Ronald Koeman and Everton Are Showing Signs of Promise Early
Everton's time under Roberto Martinez ended after a sour run of form in the second half of the 2015-16 season, leading the Toffees to finishing 12th in the Premier League.
Despite reaching the semifinals of both domestic cups, Everton realized that progress was stagnant, if not regressing, which was unacceptable considering the quality of talent the squad had.
With the arrival of Ronald Koeman, Goodison Park can feel like they're taking steps forward again. They've moved on from some of the old mainstays, sold John Stones for a solid £47.5 million, and are bringing in EPL talent and experience through the likes of Maarten Stekelenburg, Yannick Bolasie, Ashley Williams, and Idrissa Gueye.
And there's fair reason to think they still have money to spend after Stones' sale. Considering they were able to draw with Tottenham on opening weekend, Everton may replace Koeman's former team, Southampton, as a top challenger for the Europa League spots.
Everton is doing a good job of trying to make Koeman feel welcome -- and for good reason. When Koeman's team is firing, as we've seen with the Saints the past couple seasons, they can hang with almost anyone in the Premier League. But perhaps more importantly, Koeman isn't afraid to go for wins.
Martinez' win percentage at Everton ended at 42.7 percent. Through three years, that's definitely impressive. However, if you look at the past two years, the same amount of time Koeman has spent at Southampton, Martinez' win percentage is a meager 30.2 percent, while Koeman was able to win 47.3 percent of the time.
Koeman has most of the pieces to improve on Everton's 11th place finish last season, but the one thing that evades him currently is a top quality holding midfielder. They've been linked with various names for a bunch of different positions, but the major glaring weakness in Everton's armor is at the center of the pitch.
Koeman is walking into a squad tailored for another manager, but there are similar pieces to what he excelled with at Southampton. Romelu Lukaku is the prototypical big striker, but has way more talent than the Saints' Graziano Pelle. The same goes for the attacking midfield, which now features Bolasie, Ross Barkley, and Gerard Deulofeu.
The Dutch manager has always put an emphasis on goals while maintaining a solid defense. He puts more emphasis on consistency rather than talent, and while Williams isn't the spry and promising John Stones, he's been one of the most consistent over the past couple years, seen in the stats from Squawka.com below. Not to mention, he has been an established leader for club and country, and stability and on-field direction is something Everton could use.
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The Toffees may be waiting to see how Koeman's season continues. With an important match against a very beatable West Brom in Matchweek 2, Koeman may need to add a notch or two to the win column for Everton's powers-that-be to shell out the transfer funds.
It seems as if Everton has finally acquired a manager who better fits the club that reached new heights under David Moyes and then Martinez. Everton's leaders and fans now expect top-half finishes, and Martinez' mid-table mediocrity got him fired. The same will go for Koeman.
It's a proper challenge for a manager who's been in control of some of the top clubs in other divisions. Southampton had a great setup -- but not the size to keep Koeman. With Koeman, Everton has a manager who can get the most out of his talent and get results against the Premier League table, top to bottom.