Where did it go wrong for Ronald Koeman at Everton?
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 transfermarkt.co.uk. 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.