5 reasons Toffees can be Optimistic

With September just around the corner and the great success of all our Team GB athletes in Rio fresh in the memory. The dismal display from England’s early exit in the European Championships is well and truly in the past, but it can only mean one thing; The Premier League is back.

It’s been an interesting summer transfer window to say the least. Teams have strengthened better than others, whether that is in recruiting new management or securing the services of a big name player.

Although there is a certain element of déjà vu when it comes to the summer window. The endless list of luxurious players Arsenal are linked to. Mahrez, Vardy, Lacazette – I could go on and on.

Manchester City flexing their heavy weight powers with incredible spending powers. £49 million for a Centre Back. Was I watching the same John Stones as everybody else last season?

Sunderland acted with reactions that even Usain Bolt would have been proud of to appoint David Moyes. Once it became apparent that The GodFather himself ‘Big Sam’, had accepted The FA’s decision for him to become the new England manger. Good Luck Sam! As for Sunderland, trust in Moyes and you’ll still be a Premier League club come the end of May.

But there was one Premier League side in particular who in my eyes have not only strengthened wisely in recruiting players, but also by luring one of Europe’s most respected managers to their club. It is of course, the blue side of Merseyside; Everton Football Club.

It’s been twenty two (22) years since Everton FC last won a trophy. But with Ronald Koeman at the helm there is a sense of optimism floating around Goodison Park. Here’s why I think one of English football’s sleeping giants might wake up, and become a force to be reckoned with.

Ronald Koeman

As a Saints fan it pains me to heap praise onto the man, but it’s hard not to.

Very much like his own playing days, Koeman sets his sides out with a defensively minded approach with a splash of ‘Total Football’. Something he would have learnt from his time at Barcelona under the guidance of the late great Johan Cruyff.

Everton under Martinez last season had no structure, often finding themselves opened up with no sign of defensive responsibility. 18 points dropped from winning positions in the league, tells you all you need to know.

I sense that Martinez attempted to take his, attack minded free flowing style from his time at Wigan and apply it at Everton. Only problem is that, Everton weren’t a team fighting for Premier League survival. They needed to consolidate points rather than win at all costs approach. I also suspect that Everton’s squad weren’t physically fit enough for a Premier League season.

It’s not often a new manager in his first competitive post match interview, states that his players are only 70% physically fit instead of a full 100%. Especially when he’s had a full pre- season with the team. It would suggest that Koeman underestimated what condition the squad would return to pre-season in. Raising questions about what state they were in before they left for their break.
It would also suggest that Koeman plans to apply similar tactics to his time at Southampton. With a high work ethic during games, for pressing the opposition when defending or switching to a counter attacking threat.

The following stats would suggest that under Martinez, his players simply weren’t fit enough for the Premier League. Often getting caught out and, having to commit fouls to break up the play. Also if they weren’t fit enough this would suggest lapses in concentration; e.g. Amount of shots conceded.

A few statistics to that last point for you;

   Martinez Vs Koeman

List of Shots conceded (PL pos.)         18th          7th

Fouls committed                                     20th          7th

Interceptions                                           19th           6th

Koeman will certainly tighten things up defensively for Everton and in Idrissa Gueye, he may have found a key player. Gueye in his first competitive debut against Spurs on the opening day of the season proved why the Everton hierarchy triggered his release clause from Aston Villa earlier this month.

As always Gareth Barry will provide experience in abundance for the squad, but what will become of James McCarthy? It would appear he has slipped down the pecking order under Koeman already.

I don’t expect Koeman is completely satisfied with his squad quite yet and wouldn’t be surprised if they dived back into the transfer market before it slams shut.

Ross Barkley

IMO it’s a massive season ahead for Ross, once the bright future of English Football. The next Gazza they said. But with a poor campaign last season, and clearly not trusted by Roy in France this summer. Ross has some work to do.

We all know on his day, he’s got something special in the locker. But he needs to find it in the locker much more consistently.

Part of the downfall for Ross in my opinion, is that very much like Mata at United he doesn’t have a stand out position. Barkley has been played all across the park from one wing to the other and also as a supporting striker. He can’t master a position and make it his own, if he is always being moved around.

It will be interesting to see how the relationship between Koeman & Barkley goes. Koeman doesn’t tend to like his players to dribble with the ball. He’d rather they used it effectively and efficiently towards the opposition’s goal.

Will he allow Ross to do his own thing and just concentrate on what Ross does best? Will he try to mould Ross into a disciplined winger?
All to be decided.

For me, Ross is a player very much like Rooney was in his youth – You unleash him and let him create havoc.

Gone in Sixty Seconds

If Everton are to adopt an almost counter attacking style of football under Koeman, they have the right exponents in speed merchants such as Yannick Bolasie, Lennon & Mirallas to expose the opposition and also defend higher up the pitch.

If you look at the breakdown of Southampton’s goals during Koeman’s tenure it points to one thing, crossing. Saints fans will agree – a large proportion of our goals scored were from crossing positions.

Everton have the likes of Baines and Coleman attacking from both wings, both well capable of producing a moment of magic for the big man, Romelu Lukaku to attack.

I expect Lukaku to score a lot of goals this season as the main target man for Everton but they still need to bring in a support striker – Arouna Kone doesn’t look up to the job.

Joe Hart

Things are going from bad to worse for England’s No.1 at the moment. Unloved by Pep at City and told he can leave the club after 10 years of loyal service. It’s no secret that Everton haven’t found a long term replacement for Tim Howard, who left at the end of last season.

This is a glaring opportunity for Joe to prove Pep wrong. I hope he doesn’t become yet another mercenary happy to sit on the bench at City.

If Joe signs for Everton, he could provide real assurance and experience to the squad alongside his winning mentality.

Defensive Partnership

What a bargain! £12m for Ashley Williams! The Welsh leader was imperious this summer for Wales. It will remain one of the unanswered questions of the world for me. With all their defensive problems why didn’t Mr. Wenger sign him.

I’m guessing Williams & Jagielka will be the first choice pairing with all their PL experience. Ashley is a leader and won’t let being at a new club sherk him, he’ll get stuck right in and become a big player and character for Everton.

Everton conceded 55 goals last season in the league, I’ll put my neck on the line and say they won’t concede more than 40 goals this season. What a big difference defenders who want to defend make.

As always, Ta for reading.