By Ell Bretland
Ronald Koeman has made mistakes this season.
Yes, the club’s failure to land a centre forward has hindered his plans somewhat, but he is currently making a hash of the quality available to him.
A targetman was a priority signing that failed to materialise but Koeman’s insistance on implimenting a system for a player that does not exist in his Everton starting XI is going to severly harm our top four chances as early as September.
Against Tottenham we set up perfectly to utilise a big, strong centre forward to hold the ball up and get the best out of our other attacking players.
Plenty of balls were put into the box during a bright opening twenty minutes and Everton could have conceivably led 2-0 as a traditional No 9 would have gobbled the chances up.
An Olivier Giroud, the man we missed out on, would have had his head on the balls played in by Gylfi Sigurdsson and Cuco Martina with ease and at least tested Hugo Lloris in the Spurs goal.
The problem was, Giroud remains at Arsenal and the nearest player we do have to carrying out the role of centre forward was on the bench.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has led the line admirably and is fully capable, helping the ball stick in vital attacking areas as we battled to a 1-1 draw against Manchester City.
However, Koeman then benched him for the trip to Chelsea and visit of Spurs. It’s no surprise we were hammered in both matches. We were devoid of ideas and hapless in the final third. The area was a no-go zone.
Calvert-Lewin is young, raw and still learning the game. That is why Koeman has been hesitant to throw him in one would assume. However, he MUST start; probably every Premier League fixture until we can fix the situation in January.
No focal point means no cohesion, no balance and no possibility of goals, let alone Premier League points.
We have been setting up for an invisible centre foward and are obviously failing to find the net. The lack of efforts on goal are a concern but not at all surprising.
It hurts us offensively but also defensively – losing the ball as soon as we go into the opposition half and therefore facing wave after wave of attacks. With no outlet, it’s relentless.
The 38,000 inside Goodison on Saturday could see this. They could see what was wrong. However, the man with the stellar career, being paid big money to improve us, did not.
Koeman must wake up to the very obvious flaws which have hurt us already this season.
If he fails to change things, we will spend the entire campaign looking up, miles off where we want to be.
The Dutchman is a good manager, he cleared up the mess left by Roberto Martinez while it can be argued he has ultimately been letdown by the board in each transfer window since his arrival – we have made giant strides but missed important pieces of the jigsaw each time.
Koeman can take us forward.
However, at the moment, he’s making glaring mistakes and that is the worry. He recognises them and makes the relevant changes but it is often too late and, with each error, the doubt has grown.
The results have been poor in the last two games but it is the performances which have set the alarm bells ringing for many Blues. We have been abysmal, mainly down to how we have set up.
The main issue is the forward line as mentioned. There is a gaping chasm in the opposition area.
Against Tottenham, Koeman deployed Sandro Ramirez up top. The ball was lumped forward for him to win headers. He did not. He failed to hold it up and was always on the front foot when we need someone to play with his back to goal.
This is not Sandro’s fault. It simply isn’t his game. It is the fault of the manager for picking him there in that system. It didn’t work and never will. Sandro needs someone to run off – someone like Calvert-Lewin. It’s back to that man again.
Without him, the ball just doesn’t stick in the final third and we are wasting the incredible midfield and attacking talent we signed this summer.
Davy Klaassen, Wayne Rooney, Sandro and Sigurdsson need someone in front of them to really hurt the opposition. They are all quality signings but their talents are restricted without the targetman needed to play them in from an advanced position, to lay it off so they can gain ground or strike from distance.
Failure to sign a quality centre forward or play the impressive Calvert-Lewin after what was a seismic summer is liking having a gun with no ammunition. We can’t hurt teams and look toothless.
Calvert-Lewin is still some way off being a top Premier League marksman but was cheered loudly as he warmed up by the Gwladys Street on Saturday, such is his importance to this team. He is the only one with the attributes needed to lead the line in the way we obviously want to play this season.
It was worrying Koeman felt Sandro, still acclimatising to English football and regaining fitness, was best suited to carry out the role of lone frontman ahead of DCL. This was one of a number of mistakes made by Koeman in the early stages of this campaign.
Deploying the former Sheffield United man as a right-wing back on the opening day was another, very obvious, error. He changed it, and things got better. He got lucky against Stoke. He has not had the same success since and we have struggled.
He does see things, Koeman, but often way too late.
Take last season, Tom Davies was fully deserving of a place but failed to properly feature until December on the back of an awful run of form for the team. It was no coincidence results picked up with him playing regularly but the dropped points before then saw us finish 7th. What could have been perhaps with swifter action taken?
Koeman perhaps doesn’t fully trust young players for a long time, proved this term by his failure to play JonJoe Kenny at right back in the absence of Seamus Coleman. Another huge mistake.
Kenny can defend. However, the man currently picked ahead of him cannot. Cuco Martina goes awol and turns his back on the ball. Kenny is positionally sound. Martina is not. Kenny can tackle. Martina cannot.
It is a glaring weakness but Koeman seems a million miles away from addressing it.
Too often, Tottenham’s left-side had too much space and too much time and they punished us. Manchester United will do exactly the same if Martina is selected to start again.
Another weak link who Koeman is sticking with is Ashley Williams.
A good signing on paper has proved not so. The Wales captain has looked a liability all season but was still picked ahead of Phil Jagielka who appears much more solid.
Williams is slow, cumbersome and continually allows players in behind. He was bullied against Tottenham and has seemingly lost the quality he showed at Swansea.
Despite this, he is still selected. Williams shouldn’t be near the XI with the form he is in.
The caveat, of course, is that Koeman watches these players closely everyday in training. However, what is seen on the pitch on matchday paints the real picture.
As well, we need width and pace so Ademola Lookman has to be more involved. Kevin Mirallas, while lacking in consistency, will be needed, as will Nikola Vlasic and Aaron Lennon.
Koeman’s current team selections are far too narrow and too one-paced. He needs to be more flexible and mix things up.
Also, he seems to be in awe of the top six and looks to negate their strenghts rather than focusing on our own. We can beat anybody but won’t if we fail to use our qualities.
After missing out on one of his top target this summer, he will have to give up on playing his way until the transfer window re-opens.
The problems and shortcomings are there for all to see. It’s as clear as day. It’s upto Koeman to see them too and fix things, sharpish, starting at Old Trafford.
If he continues to miss the problems which are right under his nose, the worry will grow and talk of ‘crisis’ will soon surface. Saturday’s display really was that bad.