feel they pay hundreds/thousands of pounds and travel hundreds/thousands of miles every season to watch their team, and are entitled to express an opinion, be it positive or negative, on the players and their management. I’m of the latter group.

  17. david aden…touche. yes RD can win games on his own but he can also lose them with lethargic passing and not getting his head up. Against wigan when neville came on for timmy i once again reached for valium in what was a game for the taking but for a dreadful piece of luck/defending we coulda/woulda/shoulda got the 3 points and it wouldn’t bloody matter. The chelsea result proves we can still pick up points against the top teams with the right attitude on the pitch and in the stands. For me this article wasnt just predictable and ill judged moreover just another troth of self righteous horse piss.

    Support everton

  18. So David Aden is yet another in the long line of Everton idiots who espouse ther love of the club by burying their heads in the sand, offering their behinds to Moyes and Kenwright interminably and slagging off other fans.

    Let’s just hope Moyes and Kenwright dissappear soon so that the likes of this guy can clear off too – I’m sick of the rubbish.

    And in the words of George Carlin ” “Never argue with an idiot. They bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

  19. Drenthe flourished in the Dutch league, which is undoubtedly below the EPL in standard, hardly got a game for Real Madrid (even Tommy Grav played more) and has a couple of caps for Holland (but so did Regi Blinker).

    He is not in the same class of Puskas, Cruyff etc and painting him as some world class legend being benched by a dour manager is nonsense.

    Against Man City he was outpaced and out thought by Micah Richards and has done well against second rate defences such as Fulham and Norwich.

    Landon Donovan and Steven Pienaar are much better players and, if Everton could afford to buy them, we would be better off letting Drenthe go at the end of the season if his wages are needed to buy one of those two on a permanent basis.

  20. Its no coincidence that Saha has scored in his first full game for Spurs..Im afraid that our manager does not have the abundance of talent that Spurs has and therefor his dour approach to football has survival as his first consideration.
    Saha has always needed a partner up front and he flourished everywhere when he was supported properly….he is a top class, clever player and Im sure that he will do well with Adebayor as a partner.
    Im afraid that none of the present ‘goal scoring ‘ strikers in the league would do well at EFC as they are expected to be ‘outlets’ and wide runners….I could never imagine Defoe or Bent playing for us and scoring regularly.
    Chelsea need Drogba asap..he is without doubt streets better than any other striker they have on their books..BUT he also needs a support player like Sturridge or Torres now that Anelka has left.

  21. He is not in the same class of Puskas, Cruyff etc and painting him as some world class legend being benched by a dour manager is nonsense.

    Against Man City he was outpaced and out thought by Micah Richards and has done well against second rate defences such as Fulham and Norwich.

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