Different isn’t necessarily good, and good isn’t necessarily different. But in the case of Ronald Koeman, he’s different from the last guy. Or, for his own sake, as well as ours, he’d better be. There are thought to be a hundred million reasons why Farhad Moshiri better have it right when he believes the Dutchman to be good.
When a manager leaves, it’s common for directors to seek someone who can improve on a previous managers perceived weaknesses. When Moyes left, Martinez was thought of as an openly ambitious, enthusiastic, attacking manager- a breath of fresh air after Moyes’ steady, middling style of management. Now for Koeman, how different is he?
It’s just over three years since the bright-eyed Catalan was thrust into the national spotlight as he was unveiled as the new manager of nine time league champions Everton.
The sweat-shine that day was a physical manifestation of the nerves within. That’s not to sneer a natural reaction- it was completely understandable. “Roberto, almost his first words to me were: ‘I’ll get you in the champions league’” probably shouldn’t have been uttered that day- and that wasn’t his fault, but the perma-smile Martinez struggled to contain barely changed as those words were delivered to the gathered press. Martinez was, as you would, doing everything to keep his new boss happy. He didn’t show what a sense of discomfort that someone else had written his headlines for him, he didn’t try to play it down in any way. Martinez was doing everything he could to fit in, and who could blame him? Three years later, and Koeman? Almost every indication to this point would suggest he is Everton manager in all but the pdf version of his CV. Compensation between the clubs is boxed off, personal terms agreed, but no press conference, no announcement. The hold up? It looks as though the only reason Koeman hasn’t signed his contract and been officially announced is because he’d paid off his £250 deposit for his week at a Sandals resort in Barbados, and he was intent on going. Who can blame him? A man who has one foot in the door of the biggest promotion of his managerial career, is keeping the other propped against the bar rail in Barbados. Everyone else can wait for Ronald. He’s on his own time. It could be the disastrous sandals and socks combination on one foot for all I care- just as long as the foot keeping the door ajar isn’t dressed in a brown shoe. He’s different, alright. And he’d better be.
Somewhere in Barbados, a sunburnt, ruddy faced Ronald Koeman is slugging his umpteenth Corona, floating along in the adult pool atop a blow-up alligator, humming along to the sounds of Bob Marley wafting over him. Maybe. He only marches to the beat of his own drum. Just as he did as a player. Cool and confident, he has an obvious belief in himself that only a lifetime of winning could give you. Or so I’d imagine, anyway.
“You can talk long about who deserved to win, who played the football, who played the offensive football, which team did the pressing” Said Koeman after Southampton undeservedly lost 2-1 to Manchester United in 2014, “but everything is shit because we lost”- is pretty different from the quotes that irked so many of us under Martinez when he spoke about performances being more important than results. Martinez’s quotes were always well intentioned: you could even make a case for saying you can sort of understand the point he’s trying to make there, but his quotes all too often boiled down to a load of arl bollocks dressed in spin, didn’t they? Not with Koeman, he’s different.
“When we are winning in a game, we keep a good organisation. I think the most important thing is that we develop ourselves in a very good way about our ball possession. That’s very important, that you don’t make stupid mistakes and you keep organisation. I think this is the biggest qualities of our team”- guess which of the two managers this wasn’t said by? Discipline is a big theme of Koeman’s style- both tactically, and away from the pitch, too. Saido Mané was reportedly dropped on a couple of occasions for being late to team meetings, and mobile phones are banned in the dressing room under Koeman. Jan Kluitenberg will join Koeman in the move north, his trusted fitness ‘guru’, who, like Koeman, is thought to be a strict disciplinarian- he will seek to address the injury record that has plagued L4 for so long. If one player being out injured for one week accounted for one point, we’d have accumulated the second most points in the league last season: 248. Southampton? 11th with 165. We can only hope that our treatment room will be different.
None of this is to say Koeman will be our saviour- in fact, lots of stats about our performance and Southampton’s last season are actually startlingly similar, but the important thing is how those numbers were accumulated. While we scored the same number of goals (59), Southampton conceded just 41 to our 55, but Southampton only lost by 2 or more on 4 occasions in the league last season- we lost by two or more six times. Southampton’s heaviest league defeat came, would you believe it, against us: a 3-0 loss, we lost by 3 twice, and we won’t mention our 4-0 defeat. See, while plenty of numbers (some being quite boring: I’ll spare you) are similar, the fact Southampton won 7 games by a margin of 1, compared with just 3 for ourselves, is evidence of a pragmatic approach by Koeman- you’d struggle to imagine him bringing this fella on, when up by two, and down to ten men, for instance…
Which should see us collect more points. Because, the absolute opposite of what Martinez publicly declared is true: nothing but results matter. We all want to win with style, but above all- we want to win. Southampton won 18 games last season to our 11. We took the lead 23 times last season- Southampton the same, but we conceded 12 equalizers (only one side in the league conceding more), Southampton? 5. Fewer than any other side in the league. That’s the difference between finishing 11th, and finishing 6th. Or one of them, anyway.
Koeman has excited our fans, understandably so, after a couple of disappointing years. Only time will tell whether he’s the right man for us, and there are question marks against him- as there is with just about any manager. That being said, if Koeman can continue to win games as he has at Southampton over the last couple of years (or even improve on it)- winning 47.78% of his league games with the Saints, that’s a rate that- caretaker managers not included- can only be bettered by two Everton managers: Howard Kendall during his first spell at the club between 1981 and 1987, who won 54.13% of league games, and Dick Molyneux (50.26% between 1889 and 1901).
Nothing really matters except winning. Clearly, Koeman is different, let’s hope he’s as good as our major shareholder believes.
For more questionable logic, you can find me here: https://twitter.com/EvertonMusings