What Will Ronald Koeman Bring to Everton in His First Year With the Toffees?
Though making it into a European position this year seems to be a tall ask of Ronald Koeman and his Everton side due to the ferocious competition that now exists in the Premier League, several different aspects of Koeman’s coaching style are bound to have a positive effect at Goodison Park as he looks to restore Everton to ambitious, winning ways.
Let's look at what Koeman, in his first year at the club after a very successful campaign with Southampton, can bring to Everton.
Koeman was fortunate enough last year at Southampton to have the excellent center back pairing of Virgil Van Dijk and Jose Fonte, and while he faces defensive uncertainty as Manchester City continue their pursuit of current Everton defender John Stones, Koeman is bound to help clean up an Everton defense that was too soft last year.
On its way to a disappointing 11th-place finish last season, Everton was 15th in the Premier League in goals conceded with 55 while also allowing 14.6 shots per game. Everton didn't receive much help from their goalkeepers as Tim Howard and Joel Robles split time in net and posted poor ratings of 6.78 and 6.66, respectively, per WhoScored.com.
Koeman will likely look to the influential captain Phil Jagielka to reassert his authority over the backline and instill some positional discipline. With Jagielka in the game, Everton conceded 1.2 goals per match, and without him, they conceded 1.76. At that rate, Everton would have conceded only 45.6 goals, a 21.6% reduction, if Jagielka were fit the entire season.
While at Southampton, Koeman commanded a side that pressed diligently and with discipline when off the ball, not losing their shape and staying unexposed. One of Everton’s huge issues last term was that players would wander out of position while pressing, constantly leaving huge areas exposed on the pitch. Defensive compactness is something that will certainly need to be improved upon as preparations begin for the upcoming season.
Additionally, Koeman will implement his attacking style by deploying one of the game's best dual wing-back attacking threats in the form of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman.
Baines was out roughly half of last year with injury, but Coleman experienced a surprising regression, which Koeman will look to revive. After posting a solid 7.18 WhoScored rating in the 2014-15 campaign, Coleman finished last year with a 6.90 rating, his worst since the 2011-12 season.
Fountain of Youth
Southampton were well known for their incredible youth academy long before Koeman arrived, but the club's young players flourished under him all the same. As someone familiar with La Masia, Ajax and the Southampton youth academy -- three famous breeding grounds for some of the game's top talent -- Koeman has vast experience in the development of young talent.
That will come in handy with Everton.
The Toffees have a number of exciting prospects -- namely Ross Barkley, Brendan Galloway and Stones -- who have shown they can play at a high level.
Barkley, still just 22 and the scorer of that sweet goal above, netted 8 goals and dished out 8 assists last year on his way to a 7.31 WhoScored rating. Stones put up a 6.85 rating a year ago while Galloway had a 6.89 rating in limited action.
While former Everton boss Roberto Martinez helped these youngsters get their careers off to a good start, Koeman may be the man to help them reach new levels.
Koeman has already made it a priority to turn Barkley into one of the Premier League's elite box-to-box players and has so far snubbed Manchester City's attempts to lure the uber-talented Stones away from Goodison Park. If Koeman can harness Everton's young talent just like he's done at multiple other clubs, Everton could flirt with a European spot this season.
A Perfect Fit
Perhaps the largest criticism which Everton supporters levied against Martinez was that he was all too dogged in that he constantly stuck to an attack-minded style which was, at times, highly exciting but more often than not, sloppy, unorganized and frustratingly ineffective.
Though Koeman certainly knows how to inspire attractive, attacking football in his teams, he also knows when it is necessary to sit back and apply a more of a handbrake to his side's playing.
Overall, Koeman is planning on bringing a pragmatic, yet also ambitious game plan to Goodison Park. Getting Koeman to leave Southampton, when the Saints have finished in the top eight for three straight years and in front of the Toffees in each of the last two seasons, was quite a coup for Everton.
Koeman's managerial success, specifically his development of young talent, could make him the perfect fit for this club. It'll be tough with all of the talent -- on the pitch and on the touchline -- in the Premier League this season, but Koeman may be able to challenge for a spot in Europe in his first year with Everton.