Where Do Everton Go After the Sacking of Ronald Koeman?
Eight points and a spot in the relegation zone is not where Everton expected to be after nine Premier League matches.
In the wake of a 5-2 defeat to Arsenal, manager Ronald Koeman has been fired and David Unsworth has stepped in as caretaker manager. The disastrous start came after a poor showing by Koeman and the recruiting staff during the summer transfer window -- most notably failing to land a striker to replace Romelu Lukaku. With about two-thirds of the season remaining, where does the coaching change leave Everton?
Regardless of if Unsworth gets the full-time position or someone else steps in, the team will still be without a replacement for Lukaku. Despite finishing seventh last season, the team had lost its way under Koeman, and not having a true number-nine on the field was a big part of that.
Before Lukaku moved onto Manchester United he tallied 25 goals in his last season with the Toffees. So far this season, only Wayne Rooney and Oumar Niasse have found the back of the net for a total of seven goals scored as a team.
The team has also conceded 18 goals and have the second-worst goal differential in the league. It is clear that not all the parts have gelled this season, but perhaps their age is showing, as well. Everton fielded one of the oldest starting lineups so far this season in their 4-0 defeat at the hands of United. Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka -- 33 and 35 years old, respectively -- started as part of a three-man back line against one of the best attacking clubs in the league.
There is a chance that the new manager could infuse some youngsters into the lineup. Unsworth had been the manager of one of the Everton youth squads, so he knows the players well. Matty Foulds could step into the back line at just 19 years old. Jonjoe Kenny has made four senior team appearances and hopes to find regular playing time at right back. David Henan and Beni Baningime were seen at the first senior team training session under Unsworth ahead of the midweek League Cup tie at Chelsea.
New players may infuse some energy, but Unsworth and the rest of the current managerial team must find a philosophy that fits the personnel to stem the tide until the January transfer window. Koeman was the latest in a string of Dutch managers who were sacked after seemingly holding onto a philosophy built at Ajax, where the game is played on the ground with a lot of movement. Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who both came to Everton this season, did not seem to fit with this model of play.
Whether it is Unsworth, who says he would love to take on the challenge, or another manager, they will need to make major adjustments. Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville have both expressed interest in taking over at Goodison Park. Mikel Arteta, a coach with Manchester City, has also been linked to the position. Arteta, a surprise name in the list of potential hires, played in the midfield at Everton.
Everton's top brass will want to move quickly with their managerial search. They must either back Unsworth or make it clear to him that he will be going back to the under-23 side once a permanent replacement is found. This is his second stint at caretaker manager. Rumor is that Unsworth will get four matches to earn his spot, but those reviewing his performance must be clear with him on his progress. It is time to send a clear message to Unsworth and the players regarding the direction the team is heading.
It cannot be a time of uncertainty at Everton. They must move forward -- from top to bottom -- and prescribe a footballing philosophy that works with the players currently on the roster. Once the January window opens, the recruiting team must go hard after a center/forward. Meanwhile, the focus will be on getting the club back to the middle of the table.