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Ronald Koeman’s calm authority bodes well for Everton future


After Roberto Martinez seduced Evertonians in the nascent stages of his managerial stint at the club, it’ll take a while before this chastened fanbase comes to fully commit to a new boss.

It’s why, despite a strong start to the season and a fine track record, plenty are reserving judgement on Ronald Koeman.

That’s understandable. The Toffees accrued seven points from a possible nine before the international break pierced the domestic calendar and already, some of the bad habits that were entrenched before Martinez was annexed are slowly being ironed out. Yet for all the encouraging signs, there’s a nagging reflex—don’t get carried away again.

Still, when stripping down Koeman’s start and examining it without the specter of Martinez looming, there’s plenty to suggest the Toffees’ relentless pursuit of the Dutchman will be vindicated.

The former Southampton man has spoken with a cathartic authority in the press. Koeman is blunt in his honest. If asked a question, he’ll give a sincere answer.

Martinez spoke in riddles at times and while his tendency to embellish matters was initially refreshing at Goodison Park, the balance became skewed. “I think you do not have a better English player,” he said of Tom Cleverley. “Technically, he is as good as you get.”

Koeman by contrast, plays questions with a straight bat. When he proclaimed Everton were just “70 per cent” fit in for their opening game against Tottenham Hotspur, they were. And when he shocked plenty by insisting he did not want to sign Joe Hart, he followed up on those words. It’s simple and after a couple of years of hyperbole, has laid the foundations for a trust among the fanbase.

It took the former Barcelona player just a couple of games to showcase his ruthlessness too, withdrawing James McCarthy after 38 minutes against West Brom with the side 1-0 down, thrusting Romelu Lukaku into the game and changing the shape. Everton went on to win 2-1.

Candor and cocksureness isn’t enough to become a successful Premier League manager, though, not to mention turn around a team like Everton, for whom issues were deep-rooted towards the final throes of the Martinez era.

Koeman and his staff have already made positive tweaks in critical areas. While not at full tilt in Week 1 against Spurs, the fitness work done with coach Jan Kluitenberg was evident in wins over rugged outfits West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City. The players have shown increased industry, robustness and look leaner. “I have lost six kilos,” said Kevin Mirallas recently.

Just as crucial, the defensive structure of the side has been much sturdier. Under pressure late on in all three of their games so far, the Toffees have been able to preserve a point or three. There’s no reluctance to clear the lines and a willingness to engage in physical battles.

That’s been assisted by the summer acquisitions. Maarten Stekelenburg has seen his stock fall dramatically since appearing in the 2010 World Cup final for the Netherlands, although has looked revitalized in the opening weeks of the season. Ashley Williams, meanwhile, is already attuned to the rigors of English football and is a commanding presence at the base of the team.

The player who epitomizes this steady initial transformation under Koeman perfectly is Idrissa “Gana” Gueye. The former Aston Villa man’s energy levels have added vital bite to the middle of the park, setting a blistering work-rate for others to follow. Additionally, his defensive instincts have alleviated some pressure off the back four.

SEE MORE: Schedule of Everton matches on US TV and streaming

The club’s Director of Football, Steve Walsh, must take credit for what look to be smart acquisitions in a summer of bombastic spending, although Koeman has done brilliantly to integrate the names aforementioned into a setup. Especially one that was as sturdy as a drunk on a unicycle under the previous regime.

There are areas where vast improvements are still needed. In attack, the Toffees haven’t fired quite yet, with some supporters yet to be convinced by £25 million man Yannick Bolasie. Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku haven’t found full throttle yet either.

Even so, it was always going to be vital for Koeman to embrace pragmatism over panache in the early weeks of his tenure. That’s an approach many anticipated would lead to a sluggish start from a team with a lot of lessons to learn. However, the Dutchman has guided his side through the first small segment of the season with minimal fuss.

With matches to come against Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Bournemouth, there’s a chance for this team to continue building momentum. Although there’s little doubt that Koeman, whose hardline approach has been much discussed, will not allow such complacencies to creep into his squad.

Many tied to the Goodison Park club have been left disappointed by the club’s inactivity in the transfer window despite promises of major investment this summer. And while Everton’s squad may not have been improved with a phalanx of illustrious names, they can at least console themselves with the fact they look to have appointed a fine manager in Koeman.

Although after the spectacular rise and fall of his predecessor, there aren’t many who’ll say so with full conviction for a long time yet.

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  1. Philip Jaipaul

    September 7, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Matt I enjoyed your analysis. Koeman’s hand would have strengthed if he could have nabbed one of Sissoko, Gabiadini, or Lucas Perez. Looks like Lukaku is finally coming to form after his brace of goals in the world cup qualifiers. In the remaining 4 matches this month I expect Everton to win against Sunderland, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and draw with Middlesborough. This would bring their tally to 17 points and number 2 on the points table. . Would you agree?The momentum of the first three matches should be carried into the next for matches

    • Matt Jones

      September 9, 2016 at 5:47 am

      Hey Philip,

      It’s tough to see them winning all four matches, although hopefully the team can build momentum and remain unbeaten. They certainly look a lot more cohesive under Koeman’s watch!

      Cheers for the comment!

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