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.