Lets talk about...Everton.
It’s been a tough few years to be a blue. Two eleventh place finishes, a manager with a penchant for using the term “phenomenal” to describe a few passes moving forward and the sight of supposedly good players appearing to play like a bunch of kids.
Now, Ronald Koeman has quite a job on his hands. He has inherited a team that has felt collectively lost for a while. He has players who are now on the wrong side of thirty with serious question marks as to whether they are still good enough to propel Everton beyond mid table; think Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Gareth Barry. He has players who, despite a big build up, are still yet to prove that those gushing about their incredible potential, are anything more than flashes in the pan; think Ross Barkley, John Stones and even Romelu Lukaku. There are a few whispers that Lukaku might only be a slightly better version of Yakubu. A player who can prod, poke and bum goals in from anywhere but who offers little else. Lukaku also proved in both the Carling Cup semi-finals, FA Cup semi-finals and Euro 2016 quarter final that he can’t necessarily be relied upon when the heat is turned up. He seems to have a knack for going hiding. His goal scoring record saves him from a lot scrutiny. Mourinho obviously figured that out at Chelsea. If he heads off to PSG, they might have a rude awakening.
As for Barkley, the last year or so has been a rather worrying time. He “looks” good; nice touches, short and sharp forward bursts and the strength to hold off opponents. However, there is still a certain degree of uncertainty as to whether he can pick and play killer passes on a regular basis, whether he has the skill or positional sense to play in a number 10 role or the tactical nouse to play in a deeper role either. Being a scouser and British can make up for a lot at a club like Everton. If Barkley can’t convince he has that X factor, Koeman has the money to replace him with players of premium quality, which would be a real shame. Every Everton fan is desperate for Ross Barkley to be the Steven Gerrard of Gladys Street, but perhaps this is wishful thinking.
If Barkley can’t convince he has that X factor, Koeman has the money to replace him with players of premium quality, which would be a real shame.
John Stones will leave, probably to Manchester City. One of two things will happen there. He will turn into Rio Ferdinand or he will continue to be John Stones. If It is the former, he will learn how to actually defend. He will learn how to position himself properly, when and where to play passes and most importantly, he will begin to understand that he isn’t yet Paulo Maldini and probably never will be. If it is the latter, he will continue to believe his own hype and stroll around the pitch, nonchalantly pointing fingers at his more experienced counterparts whilst forgetting what he is supposed to be doing, namely, earning a living as a central defender in the Premier League. His occasional (and magnificent) stampedes forward and occasional (and magnificent) 40 yard cross field balls will continue to raise eyebrows, but only occasionally. In between, a serious amount of goals will be conceded. Of course, at City, as with most English players, his undoubted weaknesses will be less visible whilst hidden behind the wall of Vincent Kompany and a team that won’t do much defending anyway.
I can’t finish my rant about potentially overrated players without finishing on James McCarthy, one of the players who for all his amazing work ethic, likeable humility and dogs of war attitude, might not be a top 4, let alone top 6, player. He has been shown to be a little one dimensional, but has spent much of the last two years covering for a player with the turning circle of a London bus alongside him, Gareth Barry, who incidentally, will sit pretty on the hefty 70,000 a week three year deal that Roberto Martinez awarded the 35-year-old two years ago.
It might be that Mo Besic gets a more prominent role this season, if he can stay clear of injury, having already proven in his fleeting appearances that he has much to offer. Another player whom Koeman and Everton fans will be looking forward to seeing play is Gerard Deulofeu. Used sparingly at times by Martinez, for no easily identifiable reason, it will be interesting to see if Koeman plays him every game for the full 90. Deulofeu could be a star of 2016/17 in the premier league with the right man management.
He has to replace a goalkeeper. Tim Howard, such a solid and dependable keeper for the best part of ten years, who has faded badly in recent times and has now left the club. There were whispers of Kasper Schiechel. Whoever it is, needs to be good.
Above all else, he has to find an approach to playing that works for the players, the club and the fans. Little triangles of one touch pitter patter passes coupled with a paper thin resilience were the by-products of Roberto Martinez's tactical and managerial approach. He allowed Kevin Mirralas to stand around with his hands on his hips when he got frustrated. Training sessions were littered with players falling about laughing and looking as though they had been smoking pot, despite the club meandering along into aimless mediocrity. So, Koeman might try to return Everton to the foundation that David Moyes set down before moving on; work hard, defend well and see what happens. This would certainly be a good place to start and might ensure a few more victories at Goodison Park.
Training sessions were littered with players falling about laughing and looking as though they had been smoking pot, despite the club meandering along into aimless mediocrity.
In terms of signings, it will be intriguing to see who he looks for. We are desperate for an effective number 10. Someone will the attacking ingenuity to unlock a defence. Juan Mata was mentioned and at January, the Ukranian Andriy Yarmolenko was also cited. Someone in their ilk would be a key part of any Everton resurgence under Koeman. The defence needs serious work. With Stones probable departure, Coleman, Jagielka and Baines don’t inspire confidence defensively. Last seasons goals against column can not just be attributed to Martinez. Brendan Galloway and Tyias Browning look like mean defenders. Perhaps Koeman will feel that one or both can be given a more prominent role. If not, he will need to look at bringing in real defenders. Someone in the Jagielka mould. The problem is, there aren’t many around. Nevertheless, Leicester proved that they are out there, with Huth and Morgan the archetype example of what can be achieved with some defensive nous.
In my view, there is a lot of dead wood that should be moved on. Most notably; Arouna Kone, Darren Gibson and Aidan Mgeady.
Interesting times ahead, lets hope for a good start in August. COYB.