Ronald Koeman has found himself under pressure (rightly so) eight games into a new season after disappointing results and below par performances. His perceived lack of integration within the wider club and not being an Everton man has meant that the calls for change started gathering pace after 4/5 games. At times his brutal honesty has been refreshing, it has also at times brought about more pressure on himself with his assessments after games this season.
Just over a year ago the decision was made that Ronald Koeman was the manager with the pedigree and experience to attract the level of player Everton would be able to acquire with new investment at board level. A whole new recruitment team was also setup under incoming Director of Football Steve Walsh as wholesale changes were made right across the football club. The way Koeman likes his teams to play with a mid to high press, crosses, aggression, and direct incisive passing fits the way Evertonians like to see their teams play. There has been little to none of this on show for the majority of the season, however are the players recruited capable of producing the level of performance to match last season as a bare minimum?
Everton Football Club cannot continue to consistently sell there best players to peers and expect to improve and compete with them simultaneously.
At some point the recruitment cycle will be broken of selling your best player to bring in 3/4 new players in the hope that one will develop and be sold in a few years to then fund another splurge of signings to improve overall quality and squad depth. In the space of 18 months Everton have sold (or in one case about to sell) some of the most promising young players in European football. Lukaku, Stones, Deulofeu and Ross Barkley. All of these players have flaws and can frustrate at times, however three are now playing and getting regular minutes at top teams who are potential Champions League contenders.
The squad is currently imbalanced, too many players who are unfortunately on the decline and are not able to consistently produce the level of performance from seasons gone by. Too many young players who are finding their way and don’t have the experience or at this moment in time the quality to make those vital key correct decisions during the game, they may deliver for us in the future but not right now. Gana and Schneiderlin were lauded last season as they put in some impressive performances and formed a balanced partnership in the midfield, due to the lack of options in front of them they are now being asked to do things they are not capable of, bringing the ball forward and making passes that break lines and create space for others which has lead to sideways and safe passing slowing the tempo of the the play right down. We have a chronic lack of pace and athleticism throughout a lot of the team and as a consequence are easy to defend against.
So how after all that money spent has it come to this? From the outside looking in there does not seem to be joined up thinking between the Manager and Director of Football. The players recruited do not seem to fit the managers style of play and are so far removed from the team that was assembled at Southampton for him. The failure to replace a 25 goal a season striker meant we would not be able to compete with the teams who finished above us but also a failure to bring in a left back and centre back as the manager requested have also hurt the team. Who is responsible for this? Why are we trying to strike a loan deal for Perez from Arsenal on deadline day? It smacks of a lack of forward planning and i do not lay the blame at the Managers door for this. The squad assembled is not fit for purpose and whoever stands on the touchline will have the same problems facing the current manager.
However no manager after a run of results like this is blameless and one aspect that has hampered the team is the inconsistency of selection and various formations. We have had 3-5-2, 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and have even had a swivel back four in the first half against Stoke this season. Multiple changes at half time to try and affect the game and breathe some life into lethargic performances. It has lead to an unsettled side and a manager almost trying to hard to salvage games. Sometimes the hardest thing to do as a Manager or Coach is to do nothing, trust in the selection, allow the team to build and create an understanding and trust in the tactics and pattern of play that served us well last season. That requires time and patience which after raised expectations from last season are a commodity in short supply. This a rebuild job that is not finished. So what are our other options? The bookies favourites reads like a who’s who of managers you wouldn’t want in charge of the football club. And i don’t believe that any of them would serve us better in the short or long term. Sean Dyche, Sam Allardyce, Chris Coleman, Eddie Howe, David Wagner, David Moyes. No thanks. Carlo Ancelotti? Without Paul Clement his training sessions suffered and his time may have come and gone as a Manager. David Unsworth could take temporary charge and possibly deliver a short term uplift in results but the same flaws in the playing personnel would surface. I also don’t believe he would be able to attract the level of player needed to push on. Ronald Koeman is our best option and during a sixteen year managerial career has a win ratio of 53.78%. This is a good manager. Sacking and changing manager’s every 12-18 months eventually leads to disaster for football clubs, Villa, Newcastle, Sunderland to name just three. The results are artificially improved but after a few months performance dips and the cycle starts again with a slow downward spiral.
Thursday nights game told us a lot in terms of the players feelings towards the manager. They ran from the first minute to the last. As a group of players they literally fought on the pitch for a result for him, the fans and themselves. I watched a team that lacked quality in certain areas of the pitch not one that wasn’t playing for their manager. Individual mistakes from younger players cost us the game. As a manager those kind of errors are completely out of your control and are part of the players development. The team looked balanced and his substitutions were positive and made at the right time. The same level of commitment, desire and fight could see us gain a vital win against an Arsenal side known for buckling under pressure away from home.
If the players are still willing to fight for the manager then i believe we should as well. This Everton team might not have the quality of those gone before it over the past ten years but it has possibly more potential, with promising young players coupled with more investment to come. When all’s said and done it is a results business and the time to deliver is now.