Everton made a great start to life under new boss Ronald Koeman, winning four out of five of their opening fixtures but since then the Blues have been on a rapid decline winning just one in their last eight games.
The consensus around Goodison Park is that change is needed; fans feel that the current crop of players are not good enough for owner Farhad Moshiri’s lofty ambitions and reinforcements will be needed to compete with the Premier League’s elite.
A bright start but very little since
Everton fans could be forgiven for getting ahead of themselves after their brilliant start, and many Everton supporters no doubt dreamt of their team defying all odds and doing a Leicester City. Alas it does not appear to be that kind of season with title favourites Manchester City and Chelsea making the running.
After the opening day fixture against Tottenham Hotspur, Ronald Koeman stated his team were “only at 70 per cent”, with the manner of the performance this left fans anxious for more. If the Blues could play a Spurs side who finished third last season off the park for the best part of 65 minutes what could they be capable of when they reach their maximum potential.
Following the 1-1 draw with Spurs, Everton recorded four consecutive Premier League wins; the 3-0 demolition of David Moyes’ Sunderland appeared to show Everton at 100 per cent. The Toffees dominated the game recording 63% possession with 20 shots, nine of which were on target. Since the win in the North-East, Everton have only recorded wins against newly promoted Middlesbrough and struggling West Ham, given the relatively kind fixture list it is easy to understand the fans frustration.
Formation, formation, formation!
It has been mentioned by supporters that Everton do not appear to have an identity under Ronald Koeman. The former Southampton boss has mentioned on multiple occasions that he likes his team to press high and show a lot of intensity, to be frank this has not been replicated on the pitch.
Of late the Everton players have demonstrated a lackadaisical attitude, the ball is not being moved with any real purpose and the lack of runs in behind is alarming. It is clear that Everton are far too easy to play against, the style of play is predictable. If a team decides to sit back against Everton and hit them on the counter attack, the Blues struggle.
This is not just an issue Ronald Koeman is having to deal as former boss Roberto Martinez faced the same problems and eventually paid the price for poor performances and results. One error Koeman is guilty of so far is that he has stuck with the same set-up/formation used by Martinez; he has failed to personalise and stamp his own authority on the squad.
The 4-2-3-1 has been ineffective for Everton since Roberto’s first season and Koeman needs to find a solution. Despite the mauling at Chelsea, the three at the back system can work well; Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines are attacking minded players who need to be allowed the license to go forward. With a three at the back there is extra support for Gareth Barry and Idrissa Gueye in the middle of the park, it gives the option to spread the play with wide players playing on the touchline and getting chalk on their boots.
In recent games, Lukaku has been isolated, which is supported by Everton having a pitiful one shot on target in the last two games. Lukaku is lucky if a player is within 15 yards of him, the players need to be getting closer to the big man to allow him to hold the ball and lay it off. Playing a 3-5-2 moves players 10-15 yards further up the pitch which would encourage Koeman’s pressing style.
Jags under fire
Everton captain Phil Jagielka has come under fire recently; fans feel the skipper has been far from convincing for a while and this season alone the England international has given away three penalties. The 34-year-old appears to have lost a yard of pace and is been beaten one on one far to easily. Since signing the defender from Sheffield United in 2007, he has been an ever-present figure at the heart of Everton’s defence, but fans are calling for this to change.
Argentine Ramiro Funes Mori can consider himself unlucky to not be starting for Everton, the defender earns regular caps for Argentina and there has been calls in his homeland to make him the captain. With a clear lack of heart on the pitch Ronald Koeman may just consider starting the spirited defender whose passion for the game is unquestionable.
Is youth the key?
Everton are renowned for producing young talent; players like Wayne Rooney, Jack Rodwell, Ross Barkley and Shkodran Mustafi have all come through the academy. Everton’s Under-23 side sit top of the table on 23 points with 11 games played, with the current first team underperforming Ronald Koeman may be tempted to turn to his young starlets to reignite Everton’s season.
Tom Davies featured regularly during pre-season and he has been named on the bench a couple of times this season, featuring as a substitute in the loss at Stamford Bridge. The midfield is composed on the ball and is forward thinking, with the lack of the creativity and drive in the side at present fans are calling for Koeman to roll the dice and turn to the academy graduates.
Mason Holgate is another name Everton fans are hoping to see on the team sheet, the 20-year-old signed from Barnsley has impressed fans with his assured performances and composure under pressure. Despite his age the defender can bring calm to a rocky Everton defence who have conceded seven in their last three games.
Martinez or Koeman?
Last season after 13 games Everton had a total of 20 points; this season the Blues have one less at 19. It is hard to compare the differences between Roberto Martinez’s tenure and Ronald Koeman’s. The Dutchman has only had five months in charge and does need time to build his own squad. Based on recent performances, it is safe to say the former Barcelona defender will not be impressed with some of his players and will look to add reinforcements at the earliest opportunity.
January transfer window
If Everton are to have any success the season you would think they would need to strengthen in January. There is a stale atmosphere around Goodison Park at the minute and fresh faces will help bring back the spark and desire that the fans so desperately want to see in their team. Over the course of the next two transfer windows, expect to see Ronald Koeman’s Everton beginning to take shape, with names such as Virgil Van Dijk, Memphis Depay, Fraser Forster and Morgan Schneiderlin all linked with a move to the Merseyside club.