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Marcel Brands gets first-hand look at Everton problem in Liverpool thrashing

Everton director of football Marcel Brands was in attendance on Saturday to watch Everton's under-18s beaten 4-0 by Liverpool in Kirkby

Marcel Brands watched on from the sidelines as Everton's under-18s endured a difficult match in Kirkby.

The director of football is a regular attendee of youth matches, but opted against the trip to watch the under-23s play Chelsea at 1pm to instead make the short trip across the city.

Playing against Liverpool on Saturday afternoon, there was initial optimism that the visitors could get a result. After all, the young Blues went into the game ahead of their opponents in the table at the start of the match.

As things transpired, it was anything but close.

Everton were convincingly beaten 4-0 in a performance that could have led to a lot more goals for the hosts if Zan-Luk Leban had not been in excellent form between the posts.

The Slovenia youth international was kept busy throughout the game by Liverpool, and on one occasion was acrobatically called into action to even deny one of his own teammates towards the end of the first half.

Without his influence, the hosts could easily have scored seven or eight goals in what was a domination essentially from start to finish in this derby clash.

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Leban was one of a few players that the Blues had which had clearly made the step up to the under-23s, and was showing a lot of the benefits from it.

For example, just in front of him on the pitch, Matty Mallon showed exactly why he is the captain at this level - and perhaps why he should be stepping up to David Unsworth's squad sooner rather than later.

He was leading from the back, trying to calm down those around him as Liverpool attempted to press in a similar fashion to their first-team counterparts.

At one stage in the first half, to combat the influence of the excellent Melkamu Frauendorf for the hosts, Mallon was briefly switched to left-back in the first half to use his defensive prowess to good effect.

However, he couldn't stop what became an onslaught from the Reds for the majority of the match, and was left trudging off the pitch at full-time in disappointment.

To pick holes in the performance at this level in any level of forensic detail wouldn't be fair to many of the youngsters who took to the pitch.

The situation still stands that Everton's academy levels are in something of a transition at the minute.

Many players who starred for the under-18s at one stage last season are now regularly at U23 level. Some of those have even found themselves on Premier League benches this term.

While a few impressive players remain, who have swapped back and forth between the two academy levels, there are a lot of younger stars with Paul Tait's side.

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Many are in the first year of their scholarships, if that, and they will need to learn how to play together and pick up the system that the Blues want to implement.

What does that entail? Well, that's what you hope Brands was really there to witness.

Sometimes it gets forgotten in the modern world, but the job of a director of football does not solely revolve around scouting new talent or bringing transfers to the club.

A lot of the day-to-day running behind-the-scenes also will include the Dutchman, including implementing a particular identity for all levels of the club to follow.

Liverpool on Saturday showed the benefits of having exactly that. Their young players might not have all been recognisable by name, but anyone who watches the senior side could match up the roles that were on display in the under-18s.

They were pressing high up the pitch in a 4-3-3 shape, they showcased a lot of energy all over the pitch and their attacking football was direct and purposeful.

Everton, on the other hand, find themselves in a different position.

Managerial changes over the course of recent years have surely played a part in stunting a semblance of joined-up thinking across all levels.

How can you implement a style when the system at the top keeps changing?

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Even during individual tenures for some managers, they have changed their core systems to something different to often attempt to unlock something new for their squad.

There's little doubt that has an affect when you go to the academy levels. In a sense, something like that can't be accounted for, but work can also be done to correct that.

Brands, watching on from the touchline on Saturday, can help with his connections at every level of the club.

Unsworth, with his role as director of academy, has a remit to not just implement that thinking with the U23s but with all younger levels as well.

Even Leighton Baines can play a part in his coaching role switching between the oldest two academy teams.

The former defender was heavily involved in the warm-up on Saturday for Tait's side, with the ball at his feet again helping the youngsters warm up - almost looking as if he could still lace up his boots for Rafa Benitez's side.

But the experience that he can bring at even a level such as this can be crucial for youngsters.

To look at Saturday's under-18s scoreline and make a snap judgement would be unwise, but it would be similarly naïve to suggest it doesn't exploit issues that need to be solved.

Perhaps that's what Brands will have been thinking on his windy Saturday morning in Kirkby.

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