Ronald Koeman Is Doing Big Things at Everton
Ronald Koeman's arrival at Goodison Park this offseason was a bit of a shock.
Southampton were consistently fighting for Europa League qualification, while Roberto Martinez had flamed out so intensely with the Toffees that it almost felt like they needed a full rebuild. But as it turns out, Everton was one of the smoothest transitions Koeman could have made in his career.
When one thinks about the Southampton attack under Koeman, you think of dynamic attacking midfielders and wingers like Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic providing constant service to Graziano Pelle, who scored 23 goals in two seasons and offered a balanced mix of lethal headers and powerful finishing.
At Everton, Koeman basically walks into a similar position, but with equal or better talent at each attacking position. Let's take a look.
Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Gerard Deulofeu, Aaron Lennon and the newly acquired Yannick Bolasie are all options with varying skill sets, giving Koeman versatility depending on how they need to get the ball to the cornerstone of the attack, which is striker Romelu Lukaku.
Here's a look at Lukaku and Pelle's past two seasons in the Premier League. Note that these are just the age-21 and age-22 campaigns for Lukaku, while Pelle was 29 and 30.
|League Goals||League Assists||League Appearances||Minutes per Goal|
The Belgian forward recently recorded an 11-minute hat trick to secure a win against Sunderland, and the Toffees now find themselves third in the table with a red-hot striker.
Without Lukaku early in the year due to an injury, Everton did well to recover two victories and a hard-earned draw (against Tottenham), but getting Lukaku in gear obviously makes them a much better side.
The service Lukaku received against Sunderland is a prime example of what the reenergized Toffees can do. And while the attack has been encouraging, the central midfield and defense have been just as encouraging.
At Southampton, Koeman had players like Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin to provide balance in the center of the pitch. Wanyama worked furiously to win the ball, and Schneiderlin looked to play in the attackers from deep or to be the metronome in possession, playing smart passes and keeping the pressure on.
Gareth Barry, at 35, has played exceptionally well to start the season, and with the unbelievable engine and work rate of new signing Idrissa Gueye, Everton have a good mix of experience and intensity in the center of the pitch, similar to Southampton's setup under Koeman. Barry won't be a staple in every game due to his age, but as long as Gueye continues to dominate the pace of the game, Tom Cleverly, James McCarthy or a deeper Barkley will suffice.
In defense, Everton have been stunning. There have been points over the past few years where Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman were in good form, but they've looked exponentially stronger under Koeman. With two experienced and proven central defenders in Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams and a solid third in Ramiro Funes Mori, Everton's defense has been exceptional in the early season.
While Southampton can boast a solid starting back four of Cedric Soares, Virgil Van Dijk, Jose Fonte and Ryan Bertrand, the Saints' defense hasn't been nearly as good as Everton's early on.
|Goals Allowed||Total Shots on Target||Clean Sheets|
Indeed, goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg hasn't had too much to do, but he has been up to par when tested. We often see players and teams go through a run of form with a new manager, but Koeman has Everton playing at another level in comparison to Martinez' final season.
Koeman finds himself at a club that has Champions League aspirations, even if they are still a distance away from getting to that point. Southampton was a great fit due to his ability to play a uniform style that competes against the top clubs while performing against smaller ones. Now, not only does Koeman boast the quality of players to get similar results, but he also the potential financial backing to make a legitimate push forward.
Everton, as a club, deserve credit, as well. Keeping the stars like Lukaku and Barkley while adding in players like Williams and Bolasie was a statement of intent -- as well as some impressive business. But Koeman may wind up being their biggest signing.
There have been ups and downs in the club's recent history, but the Toffees now find themselves in a very promising position with a proven manager, top quality players and significant financial backing.