The mood is sombre on the Blue half of Merseyside following Everton’s 5-0 humbling by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge over the weekend. For Ronald Koeman’s resurgent Toffees, it was a brutal exposure of their underlying faults, and already it has sparked talk over what the Dutchman can do to bolster his squad come January.
The Mirror already looks to have identified one potential addition, the reckoning there is that Everton are one of several clubs tracking Dynamo Kiev’s £12million-rated striker Lukasz Teodorczyk.
The 25-year-old is a capped Polish international, currently away from the Ukrainian capital on loan at Belgian club Anderlecht, where he has hit the ground running with 14 goals in this season’s Belgian Pro League.
The report suggests Everton are keeping a beady eye on the forward’s progress, along with a host of other Premier League clubs, thought to include the likes of Stoke, Sunderland, West Brom and West Ham.
Anderlecht do have a first option on the forward though with the opportunity to make the loan spell a permanent one. There are other clubs from around Europe’s top divisions who have the Pole in their sights however including Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Bayer Leverkusen and rather surprisingly, Aston Villa. So Everton wouldn’t be short of competition if they were to try to win the race for the Kiev man.
Elsewhere, the post-mortem has already gotten into full swing regarding Everton’s shortcomings at Stamford Bridge in their five-goal defeat in West London, and not even the manager himself has evaded criticism after a scathing report was released by outlet Football365, who honed in on the Dutchman’s tactics. It suggests that the logic behind Koeman’s set-up was of course valid, but that he should have recognised that he does not have the personnel necessary to implement such a system.
The report reads:
“You can see the logic in replicating Chelsea’s formation in an attempt to stop them playing, but players are far more important than systems. The defensive effectiveness of Chelsea’s 3-4-3 relies on proficient full-backs, central midfielders with high stamina and central defenders comfortable with roaming out of defence to pick up an opposition No. 10”.
“For Koeman to consider his side capable of doing the same was optimism bordering on naivety. Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka are both used to playing as central defenders in a back four and stayed centrally, leaving Eden Hazard with plenty of room for manoeuvre. Ramiro Funes Mori, clearly tasked with the job of moving out of defence to close down the ball, could not be a worse fit for the role. Daniel Passarella this week backed Funes Mori to be the next Argentina captain as he was a natural leader. El Gran Capitán cannot have watched his man play at club level recently”.
It wasn’t just the inclusion of a defensive back three that they ran the rule over either, with the midfield set-up also coming under close scrutiny, albeit in the enforced absence of Idrissa Gueye, who has been a revelation at Goodison Park since his move from Aston Villa and was missing through suspension:
“In midfield too, Everton were overrun by their shape. It allowed Ross Barkley to stay forward as he did so successfully against West Ham, but asked Gareth Barry to do an awful lot of work in centre midfield for a man aged 35. It was akin to asking an old lady to hold up the bed while you retrieved something that had rolled underneath”.
“Koeman must take his share of the blame for heavy defeat. Why pick a formation when you don’t have the personnel to make it effective?”
The inquest was also followed up by Liverpool Echo journalist Phil Kirkbride, who rather than focus on Koeman’s starting tactics, singled-out the players themselves for their inability to play the football Koeman desires. Kirkbride writes:
“Antonio Conte was bang on the money when he pinpointed Everton’s downfall to the moment they decided to create ‘man-to-man situations’ – because this was men versus boys. This was fast versus slow. Strong versus weak and the right attitude versus the wrong one”.
“Chelsea are a very good team and made a statement of intent by going top of the league with this merciless slaying but they didn’t just expose the gulf in class and quality – they exposed the chasm that exists in the fundamentals”.
Ronald Koeman spoke in his post-match press conference about how his team were taught a “big footballing lesson” by Conte’s Chelsea at the Bridge, but it has left many wondering as to whether or not with nearly a third of the season gone, the current Everton squad can ever learn to play his way. Kirkbride says:
“Eleven games into the new Premier League season and the Everton boss, win, lose or draw, is still having to use phrases like ‘aggression’, ‘winning second balls’, ‘run’, ‘work’ and ‘mentality’.
“It set the alarm bells ringing when he spoke about one of the differences at Stamford Bridge being “hunger” and it’s clear that Everton need to rediscover old fashioned English football values to be able to compete at the top of the English game again.”
What is obvious, and what sometimes lacked under Roberto Martinez last season, is that Everton are currently good enough to see off the majority of sides which occupy the bottom half of the Premier League table, and on their day, even some of those in the top ten, but an obvious issue is that unless they pull off something as momentous as the Manchester City draw, from which they were indebted to a stunning solo performance from their goalkeeper, they risk being overwhelmed.
“You either approach the Premier League like Manchester City and Arsenal, and try and pass your way to the top, or you do what Chelsea are doing, what Spurs do and what Leicester City did last season”, writes Kirkbride.
“Koeman wants that”.
“He wants to build a team of athletes, big, strong powerful players who, if absolutely nothing else and on afternoons when they are up against it or having off days, will battle, scrap, run and work to make life as hard as possible for the opposition”.
“It’s telling that other than Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and, in patches, Phil Jagielka, the players who have made the biggest impact this season for Everton have been the ones he’s signed.
“Look at Chelsea, though. Conte only named three new players (one was David Luiz) in Saturday’s starting line-up and so he has been able to reinvigorate a talented, but underachieving, squad and take them to the top of the table.
“Nobody was expecting Koeman to do that but what is shows is that many of the players Conte inherited have been able to learn and adapt to a new way of playing”.
What worries Kirkbride however is the possibility that Koeman is ‘wasting time’ with many of these Everton players. Although of course such a defeat was unexpected and unprecedented, the weaknesses in this Everton side have been clear to him for some time, and a sense has developed that he is doing all he can until January to remedy them. Until then however, when he can set about making a serious difference, his hands are of course tied.
In the grand scheme of things it is only three points that the Toffees lost out on, but as Kirkbride says, “when you get hammered 5-0 and don’t lay a glove on the opposition, it cannot be chalked up as a ‘bad day at the office’.”
The same group of players will be made to go out against Swansea City after the international break and react to the defeat, and prove to their boss that lessons have indeed been learnt from this last loss. But for some, Kirkbride’s reckoning is that it may only be a “stay of execution” and inevitably, Koeman will have to separate the men from the boys at Goodison Park if he is to propel the Toffees to their former glories.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Serg Hoholok.