Exclusive Interview with Everton manager Jonathon Aspey ahead of this weekend’s first Merseyside Derby of the season.
Read more below:
11th place. That’s where Everton finished last season under now Belgium boss Roberto Martinez. Perhaps the very definition of underachievement. Fast forward 5 months, and a rejuvenated Toffees enter the first Merseyside Derby of the 2016/17 Premier League sitting 3rd in the table, ahead of their crosstown rivals. Replacing Martinez and his entertaining – but leaky – football was Jonathon Aspey, who has guided the club back up the table, to a position it hasn’t been in since the heyday of Martinez, and the days of David Moyes. Much of this has been done with the same squad as last season, save for a few key additions in important positions within Aspey’s system. It has been some turnaround of form, and one which the blues attending games at Goodison Park this season have relished.
With Everton fans – and the club as a whole – feeling new found confidence, I sat down to speak to Aspey ahead of this weekend’s derby, to try and find out more about the man, and how far he thinks Everton can really go this season.
Good afternoon Jonathon, and thank you for agreeing to this interview. It’s been quite a season so far for your Everton side, how has the Premier League and full time management been treating you?
JA: Thank you. It has been quite a season so far! Growing up in England, I have always followed English football, but I don’t think I truly appreciated the intensity or quality of the games at Premier League level until I was pitchside watching them first hand. As for full-time management, this is what I’ve wanted to do since my playing career ended, so this is a dream come true, and I’m beyond proud to be manager of Everton.
Have your club’s performances this season surprised you at all given their 11th place finish last season?
JA: No, not even slightly. I knew coming into this club we had some fantastic players, who just needed direction and guidance to find their best roles. Ross is a perfect example of that, and has put in some unbelievable performances this season high up the pitch with encouragement to get into the box. With the players we have, we should be challenging the top teams, and I think that’s been seen so far with our performances against Chelsea and Manchester City.
This Sunday you go up against Jurgen Klopp, one of the Premier League’s most active managers on the touchline. What are your opinions of his so called ‘antics’, and do you think it has any effect?
JA: First off, I’ll just say that I’m looking forward to going up against Jurgen on Sunday. As for what he does on the touchline, that’s entirely his business, as long as it’s not directly aimed at any of the opposition players. He’s a fiery character and he’s certainly passionate, and I’ve seen the positive effect it can have on his players. As you well know, my style is a little more reserved on the touchline, but I like to think that it still has the same effect on my own players.
As always, this is going to be a passionate Merseyside Derby, but where do you see this game being won and lost?
JA: I think an important element in every single Merseyside Derby I’ve seen is the emotion of the game. Tempers will flare and emotions will run high. It’s our job to use those emotions in a positive way, and compete. I don’t expect our players to lose their heads. Obviously the on pitch events will matter, but a Merseyside Derby is also a psychological battle. We have to win that battle. At Goodison, I know we’ll have the fans behind us for the whole 90 minutes.
On that, is there any Liverpool player that you feel you most need to keep an eye on?
JA: Liverpool obviously have several very talented players, but I think Sadio Mane is one that we really need to keep in check. His ability to penetrate through a defence is well documented, and we need to make sure that he’s not able to make those runs. Obviously there’s Coutinho and Lallana to watch, but I think Mane is the game changer for their side. Of course, we’ve got plenty in our team.
Do you foresee any tactical changes then to combat those threats? Do you have a plan to deal with Jurgen Klopp’s counterpressing system?
JA: Obviously, I’m not going to go into this too deeply, but I’m happy with how we’ve played tactically this season. I think there’s a danger in changing too much, and losing what has brought us to this position. We’re ahead of Liverpool in the table and I think they should be the one respecting our form and our system of play. As for Jurgen’s counterpressing style of play… well…. I think our style of play, with fast passing and forward movement actually mirrors Liverpool’s style to a certain extent. I have some backup ideas in mind of course that I can go to during the game, but I feel that we can more than cope with gegenpressing.
Do you therefore see your team coming straight out of the gates and going for Liverpool, or will you cautiously build your way into the game?
JA: I don’t think anyone that has seen our games this season could in any way refer to us as cautious. As I said, we’re going to come out and play our usual way, and I have confidence in our team to play our game, and impose our style. I see no reason why we can’t. We’re at home, and we’re not inferior.
Well, it should be a fascinating game. Thank you very much for this interview Jonathon, and good luck on Sunday.
JA: Thank you.
Everton vs. Liverpool from Goodison Park will be live on SkySports1HD and SkySports1 on Friday Night Football from 6pm.