By Lee Berrill
As I write this piece, the mighty blues have just thumped a very lackluster, Pep Guardiola led Manchester City team 4-0 at home, with the inspiration and confidence flowing through our new look, younger Everton side. It got me thinking about when I first started following Everton, which was the introduction to David Moyes in the 2001/2002 season, and how we were a cash strapped side with no real academy prospects coming through any time soon, bar a young Wayne Rooney ready to pounce the following season. This was partly down to the Walter Smith reign riding us down to the bare bones with some very questionable purchases. With Moshiri investing a vast amount of his wealth into the club, I think it’s safe to say that we are in for a very exciting time ahead.
Within this piece I will be taking a look into the starting 11’s of each manager’s first game and how they compare to each other, from Moyes, Martinez and Koeman. I will also be giving my projection of the 2017/2018 seasons team for the first fixture. Since we are anticipating an absolute overhaul within the foundations of the squad I felt it would be good to analyze the options of future incomings and also the star academy prospects we currently have.
Firstly let’s take a look at David Moyes first game in charge for The Blues. Given that the squad he had available to him was entirely handed over to him by Walter Smith, Moyes rang in the changes dropping Tobias Linderoth, Paul Gascoigne, Peter Clarke, Joe Max Moore and changing the formation from a 5-3-2. The blues got off to a flying start to change their fortunes and David Unsworth slotted home after 27 seconds. Big Dunc followed suit by hitting the back of the net after 13 minutes. Then unfortunately the great (nutter) Dane in midfield, Gravesen got a second yellow card after 28 minutes leaving us with only 10 men for 60 minutes of the match. Fulham pulled one back after half time and the blues pulled together to see out this valuable win. This formation and team got Moyes through to the end of the season, ensuring Everton stayed home and dry above the relegation zone.
After Moyes’ departure to Manchester United, in came a very shiny faced, younger replacement from Wigan Athletic in Roberto Martinez. The Spaniard had not managed to keep Wigan up as they were relegated three days after he managed to notch an FA Cup final 1-0 against Manchester City thanks to a Ben Watson header. Martinez had adopted a full squad from Moyes and had a full summer to get to work identifying the players that he needed to turn us into a winning side, playing an attacking, passing game that he thrived to perfect, but unfortunately, did not.
Roberto’s lead up to his first Premier League game of the season against Norwich seen him bring in former Wigan players Joel Robles (Atletico Madrid), Antolin Alcaraz, Arouna Kone and loanee Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona. These signings should have been a forewarning of the fate of Martinez as Kone and Alcaraz were largely disappointing. Martinez shipped the team off to a pre-season camp in Vienna to build up the team chemistry and to start introducing his passing style of play. In comparison to Moyes’ long ball tactics and in all fairness quite stale approach to the game, which always saw us falling at the final hurdles in games alongside cup competitions, the tika-taka passing game was quite exciting for us Evertonians, as we had never really seen this style of play from an Everton team in the preceding years.
Match day one came along as the blues headed to Norwich who had just gained promotion to the Premier League. Martinez opted for quite a strong 11 in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Fellaini being the anchor in midfield, leaving Osman and Ross Barkley to do the running game. A mundane first half came to an end with the score line goalless, with only Barkley looking like he would break the deadlock. The Blues started the second half on the back foot and Steven Whittaker managed to nod Norwich in front in the 51st minute. Everton hit back nine minutes later with a thunderous strike from Ross into the top right hand corner. The blues started to push on from there with Coleman putting us ahead Whilst Everton started to look a lot sharper, Norwich hit back only six minutes later with an equalizer from Ricky Van Wolfswinkel. The game ended in a draw but we could see the beginning of the ideologies that Martinez was trying to install into the squad.
After Martinez’s departure the club had their sights on one man, however it was not going to be an easy ride to get him to the club. Ronald Koeman was pried from the reluctant hands of Southampton after being told of the bigger picture by Farhad Moshiri, the money also probably helped make up his mind. After a pre-season in Germany Koeman established that a lot of the players in the squad were not up to scratch and even took a squad number off Oumar Niasse. He decided to strengthen the squad with the help of new director of football, Steve Walsh. Koeman brought in a new number one in Maarten Stekelenberg, Ashley Williams, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Yannick Bolasie, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and a few other promising youngsters.
Koeman took his time to experiment with the formation to see what he thinks is best and this has continued through the season as he has started to find out that he favors a 5-3-2 formation. In the first Premier League game he went with an attacking 4-2-3-1 which was similar to Martinez but stripped away the tika-taka football and replaced it with a more direct and attacking style. He ensured that the full backs bombed on to help the attack but also wanted them to get back to help out the defense. We started to see what Koeman wanted in the pre-season and it became a breath of fresh air as it give us a lot more stability at the back which we lost with Martinez, but also made us a threat up top with practiced set pieces and direct runs, again didn’t even exist with Martinez. Match Day 1 saw us at home to a very good Spurs team who ended last season with a title push. The blues started brightly with Ross Barkley scoring a 30 yard free kick in the 5th minute, which seemed to avoid everyone and eventually found its way into the back of the net. The blues looked lively in what was quite a good game and went in stronger at half time. The start of the second half saw Spurs start to turn on the works and eventually they found their equalizer on the 59th minute from Erik Lamela. Full time came and the blues seemed to leave happy knowing that we performed much better than under the Martinez era and excited at the season to come with a more direct approach.
Ronald Koeman 2017/2018 Predicted Starting 11 I feel that the best formation that Koeman has in his locker is the 5-3-2 (once favored by Walter Smith), with two wing backs bombing on for the attacking support alongside somebody up to work off and help Romelu Lukaku. A formation we have seen a few times from Koeman as he starts to stabilize the squad and really make it his own.
With the amount of investment the blues currently have I can see us bringing in a lot of great players that will cost quite a bit of money, but I honestly can’t see too much happening too soon. Ronald Koeman is a man who knows what he wants and he will certainly get his way in the transfer market with the help of Steve Walsh. I believe quite a few players will be shipped off in the summer. The likes of Arouna Kone, Oumar Niasse, Tom Cleverley, Luke Garbutt, Connor Mcaleny, Bryan Oviedo, Aaron Lennon, Aiden Mcgeady and Darron Gibson are definitely surplus to requirements, with Enner Valencia also returning to his parent club of West Ham. In terms of incomings we have just seen the introduction of Morgan Schneiderlin and Ademola Lookman. Two great signings, with Morgan going straight into the first 11 eventually and Lookman a great prospect for the future.
Let’s take a look at the starting 11.We desperately need a new keeper, Joel Robles is great and I personally like him, however he isn’t a number one for the future and neither is Stekelenberg. We need a strong keeper, Fraser Forster and Joe Hart seem to be available and I think they would be great in the Everton goal. Outside of the premier league there are quite a lot of good keepers like Bernd Leno from Bayern Leverkusen and Ralf Fährmann from Schalke, or why not go for the billionaire choice and get Gianluigi Donnarumma from AC Milan! My personal choice would be Joe Hart, but I could see us going for Forster instead.
Seamus Coleman will probably stay at Everton for the remainder of his contract. I personally believe he’s got two more good seasons in him and then I think it’s time for us to get somebody else in as Tyias Browning seems to be out of the pecking order. Maybe Pennington or Kenny could be placed there, but for now he remains at the right back position.
Mason Holgate has been ever present in the squad so far this season and he’s put in some absolutely great performances. He’s constantly performing at a 7/10 or more every game and that’s exactly what you want. I hope Koeman builds the defense around him. Ashley Williams has come into the side this season and after a dodgy start he’s starting to become the player we really need at the back. We have lacked a leader as of late with Jagielka looking set to leave either this window or in the summer and I think he’s really put in great performances. He will be the elder experienced CB in this team.
A new center back is a must for the blues, I can’t see Funes Mori staying at the club much longer as the bbqs in December and constant posting of River Plate on his social media indicate he’s missing home. He’s a good CB don’t get me wrong but often he’s quite dodgy on the ball and we need somebody else. The rumors of Virgil Van Dijk would see him to be a great addition to the squad and hopefully we can make that happen.
This will be Leighton Baines last season as a starting left back I think. My all-time favourite player is getting on now and I don’t think he’ll be able to get up and down the flanks like Koeman will want him too. I can see a left back being brought to the club in the summer as I think time is up for Brendan Galloway with a very unsuccessful loan at West Brom.
Gana Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin is a CM partnership I cannot wait to see patrol the middle of midfield and these will be definite starters next season, alongside the future of the club Tom Davies.
Ross Barkley will have a vital role next season and I think Koeman will push him up further afield where I believe is his best position as a CAM. Ross has all the ability in the world to lead the club to where Koeman wants us to be and I believe he will get the very best out of Ross. Romelu Lukaku will head the attacking line for us of course. All the talks of a new contract seem to have settled down, but I think Rom will be here next year with a very exciting time ahead for Everton it will be hard for him to leave. We can expect him to be here next season and hopefully he will lead us to those Champions League spots and give us a chance at the long awaited silverware.
Substitutions will come from Joel, a recovered Yannick Bolasie, James McCarthy who I think will stay with us, Ademola Lookman, Kevin Mirallas if he hasn’t gone anywhere else which is a big possibility, Gareth Barry who has just signed a contract extension and another new signing to make the seven.
I believe next season will be a great one for the blues as I think we have managed to get rid of this “plucky little Everton” label that was given to us since the David Moyes era. I believe Koeman will be the man to bring this club the success we crave and in all honesty deserve.