After a summer that promised so much, Everton’s start to the season has been abysmal.
With over £140 million spent on players, the Toffees haven’t found their feet yet this season, but why?
No Lukaku, no goals
Romelu Lukaku was the spearhead to everything Everton did last season.
His goals lifted Everton up the table and was the reason why a few pundits thought they could snatch a Champions League place. Now the Belgian has departed for pastures new, the goals have dried up for the Toffees.
Everton have only scored two goals in their first five games, both from Wayne Rooney. The likes of Brighton and Huddersfield have scored more, two teams that have no Premier League experience.
Along with Rooney, Everton also signed Sandro Ramirez from Malaga for a bargain price of £5 million.
Sandro was coming off a good season for Malaga, where he scored 14 goals in 28 games. Sandro also scored a couple of goals for Spain in the Euro U-21 Championships. Yet, he hasn’t hit the ground running, and there are a number of reasons for this.
First of all, he has no Premier League experience. I understand, there is a difference between La Liga and the Premier League, but look at the likes of Alvaro Morata. Morata has hit the ground running at Chelsea.
Obviously, Everton are not as good a team as Chelsea, but with the creativity that would be behind Sandro, you must think that he would score goals, which leads to the second issue.
The fact that Koeman starts Rooney ahead of Sandro. In my opinion, it’s absolutely baffling that Rooney is Everton’s starting striker!
Rooney is slower, weaker and less clinical than Sandro. Unless Sandro isn’t pulling his weight in training, then he should be starting ahead of Rooney, as he would add a new dimension to Everton’s playing style and would pose different questions to the opposition.
Behind Sandro, you have Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Sigurdsson knows how to score goals in the Premier League and knows how to set them up, but again hasn’t found any form.
The Icelander scored one incredibly lucky goal in the Europa League against Hajduk Split, and ever since, has been very quiet for Everton.
If players like Sandro and Sigurdsson don’t sharpen up for Everton, and Rooney keeps starting up front, I can’t see this bad run of form stop for Everton.
Too slow and too defensive
Another problem Everton have is that they are too defensive and too slow.
Let’s take the defensive issue first. The way Everton are set up is an attacking formation.
The wing-backs attack and join in the attack and the players behind the strikers can play through the middle, or provide extra width for the team.
Yet the personnel that Koeman uses are incredibly defensive. Out of Jagielka, Williams and Keane, you couldn’t say who’s the most attacking one out of the three.
When you look at Chelsea’s back three, you can easily say that David Luiz is the most attacking of the three, and if you look at the Tottenham back three, you say that Davinson Sanchez is the most attacking of the three.
It’s very important to have an attacking centre-back if you’re playing three centre-backs. The most important one being that it gives team flexibility.
If you’re playing an incredibly attacking team and you’re on the back foot, then those three centre-backs make it difficult for the attackers to get through and there aren’t many gaps for them to exploit.
On the other hand, if you’re playing a team that sits back and allows you to dictate the tempo of the game, you can push the attacking centre-back up the field.
Because of this, you can play a 4-3-3 formation, and this would also allow to be flexible with who plays behind the striker. Flexibility again makes the opposition ask questions and they could be easier to exploit.
Which leads to the second issue, pace.
There isn’t enough pace in the Everton squad. In the centre of midfield, Everton play two defensive players in Gueye and Schneiderlein.
Gueye is a very important cog in the Everton team and is a fantastic player to watch, and on his day, is as good as N’Golo Kante.
If Gueye is in the midfield, then you don’t really need Schneiderlein, as Gueye does the job better than the Frenchman.
Therefore, Koeman should introduce Klaassen into the midfield. Klaassen has been magnificent year after year for Ajax and will vastly improve Everton’s midfield.
Klaassen is faster than Schneiderlein and his first instinct is to get the ball forward and attack the back line, a bit like what Mikel Arteta did for Everton.
We’ve already discussed the lack of pace up top for Everton, and that Sandro should be playing ahead of him. Sigurdsson has to play because of his creativity, which frees up a third attacking position.
We’ve seen Tom Davies play against Manchester United, and sometimes they play Rooney and Klaassen in behind.
With Barkley seemingly ruled out of the squad indefinitely, Everton should be playing Kevin Mirallas in behind.
I know that Mirallas tried to push through a move to Olympiakos in the summer, but it didn’t go through, and now he seems to be rotting away in Everton’s reserves.
In a World Cup year, I find it unbelievable that Mirallas wouldn’t want to play wherever he is and try to break through into the Belgium team.
This role could be perfect for him. It would allow him to play in a sort of free role in behind the striker, which would be good for Mirallas. He can drift out wide and use his pace to hurt the defence, or he can play up the middle and dribble through the defence, or play it into Sigurdsson or Sandro.
If Koeman wants things to change at Goodison Park, he needs to add a bit more of a spark to the team.
A victim of media hype
One thing that might be hurting Everton is the fact that they have been hyped up so much by the media.
Many journalists have said that it would be an awful season for Everton if they don’t finish in the top 4, while Jose Mourinho said that Everton should be challenging for the title.
With the money that’s been spent at Goodison, I can understand why there’s a bit of pressure on them to perform, but saying that they should be challenging for the league is ridiculous!
I know it’s probably Mourinho playing mind games, but you’ve got to think that these sorts of comments are getting to the players, and it’s showing in recent games.
Against their European challengers in Tottenham and Manchester United, the team was shambolic. There was no passion, no energy and everything was incredibly lethargic.
If this carries on, then the media merry-go-round won’t stop turning, and there will be more and more pressure, and it will inevitably end up in Koeman getting the sack.
What’s going wrong for Everton? Well, pretty much everything.
The transfers haven’t proven their worth, their tactics are wrong, the team selection is wrong and it will all be blamed on one man: Ronald Koeman.
The Dutchman will be scrutinised heavily over the next 5 games at least, and if he doesn’t pick up at least 10 points out of the possible 15, it will all turn very sour at a once formidable Goodison Park.
Written by Sion Misra
Follow Sion on Twitter @sionmisra
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