Life under Ronald Koeman has been mostly positive so far for Everton.
The Dutchman’s reign began affirmative, with him being behind the club’s best start since 1987. 13 points from a possible 15 in the league, with a 4-0 EFL Cup second round win thrown in, secured this achievement, with his side conceding just three in that time – a marked improvement on last season under Roberto Martinez.
However, since then, The Toffees’ form has been a little rocky. Two straight losses; 2-0 at home to Norwich in the third round of the EFL Cup and a 1-0 away loss to Bournemouth, before a disappointing 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace turned Everton’s strong start on its head.at
October began, which again, provided up and down success. The month began with a tough away game with Manchester City, which Koeman’s side came away unscathed from drawing 1-1, before returning a week later to lose away to Burnley. They did, however, end the month with a 2-0 home win against West Ham.
Here’s where it began to get sour. After a good home win, Everton began the month with a humiliating 5-0 loss away at Stamford Bridge. Albeit Chelsea performed superbly on the day, and look very good in the 3-4-3 formation, the way Everton lost was unacceptable.
With a fairly similar squad this season to what we saw under Martinez, some players, inevitably, have come under some scrutiny. Some more than others.
While you shouldn’t get carried away with one loss, it did deliver some realities as to where Everton are at in this current time.
This is the squad which was lauded as ‘the best for 30 years’, it’s now described as a squad full of ‘overrated players who aren’t fit for the shirt’. The reality is, there’s a mixture of both. The inclusion of Tom Cleverley on Saturday tells you all you need to know. Admittedly, Idrissa Gueye was suspended, but the gulf in class to his replacement was is huge. And I think that’s how it is across the squad for Everton.
But, it’ll take time.
The spine of Koeman’s side is a way off where it needs to be if he wants European football, and he knows it. Maarten Stekelenburg signed in the summer, as a backup we presumed, but has begun the season as the No.1. He’s started well, pulling off some incredible saves, two penalty stops vs Man City away, but his form was always going to drop. He’s unreliable and just not good enough – Fulham and Southampton fans will tell you that.
The addition of Ashley Williams was very much welcome at Goodison Park and has shown some solid displays since, but it’s his partner which has been the problem. Predominantly we see Phil Jagielka next to him, who’s on a horrible run of form. Is it bad form or a permanent decline? That, we’ll have a clearer idea on in the next few months, but the skipper isn’t getting any younger at 34 and injuries do continue to creep up.
The central pair of Gareth Barry and Idrissa Gueye has fared pretty well so far, and Saturday shows how important it is for them both to be in the lineup. However, Barry, 36 in February, is undoubtedly going to need rests, are Tom Cleverley or James McCarthy good enough to step in? I’m not so sure.
Perhaps the most disappointing area of the summer transfer window, the club failed to bring in a backup/ partner for Romelu Lukaku. Of course, we know Lukaku is good enough, but there’s not much behind him. Arouna Kone scored just five goals in 25 league games last season, including a hat-trick against Sunderland and Oumar Niasse. The less said about him, the better.
Koeman did manage to bring in a striker in Enner Valencia, however underwhelming it is. But like Kone, he’s not near good enough to come in, he doesn’t guarantee you goals like Lukaku. It could be worrying times if the Belgian is to pick up an injury. God forbid.
Koeman will be looking for a big reaction against Swansea.
If Everton don’t get back to winning ways over the next couple of games, it’s worth remembering Koeman has had just one transfer window, and it’s pretty clear a lot of these players won’t be here in two years. But as a whole, things are on the up.
Farhad Moshiri, just yesterday, spoke well in a revealing interview with talkSPORT. He explained the debts have been cleared and the ‘hard bit’ has been done for a new stadium, ‘we’re free to do what we want’.
Also, contrary to what some thought, the club did match the asking fees for duo Kalidou Koulibaly and Manolo Gabbiadini, but Napoli then decided against the sales. Arsenal swooping Lucas Perez away from Everton was also true, he confirmed.
There’s a big excitement around Everton football club. The money is there, no doubt. A new stadium is coming and the club is going in the right direction. There’s a big project underway, but it’ll take time.
There’s a long road ahead…
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