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Where did it go wrong for Ronald Koeman at Everton?

Jake Jackman




Everton announced on Monday that Ronald Koeman had left the club after a run of poor results. The Dutchman had a good first season in charge and led the Toffees to a 7th place finish, which earned them a Europa League spot. However, a bad summer of recruitment and a start to the season that leaves them in 18th position after nine games has caused his early sacking.

The last week has been a bad one for the club and the final straw came yesterday as the team were convincingly beaten by an out-of-sorts Arsenal team. The Gunners had lost in their previous Premier League match, but they came to Goodison Park and ran out 5-2 winners. It wasn’t even close and the home side were fortunate to go in level at half-time. Koeman did nothing to change the match and the dominance of the away side showed after the break, with the red card to Idrissa Gueye compounding issues for the hosts.

At this stage of the season, Everton have won only two of their nine Premier League matches and have the second-worst goal difference in the division. They have scored seven and conceded 18, which is a terrible record for a team that was tipped for a top-four push this season. In addition to their struggles domestically, the Toffees find themselves rooted to the bottom of their Europa League table and their chances of progression look slim.

Where did it go wrong for Koeman?

There are a number of factors that have gone wrong for Everton and Koeman takes a large share of the blame for the team’s failure. The summer recruitment was very poor as they spent over £140 million according to Although they brought in £96.6 million in sales, their spending was significant and put pressure on the manager to deliver success.

They may have spent a lot of money, but they didn’t recruit wisely. Michael Keane, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jordan Pickford were all signed from teams that were fighting relegation last season. They were all impressive in their own right, but if you sign a lot of players from the bottom-half of the league, you will become one and that has happened at Everton.

Another issue was the profile of player that was signed as three of their highest-profile additions play in the same position. Davy Klaassen, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney are all good players, but it is a huge ask to fit them into the same team. Koeman has learned that the hard way by losing his job. Their choice to focus on creative midfield players rather than strengthen at full-back and source a replacement for Romelu Lukaku was a huge mistake.

Last season, they finished 7th and were the best of the rest. They were in a great position to push on even after the sale of Lukaku, but they failed to improve the squad despite spending £140 million. Although it is unknown how big an influence Koeman had on the recruitment, he has to take some responsibility for the poor spending.

The recruitment isn’t the only reason for the sacking of Koeman. There is still a lot of talent in the squad and they should be doing a lot better than they are. One criticism of the current Everton team is a lack of pace and energy, which makes them too predictable in attack. There is some truth to that and the Dutchman has failed to correct that even though there are some good options in the squad.

Kevin Mirallas has played on 28 minutes in the Premier League, while Ademola Lookman has only featured in one cameo appearance. These two players would offer pace and dynamism to the front-line. There may be doubts about their ability, but Everton would be less predictable with them in the side. Another option to add creativity and drive in the centre of the park would be Tom Davies.

The midfielder has started in only three of the Premier League matches as Koeman favoured a defensive shield of Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin. They are both very good players, but as a pairing, they are too defensive-minded and given the weaknesses of the Everton attack, it was a mistake to continue playing both.

Koeman’s mentality and the way he carried himself in the job didn’t help earn him more time at Goodison Park. There was always a feeling that he thought he was too big for the job as the following comments to Sport suggest:

“Look, in my life as a professional coach I have two dreams to fulfil. One, coach the selection of my country, Holland. I have been able to do so, but my obligation to Everton has prevented me.

“My other wish, my other dream, is to train one day at Barcelona. That’s the truth.”

These comments don’t sound like a manager that is committed and invested in his current position. During the summer, the rumours regarding Barcelona refused to go away, but the suggestions in Spain were that they were fuelled by the Dutchman’s camp rather than the Nou Camp. It is difficult to succeed in a job that you aren’t passionate about and Koeman’s self-belief that he was destined for greater things was another reason for his underperformance this season.

What is next for Everton?

At the time of writing, Sean Dyche leads the betting odds to be the next manager at Goodison Park. David Unsworth, David Moyes and Sam Allardyce feature in the top five alongside Carlo Ancelotti. Graeme Bailey reports that Everton are keen on landing a British boss to replace Koeman and the betting odds reflect that.

There is a huge appeal to going for Dyche as he continues to develop as a manager and has achieved wonders at Burnley with one of the smaller budgets in the Premier League. The lack of pace in the Everton squad wouldn’t be a huge issue for him as his Clarets squad doesn’t have a lot of it. He is very good at organising teams and getting the best from what he has at his disposal. As the Toffees are currently underachieving, he would be a good solution.

However, it remains to be seen whether he would be open to leaving Turf Moor right now. It would be a risk to move to Everton and that is true for any manager currently in a job. For this reason, Unsworth or Moyes on a short-term contract could be the best solution for the club. The current squad has enough talent to improve under new direction and it would give the board time to carry out an extensive search for a new manager.

The next few days will provide a lot of new information regarding what is next for Everton and it is a huge test of the board at Goodison Park. They must get this appointment right if they want to become real competition for the top six.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

FA Cup

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham – Lucas Moura shines despite disappointing day for Spurs

Jake Jackman




Tottenham are going to have to rely on a replay for the second successive round as they conceded a dramatic late equaliser to Rochdale. It was a reminder of the magic that the FA Cup still possesses and it will provide a useful cash injection for the League One club. Spurs opted to make several changes and rest key players, but they selected a team that should have progressed on the day.

Ian Henderson scored in the first-half to give Dale a first-half lead and it was deserved. Keith Hill’s team played good football and went toe-to-toe against their more illustrious opposition.

Lucas Moura and Harry Kane scored to put Tottenham into a 2-1 lead, but that wasn’t the end of the goal-scoring as Steve Davies scored to take the tie to a replay. Here are three talking points from Spotland:

Lucas Moura’s performance showed why Tottenham signed him

It was a signing that came out of left-field, as Tottenham prefer to do their transfer business in the summer. However, this opportunity was too good to turn down as they were given the chance to sign a proven Brazilian international. He had fallen on tough times at PSG and rarely featured this season, but he proved why the club signed him on Sunday.

The Brazilian wasn’t afraid of the fight and was up for the test offered by League One opposition. Every time he got on the ball, it looked like he could make something happen, as shown by his seven dribbles completed.

He had a touch of class that allowed him to stand out from the rest of the players on the pitch and if he can consistently perform at that level, he will turn out to be a great signing.

His movement was superb, as he regularly found pockets of space to exploit. Interestingly, he won five aerial duels and that shows that he has quickly adjusted to English football. It was Lucas that scored the equaliser mid-way through the second half with a confident finish. He will have played himself into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the coming weeks.

Rochdale impressed on their day in the spotlight

They were written off before a ball was kicked as they were facing one of the best teams in the country. Rochdale are currently rock-bottom of League One and 11 points from safety, albeit with four matches in hand. They laid a new pitch ahead of this match and the players adapted to it well, showing that they can play good football.

Callum Camps and Andrew Cannon impressed in the centre of the park, while their two wily experienced strikers got the goals. Ian Henderson was a tireless worker in the final third and put the Tottenham defenders under pressure.

He snatched at a couple of chances in the first-half, but he remained cool when another chance came his way and scored the opening goal.

It will be a tough ask for them to go to Wembley, but they can go there with no fear as they have nothing to lose. The tie will give them an injection of money that the club needs, especially if they are to suffer relegation this season.

Toby Alderweireld looks a long way from his best

The Tottenham defence didn’t look as assured as they usually do and both of their centre-backs struggled at times during the match.

Alderweireld was left out of the trip to Juventus and there were some supporters that questioned that decision. However, he looked short of match fitness against Rochdale and was arguably at fault for the late equaliser.

The Belgian international looked rusty and his decision making was not great. He picked up a yellow card for a rash tackle and that is one example of that. Juan Foyth played alongside Alderweireld and his inexperience showed when Rochdale did attack.

For Alderweireld, he wants to be back in the first-team and that is eventually where he will be, but he isn’t at the level required to be starting right now. Tottenham are fighting on multiple fronts and they can’t afford to have any players that aren’t at 100%. He is returning from a serious injury and he will need time to get back to his best.

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Roberto Firmino: His performances will shape the end to Liverpool’s season

Martyn Cooke



On Sunday afternoon at St Mary’s Stadium the returning Virgil Van Dijk took centre stage and assumed the role of pantomime villain for the day.

However, whilst much of the pre-game build up was centred on the former Southampton defender, who was making his first return to the club since signing for Liverpool in January, the post-match conversations were focused on the brilliance of the Dutchman’s attacking teammate.

Roberto Firmino is one of the most under-rated players in the Premier League and his performance last weekend reaffirmed that he is one of the most effective forward players in the top-flight of English football.

The Brazilian has rarely been the centre of attention since arriving at Anfield in the summer of 2015 for £29 million and the media have often overlooked his significant contributions on the pitch.

Roberto Firmino

At Liverpool he has been forced to be content playing in the shadow of Philippe Coutinho, prior to his move to Barcelona, and Mohamed Salah, who has been a revelation since joining the club in the summer.

But Firmino is now emerging as one of the most creative, innovative and exciting forwards in the Premier League and he is undoubtedly one of the most improved players of the season.

The 26-year-old is both a creator and a goal scorer, as Southampton discovered to their cost at the weekend, when he opened the scoring with a neat finish within the opening six minutes before providing the assist for Salah’s goal with an ingenious flick.

The goal was his 20th of the campaign, which was shortly followed by his 21st of the season against Porto in the Reds’ midweek Champions League fixture, and he is now only nine short of becoming the Premier League’s all-time highest Brazilian goal scorer.

Firmino is a unique mixture of technical brilliance, creativity, innovation and an intelligence that makes him unpredictable, difficult to mark and a constant threat, regardless of where he pops up on the pitch.

However, whilst his Brazilian flair may catch the eye it is his willingness to pressurise opponents and work hard off the ball that is genuinely impressive.

He is certainly a favourite of Jurgen Klopp, who admires his hard running, work rate and pressing that often sets the tone for the rest of the team.

The 26-year-old has still gone somewhat unnoticed this campaign despite his consistency and performances on the pitch and the fact that he has missed only one league game all season.

But that is set to change.

Firmino’s performances and form have proven that there is still a bright future at Anfield despite the departure of Coutinho in January.

Deployed as an unconventional number nine, the Brazilian is the centre of a dynamic attacking forward line that sees him flanked by Salah on one side and Sadio Mane on the other.

The trio possess the pace, intelligence and creativity to threaten any team in Europe, as demonstrated by the mid-week five-goal demolition of Porto in the Champions League, and central to their effectiveness is the link up play of Firmino.

Still only 26, the Brazilian is about to reach the peak of his prowess and his continued development under Klopp poses the exciting question of how much better the forward might become in the forthcoming two or three years.

He certainly possesses all of the characteristics to become a legend at the club, should he choose to remain at Anfield long term, and he now has the opportunity to step out of Coutinho’s shadow and enjoy the limelight for himself.

Liverpool supporters will be hoping that Firmino can maintain his current run of form over the coming months and his performances will shape the club’s season.

His creativity and knack for scoring goals will be an invaluable commodity as Klopp goes in search of a top four place and potential silverware.

Firmino my have been underrated in the past, but he is now taking centre stage as the focal point of Liverpool’s attack.

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Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United: Three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Manchester United overcame Huddersfield Town in their FA Cup 5th Round contest.

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

A brace from sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Huddersfield Town.

Lukaku opened his account in the third minute before netting his second of the evening shortly after the second-half resumption.

Victory was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. However, as the Terriers produced a spirited display after the early setback.

There was also controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

Juan Mata saw an effort ruled out for offside after a review, but confusion abounded about whether it had been the correct decision.

Here are three talking points from an eventful encounter, as United set up a last-eight tie with Brighton & Hove Albion…

Lukaku’s goals are a fillip for Jose Mourinho

The Belgian has come in for criticism from some quarters for his goal return since last summer’s big-money transfer from Everton.

While he may not have reached the levels of Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah, Lukaku has now scored 21 times in all competitions for United this season.

That tally was boosted by his double against Huddersfield, which showed off his best attributes.

Lukaku was too strong and clever for Huddersfield’s defence as he latched on to Mata’s through ball for the first, before putting the finishing touch to an Alexis Sanchez pass for his second.

The former Chelsea man’s performance will be the biggest plus for United boss Jose Mourinho, who is relying on him to spearhead the attack for the remainder of the campaign.

Lukaku is a confidence player, so this was a timely boost ahead of a crucial run of fixtures both domestically and in Europe.

VAR under the microscope yet again

The introduction of technology to any sport usually results in teething problems.

It is fair to say VAR has experienced more than its fair share in football this season.

Employed in some FA and League Cup matches, controversy has never been far away. This was again the case at Huddersfield.

Mata appeared to have doubled United’s lead just before half-time, but referee Kevin Friend waited for confirmation from VAR that he had been onside.

After about a minute, Friend disallowed the goal when it was judged that Mata had been fractionally offside as the ball was played.

Contention emerged when viewers saw the incident on TV, where the guidelines were clearly not straight.

In fact, they were embarrassingly wonky.

Further replays suggested – with parallel lines correctly in place – that Mata’s knee had indeed been offside, but it was a very close call and certainly not an obvious mistake by the referee’s assistant.

These technical hitches will need to be ironed out before VAR is brought in universally.

Huddersfield can be positive despite FA Cup exit

With their Premier League status hanging in the balance, it would have been understandable if Huddersfield manager David Wagner had seen this fixture as an unwanted distraction.

But there was absolutely no suggestion that they were trying not to win the match, or prepared to exit the competition without a fight.

The Terriers, who famously beat United at home in the Premier League last October, carried on from where they left off last weekend in the impressive 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Conceding so early to United had not been in the script, but the hosts regrouped quickly and caused their opponents plenty of problems.

Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was the quality of finishing.

Whereas the visitors scored with their only two shots on target, Huddersfield wasted numerous openings as they slipped to defeat.

Nevertheless, attention can be turned back to their bid for survival, without their confidence dented.

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