How does Everton's start to the 2016/17 campaign compare to last season?
2016/17 was something of a write off for Everton. The initial optimism that had accompanied Roberto Martinez’s first season in 2013/14 had waned the following season and disappeared all together last time out, with Ronald Koeman taking up the reigns to try and get the Toffees’ talented squad back on top.
Despite finishing a disappointing 11th last campaign, Everton actually started the season in fairly similar fashion to this season’s blistering form. Under Martinez, they secured three wins, three draws and a single defeat in their opening seven matches, two points less than Koeman, who has overseen four wins in Everton’s first seven games.
Last season’s early defeat came at home to Manchester City, as Everton drew with Watford, Spurs and an in form Swansea side. They also managed to secure impressive victories over West Brom, champions Chelsea and Ronald Koeman’s Southampton side in a 3-0 thrashing at St. Mary’s.
This season has seen the Toffees’ climb as high as second place in the league, after following an opening day draw with Tottenham with four straight victories. Defeat to Bournemouth and a draw with Crystal Palace has checked their progress slightly, but they still sit fifth, the same position as this stage last season, but two points better off.
Crucially, although the results are similar, Everton’s prospects for the rest of the season are much brighter under their new Dutch manager than they were under Martinez. For a start, the squad has significantly improved. Yannick Bolasie has added serious threat with his pace, Ashley Williams is a strong central defender and Idrissa Gana Gueye has been outstanding in his defensive midfield role.
Martinez’s gung-ho tactics have also been dispensed with and replaced with the more pragmatic Koeman. Although there is not a massive discrepancy in the stats, with Everton scoring 11 goals in their first seven games both last season and this, they have conceded two less this campaign (five compared to seven) and look to have found a happier balance between defence and attack.
Too often last season did Martinez fail to strike the correct equality between defensive and attacking play, either leaving Everton open at the back or stifling their attack, leading to a rather large number of draws. The addition of Gueye, as well as the return to form of Gareth Barry, has given the Toffees more protection and allowed them to attack the opposition with more security that they will not leave the back door wide open.
In conclusion, Everton’s start to this season may not be that different to last on paper, but everywhere else they look like a massively impressive outfit who could challenge for the European places again. Last season’s decent start was essentially the last period of good form they had under Martinez; under Koeman, this is just the beginning.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Serg Hoholok
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