Everton’s bubble has well and truly burst

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One thing that can’t be levelled at Everton’s owners is the lack of backing for their most recent managers.

Ronald Koeman’s reign may have been ill-fated, but he was given funds in the transfer market to secure his targets.

Ditto Marca Silva.

Richarlison (£35m), Yerry Mina (£27m), Lucas Digne (£18m) and loan fees totalling almost £10m for Kurt Zouma and Andre Gomes, bring the Toffees’ spend to somewhere in the region of £90m. Continue reading

Euro Fantasy League Podcast – Episode 3 – Managers and Contract Talks

The lads find out while recording that Ronald Koeman has been sacked as Everton manager. They discuss managerial casualties, Kevin de Bruyne’s influence and begin negotiations on Dave’s new contract.

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Koeman orchestrates a spell of steady progress for Everton

Euro 2016

A desire and drive to escape the mediocrity which defined their club’s last two seasons, inspired Everton’s owners to replace Roberto Martinez with Ronald Koeman in June.

Subsequently following Koeman’s appointment the 53-year-old Dutchman has overseen a spell of steady progress at Everton, as he aspires to orchestrate an improvement upon the two successive 11th place finishes that Martinez led the club to prior to his departure.

Although they were surprisingly eliminated from the League Cup, after a 2-0 home loss in the fourth round to Norwich, aside from a 1-0 away defeat against Bournemouth, Everton’s league form has been excellent under the guidance of Koeman.

Development of an efficient team by Koeman

The former Southampton manager has instilled a confidence and belief among his players, with that being abundantly evident in the overwhelming majority of their performances so far this season.

In addition to being assured defensively, with goalkeeper Marteen Stekelenburg confidently marshalling a well organised back four, Everton have attacked with enterprise and inventiveness, as Koeman continues to develop an extremely well balanced side.

Defensive solidarity represents a strong base for success

Whilst Phil Jagielka has formed a formidable central defensive partnership with Ashley Williams, continuing to perform well as they have done consistently throughout previous seasons are the full back duo of Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines, although the England internationalist is currently out injured.  Nevertheless Bryan Oviedo is currently proving to be a reliable deputy for Baines in the left back role.

Just as Everton’s defensive base if solid, the team’s back four is being well protected by the holding midfield duo of Gareth Barry and Idrissa Gueye.  The 27-year-old Senegalese internationalist was one of five summer signings made by Koeman, along with Stekelenburg, Ashley Williams, Yannick Bolasie and Enner Valencia.

Both Barry and Gueye exert a calming influence for Everton, as the pair have the ability to both pass with composure and tackle with authority in order to not only loyally shield their defence but also begin attacking phases of play, which have then been intelligently cultivated by a number of more offensively minded players.

Lukaku superbly spearheads Everton’s dynamic attack

At present Koeman has a wealth of attacking options from which to choose to play in his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.  Despite enduring a difficult start to the season, after scoring a hat-trick to inspire Everton to a 3-0 victory over Sunderland, Romelu Lukaku has brilliantly spearheaded Everton’s attack.

In Everton’s last five league games, Lukaku has scored six times, which represents all but two of the goals that his team have scored during that period.

As such of late the 23-year-old Belgian striker’s finishing has been superb, as Lukaku’s relationship with Everton’s attacking midfielders and wider players has prospered.  Ultimately Lukaku has been the beneficiary of some wonderful service, with competition to support the Chelsea player being fierce, given the wealth of talented midfielders and wingers which occupy Koeman’s squad.

Whilst Ross Barkley, Gerard Deulofeu and Kevin Mirallas are all excellent options available to Koeman to play as a central playmaker or support striker beind Lukaku, the trio are all proficient at drifting to fulfil wide midfield roles.  So too are Aaron Lennon and Yannick Bolasie, with the 27-year-old DR Congo internationalist having established himself as a regular in Koeman’s side.

Therefore a great depth of quality characterises Everton’s squad, with Koeman having shrewdly strengthened the group of players which he inherited from his predecessor Martinez.

Aspiration of continuous improvement for Koeman

In stark contrast to the manner in which their progress stagnated during the latter part of the Spaniard’s managerial reign, Koeman has engineered an improvement Everton’s fortunes to such an extent that they are currently 6th in the English Premier League, whilst possessing the potential to consolidate that position and challenge to qualify for a place in European competition next season.

That remains the case, despite Everton having failed to win any of their last three league games.  After suffering their first defeat of the league season to Bournemouth, Everton then earned successive 1-1 draws against Crystal Palace and Manchester City.

As such, of primary importance to Koeman is to guide his team to a return to winning ways in their next league fixture against Burnley, as the Dutchman aspire to ensure a continuation of the steady progress which he has overseen during his first four months as Everton manager.

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Lukaku spectacularly rediscovers goal scoring touch for Everton

Euro 2016

Prior to the hour mark of Everton’s 3-0 win over Sunderland, the Toffees striker Romelu Lukaku had not scored in 1,139 minutes for the club, with the 23-year-old’s last goal being against his former club Chelsea.

That was on 12 March in the F.A Cup quarter final, which Everton won 2-0.

Between then and the 60th minute of his team’s game against Sunderland, despite having 40 efforts, the 51-times capped Belgian internationalist was unable to add to an impressive haul of 61 goals for Everton.

Lukaku emphatically ends his goal drought

Although that represented a major source of frustration to Lukaku, he brilliantly ended his goal drought against Sunderland by scoring three second half goals in the space of just 11 minutes and 37 seconds.  In doing so, Lukaku registered the 12th quickest hat – trick in the history of the Premier League.

After having a header saved by Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, whilst missing another chance from just eight yards, Lukaku did not become disheartened and persisted to spearhead Everton’s attack.

Subsequently he was rewarded for that by capitalising on weak defending to score with a close range header.

The upsurge in Lukaku’s confidence which that moment created was clearly evident throughout the remainder of the game, as he then nodded home a fine Yannick Bolasie delivery, before completing as he latched onto a through ball from Kevin Mirallas to finish calmly past Pickford.

Thereafter as well as hitting the crossbar with a rising shot, Lukaku came close to scoring with a similar effort, as he threatened and was unfortunate not to, make Everton’s comfortable victory, even more convincing.

Performance of intelligence and power from Lukaku

In addition to scoring a hat-trick, Lukaku produced an extremely impressive all round performance, as he terrorised Sunderland’s central defensive duo of Papa Djilobodji and Lamine Kone, through a combination of making intelligent runs and using his immense physical strength.

Although the beneficiary of some lackadaisical Sunderland defending, Lukaku was also the recipient of some excellent service from Everton’s midfield, as the trio of Idrissa Gueye, Bolasie and Mirallas expertly assisted his goals.

Lukaku possesses potential to be influential for in form Everton

The clinical manner in which Lukaku took each of those goals defied his recent poor form and indicated that the powerful striker – who along with the quartet of Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney is one only other player to score 50 English Premier League goals before his 23rd birthday – is capable of scoring prolifically for Everton this season, which has started extremely well for Ronald Koeman’s side.

Specifically for only the second time – with the other being season 2006-2007 – in Premier League history, Everton have amassed 10 points from their first four league games and are joint second with Chelsea.  Furthermore after guiding his team to victory over Sunderland, Koeman is the first Everton manager since Thomas McIntosh in 1919 to win his first two competitive away games in charge of the club.

Therefore at present Everton’s prospects of enjoying a prosperous season are extremely good and have been greatly enhanced by their talisman Lukaku rediscovering his goal – scoring touch.

Koeman engineering an improved Everton

Euro 2016

Unbeaten in their first two English Premier League games of the 2016-2017 season under the guidance of Ronald Koeman, who has worked with patience and intelligence to bolster the club’s squad, Everton seem to be a much improved team from the one which Roberto Martinez led during the last two seasons.

Whilst each of those ended with Everton finishing 11th in the English Premier League, the Toffees are undoubtedly well prepared to perform better this campaign, given the depth and quality of their pool of players, who Koeman is engineering into an excellent team, as indicated by their fine early season form.

After producing an extremely strong home performance against Tottenham, whereby they played a controlled but high octane pressing game, to earn a 1-1 draw, Koeman’s side secured their first win of the season by recovering from a goal down to defeat West Brom 2-1 at the Hawthorns.

Influential in that fight back was Romelu Lukaku, as after being introduced by Koeman as a 38th minute substitute the 6ft 3in Belgium international added a powerful dimension to Everton’s attack, which was previously being contained with ease by West Brom.

Therefore taking into consideration Lukaku’s importance to Everton, Koeman’s revelation that the 23-year-old former Chelsea striker will remain with the club for at least one more season, as reported by the BBC, represents another positive for the Dutchman, in his efforts to develop an excellent side capable of re-establishing the club as a top six English Premier League team.

A major aspect of those efforts have involved Koeman signing several quality players in order to both strengthen the spine of Everton’s team and the club’s squad in general. As well as recruiting the goalkeeper Maarten Sketelenburg, centre-back Ashley Williams and Idrissa Gueye, who is a combative holding midfielder, Koeman has added the mercurially talented winger Yannick Bolasie to his squad, with the DR Congolese internationalist being signed from Crystal Palace for £25m.

As such by signing such quality players, Koeman has greatly enhanced Everton’s prospects of enjoying a successful 2016-2017 season, which they have begun in an extremely positive manner by accumulating four points from the opening two English Premier League games.

Ultimately much hard work lies ahead of Koeman and his players in order to ensure they remain a permanent feature in the upper echelons of this season’s English Premier League but they can without question be optimistic of achieving that.

Koeman continuing to operate efficiently in the transfer market

Euro 2016

Authoritative, calm and intelligent. A trio of qualities which were applicable to Ronald Koeman as a player and now characterise his managerial style.  The 53-year-old Dutchman arrived in English football midway through June 2014, when he was appointed manager of Southampton.

At that time Koeman faced a monumentally difficult task.

Superbly revamping of Southampton’s squad

In order to emulate the fine work undertaken by the club’s previous manager Mauricio Pochettino, the 53-year-old Dutchman would require to do so without several of the players who, under the guidance of his Argentine predecessor, had been instrumental in helping Southampton to achieve their highest ever Premier League points total of 56 during the 2013-2014 season.

Specifically Calum Chambers, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren and Luke Shaw were all sold. That required Koeman to engage in a substantial squad rebuilding process. Subsequently he undertook that process with the utmost efficiency. Not only was Koeman able to recruit a batch of extremely talented players but he did so for a significantly smaller amount of money than the £92.6m that the club earned from player sales during the summer of 2014.

By using his in-depth knowledge of the European game, Koeman brought in Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic, whilst also adding Ryan Bertrand, Fraser Forster & Shane Long to his squad, at an accumulative cost of £61.9m.

Each of those players would prove to be quality acquisitions, as they were all key members of Koeman’s side that finished the 2014-2015 English Premier League season in seventh place with 60 points, which eclipsed Southampton’s performance the previous year, when managed by Pochettino.

Engineering continuous improvement

Therefore a trend of continuous improvement had firmly been set at Southampton, which Koeman masterminded an extension of during last season, as he guided the club to a sixth place Premier League finish. They secured that by amassing a club record 63 points, which was attributable to a superb collective team effort, engineered by Koeman, who ensured that the departure of key players did not adversely impact upon Southampton’s fortunes.

Whilst Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderlein were sold to Liverpool and Manchester United respectively for a combined fee of £36.5m in the summer of 2015, Koeman reinvested £29.2m of that money wisely by signing Jordy Clasie, Oriol Romeu, Cedric Soares and Virgil Van Dijk, whilst the former Feyenoord manager also secured the services of Charlie Austin for £4m to strengthen his striking options.

Settling in for the 2016-2017 season at Everton

Ultimately Koeman’s diligent work in the transfer market was a vital aspect of his development of the highly talented Southampton side, which he left in order to join Everton in June.

Since taking over the managerial reigns at Goodison Park, Koeman meticulously endeavoured to prepare Everton for the 2016-2017 season, whilst being patient in terms of both, making any significant moves in the transfer market and reshaping the club’s squad.

At present that remains largely the same as last season, however Koeman has signed three new players, each of whom are set to help construct the spine of his team for the new season.

Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, centre back Ashley Williams and Idrissa Gueye, who is a defensive midfielder, represent excellent new additions to Everton’s squad, with the trio’s accumulative cost being £19.98m. That figure is dwarfed by the £47.6m, which the club received from Manchester City for John Stones, with Koeman set to be afforded more funds to sign new players by Everton’s owner Farhad Moshiri.

Subsequently Moshiri can make those funds available to Koeman safe in the knowledge that the former Feyenoord manager will use them shrewdly to recruit quality players capable of helping Everton re-establish themselves as a top 10 English Premier League team, after finishing the last two seasons in 11th.

A top 10 finish may represent the very least of Koeman’s ambitions for the new season, particularly if he is able to further strengthen his already strong squad prior to the close of the transfer window on 31 August.

Why Manchester City’s win against Southampton doesn’t tell the full story

Manuel-Pellegrini-700x325

Manchester City returned to winning ways this weekend with a 3-1 victory over Southampton, but the result masked a poor performance from the Sky Blues, and manager Manuel Pellegrini will be under no illusions that his side are still struggling of late. Coming off the back of two defeats and a draw from their last three games in all competitions, City weren’t in the best shape to face the Saints and it showed.

The hosts’ opening goal came from a mistake by Southampton’s Maya Yoshida who relinquished possession deep in his own half to City forward Raheem Sterling who squared for Kevin De Bruyne to score from close range. Manchester City’s second goal was a deflected effort from Fabian Delph that completely wrong-footed Maarten Stekelenburg between the sticks.

And after Southampton had halved the deficit through Shane Long, while dominating the second-half, they were hit with a sucker punch from Aleksandar Kolarov who somehow volleyed past four bodies to find the back of the net form an unfavourable angle. Manager Ronald Koeman will be disappointed with the manner of all three goals conceded, but will take the positives of the side’s second-half showing.

“It was a very hard start in the game. If you’re making those kind of mistakes against City you know you lose the game. The first 20 minutes was very poor. We made (City look) strong in the first part of the game because we lost so many balls in our building-up from back. You can’t win if you play at that level. We had a big chance for Dusan Tadic to score and make it 2-2 in the second-half, and these are the key moments to get something out of the game,” said the Saints boss.

Southampton should have found an equaliser before City regained their two-goal advantage with a penalty appeal turned down in the second-half, as well as a missed close range opportunity from Dusan Tadic. In the end, Saints paid the price for errors made in the first-half, but were somewhat unfortunate in the second. They gifted City goals, and failed to take the chances that came their way.

Nevertheless, for Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, he will be relieved to have come away with three points after a troublesome month. He was under no illusions, however, admitting that Southampton had City rattled after the break. He said: “We started very strong, especially in the first 25 minutes. I was very pleased with the team’s reaction. We were a little nervous until the third goal, but I’m happy with the performance and the result.”

Why Manchester City could come unstuck against Southampton in the Premier League this weekend

Manchester City winger Jesus Navas

Manchester City winger Jesus Navas

Manchester City welcome the visit of Southampton to the Etihad Stadium this weekend, but could well find themselves in trouble against the travel-happy Premier League side given the contrast in form of late. Manuel Pellegrini’s side were flying high in the top flight only a month ago, but now find themselves adrift of the summit following a spate of poor results.

The Sky Blues enjoyed five consecutive wins at the start of the campaign without conceding a single goal, but they have since won only three of their last eight in the Premier League. Ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Saints, City have won just once in four, and were most recently thrashed 4-1 at the Etihad to Liverpool. A bad time to face a Southampton side unbeaten on the road, perhaps. Saints’ in-form midfielder Steven Davis certainly thinks so.

“The demand from their fans is to win every game and (City are) coming off the back of a couple of bad results. They will be looking to put it right. It should be an entertaining game but we`ll need to be at our best to get something. I`m confident we can go there and do that. We know what to expect. It’s going to be a tough game,” said the Northern Ireland international.

“They`re full of quality but it`s a game for us to relish. You want to test yourself against the best and this is an opportunity to do that. We’ll have to not make any errors, but hopefully we can do that and take something from the game. We have got to get tight to them. We can’t give them space. We need to go there, be solid and build from a good base. Then we’re confident we can create chances against anyone.”

Southampton are one of two sides unbeaten on the road this season, and boast the best defensive record away from home too. Manchester City are coming off the back of poor form and will be missing a host influential players from the defence and midfield. Goalkeeper Joe Hart, defenders Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany, and playmaker David Silva have all been ruled out, which gives the Saints a great chance of an upset.

Manchester City have lost twice at the Etihad this season, and were comfortably beaten at home only a week ago, so can Ronald Koeman’s Southampton side inflict another defeat on the title-chasers?

Ronald Koeman: Premier League Manager of the Year?

Southampton finally ended their winless run in the Premier League with a win against Crystal Palace on Tuesday night that now sees them 5th in the table with 10 games to go. After such a disappointing run of games that threatened to end their hopes of a Champions League place, Ronald Koeman’s side look back on track for Europe.

The Premier League season is in the business end, and Southampton are surprisingly still in with a major shout of a shock top-four finish.  Should he achieve their unlikely objective, Koeman will surely find himself in the running to be the Premier League manager of the year.

Last season, it was Tony Pulis’ impressive antics for former side Crystal Palace that earned him the award for 2013/14, with Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers winning the LMA Manager of the Year. But Koeman certainly deserves to be among the nominations, as few people predicted such a successful season for Southampton after their busy summer.

Sales of so many top players in such a short space of time had the South Coast club being tipped for relegation before a ball was kicked, with the likes of Luke Shaw (Man Utd), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Calum Chambers (Arsenal), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool) Southampton players prior to their summer exoduses.

And despite having to build a new side in a matter of weeks, Southampton continued to push on from where they finish off last season. They surprised everybody with their results at the start of the campaign, winning four of their first six, but have proven they won’t fall by the wayside. Southampton have beaten Everton, Arsenal and Manchester United this season, and boast the best defensive record in the division.

Southampton have hit slumps in form over the course of this season, as Koeman’s men don’t boast strength in depth in attack, but they have always managed to turn things round when it mattered. Only Jose Mourinho (Chelsea) is ahead of Koeman with the bookmakers’ odds for who will be named LMA Manager of the Year, as the Chelsea boss is currently on course for a league and Capital One Cup double.

Getting a ravaged Southampton side into the top-four, ahead of either Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool or Tottenham is an incredible feat, and one that definitely should see the Saints coach in the running for personal honours.

So should Ronald Koeman be named Manager of the Year?