Ronald Koeman needs to steer Everton back on course after a creating a crisis of his own making
When Everton supporters strolled out of Goodison Park after their side had defeated Stoke City by a solitary goal on the opening day of the season, courtesy of a returning Wayne Rooney who had scored on his second debut for the club, everything probably seemed well in the world.
What a difference a couple of months can make.
The Toffees are in the midst of a mini-crisis, struggling to find any semblance of form as they lumber under the increased expectations that a summer of heavy investment has generated.
Ronald Koeman’s side have picked up just eight points from their opening eight fixtures in the Premier League and are flirting around the edge of the relegation zone whilst they have got off to an unconvincing start in their Europa League group.
Even at this early stage in the season, there are some genuine concerns regarding the team’s start to the campaign which has prompted a detailed critique of their Dutch manager.
The summer saw Everton spend almost £160 million on new players as Koeman undertook the task of remoulding the Toffees’ first team squad into one that could provide a serious challenge to the so-called ‘big six’.
Eight prominent players arrived at Goodison Park during the close-season, including Wayne Rooney, Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford and Gylfi Sigurdsson, as the Farhad Moshiri era moved into top gear.
For the most part, the money appeared to have been spent wisely and there was a sense of genuine excitement and optimism around the club. However, the biggest investment in Everton’s history has yet to yield any positive outcomes so far.
Moshiri has publicly stated that Koeman retains his “full, total support”, but the fact that the majority shareholder chose to make such a statement in the first place suggests that not all is well in the corridors of power at Goodison Park.
And neither should they be.
Koeman will undoubtedly be given time to correct the crisis that is very much of his own making, but the 54-year-old will need to utilise all of his managerial experience and nous in order to steer the Everton ship back on course.
The team have consistently produced slow, laboured and lethargic performances so far this campaign that have given supporters little hope of being entertained or witnessing a positive result.
Koeman’s team selections have been confusing, especially his unwillingness to deploy natural wide players that possess the pace and trickery to brighten up the Everton forward line, and his insistence on shoehorning Gylfi Sigurdsson into the starting eleven as a left winger is bamboozling.
The Icelandic international needs to play in a central position or just off the striker in order to maximise his potential.
It was always going to take time for the Everton squad to gel, especially given the large number of new arrivals that filled the home dressing room at Goodison Park during the summer, but Koeman appears to be trying to fit all of these new recruits into the starting eleven rather than into a system that suits the team.
He needs to pick a side that is balanced rather than the best eleven individuals at his disposal.
The most glaring issue that the Dutchman failed to tackle during pre-season was the sale of Romelu Lukaku. The Belgium striker was always destined to depart for a Champions League club and Everton’s reliance on him for goals over the previous two seasons should have highlighted that a suitable replacement was a priority.
Sandro Ramirez and Wayne Rooney were both purchased but neither possess the power and physique to act as a figurehead of The Toffee’s attack in the same way the Lukaku did. Everton’s failure to replace the Belgium has left Koeman without a suitable replacement for the club’s most prolific marksman.
In short, there is plenty of work to be done at Goodison Park.
Koeman will be given time to turn things around and you would imagine that he would be successful in doing so. However, that will come as little comfort to those Everton supporters who expected so much more following a summer of investment.