All of the regular EAW contributors have come together to give their thoughts on how the summer went for the Blues. Here’s some of your favourite amateur football writers giving their view on Everton’s staff changes, transfer dealings, and how they think the Blues will go on to do this season.
Big Ronny Koeman has been the biggest signing of the summer for us and has made a solid and effective start to life at Everton. He replaced Bobby Brown Shoes, and whilst I’m not sure I should admit this – I was a Martinez fan (still am, he’s just a bloody nice fella!). But as the season went on, even I recognised that a change was needed. Koeman was the best possible option and we got him which was major.
Out of our new signings, like you all, I LOVE Idrissa Gueye. Simple, effective, tireless and intelligent. We’ve always appreciated a midfield player who offers that. A perfect compliment to Gareth Barry and something we’ve missed.
The biggest signing for me was Ashley Williams. We really needed another experienced leader who brought quality. When the Welsh captain is alongside an in-form Jags, we have a formidable centre back partnership that will be tough to break down – exactly what we needed from last year.
Bolasie & Valencia still have something to prove for me, but it’s early days.
At best I think we can get top 5, but it is going to be very difficult. At this moment in time I expect us to finish top 8 – anything more is a bonus.
I keep saying the same thing every year – we need a trophy and a good cup run is obviously our best chance at it. We’re going to break our League Cup duck this year – why not go a bit mental and predict that!
FA Cup, we’ll draw City away in the third round and pull off a shock before losing to some no-mark team in the fourth round.
The changes to the backroom staff have impressed me. To be fair though, anything that doesn’t involve Graeme Jones organising a corner that hasn’t been practised in training would impress me… When Martinez and his gang of meffs eventually got the boot, I sat down with a few friends and we discussed who (realistically) should be getting the job. Most of us hoped for Koeman, but couldn’t see him leaving Southampton, so we accepted the much more available option of Frank de Boer. So, in that respect, I was fully supportive of our choice of manager. Although that was the case with the previous appointment, so make of that what you will.
Jan Kluitenberg seems to have made an immediate impact on the fitness side of things, Kevin Mirallas losing 6lbs stands out in particular. The difference in work rate between last season and this are increasingly noticeable, whereas problems with mental fatigue that plagued the side last season seem to be diminishing. Having a coaching staff that are all singing from the same hymn sheet and actually practice set-pieces is not to be sniffed at either. The only downside to the arrivals on the coaching staff has been Erwin Koeman’s match-day knee socks & shorts combo. Come on Erwin, just wear the trackie bottoms.
It’s difficult to analyse the recruitment of Steve Walsh after just two months. The work he, his scouts and his staff compiled at Leicester will not have come with him. It was never going to be a case of ‘right Ronald, what do you need?’ Then just picking out ideal names from a little black book. The recruitment structure at Everton needed an overhaul, that much was clear after Niasse-gate. Perhaps we’ll be better placed to assess the impact of Walsh after both January and next summer.
I think it’s fair to say there were positives and negatives on this front. For me, it’s best to look at it practically, what actually needed to happen to the squad at the end of last season?
- A No1 goalkeeper – Stekelenberg has been fantastic recently, but his form over the previous three years suggests he may not keep that up. Plus we’re just an injury away to having Robles back in goal. He’s definitely improved in recent seasons, but he’s not the answer.
- A striker of quality to push/play with Lukaku – Enner Valencia doesn’t constitute a striker of quality, that’s all I have to say on that one (I’m not yet ready to recognise that this actually happened).
- A defender who can actually defend – Ashley Williams definitely fits the bill, one of the things most notable against Stoke was him visibly organising the defence, which is something the side has desperately lacked. He can also actually perform a defensive header, which is good… *Glares towards Funes Mori*
- A backup right back – Holgate has done well at right back, but a specialist full back would have been welcome, especially since Seamus Coleman still hasn’t remembered how to play football.
- An energetic holding midfielder – Idrissa Gueye, need I say more? It’s going to be horrible when he legs it to the AFCON in January, isn’t it?
- A winger capable of playing on the left – Yannick Bolaise ticks this one off. His purchase has helped to rebalance Everton’s incredibly uneven wide options. Adding pace to a side that has lacked it was also something that was correctly rectified here.
- A creative midfielder – In short, we didn’t get one. Everton enter another season lacking a player who can find that killer ball against a side intent on keeping men behind the ball. Perhaps this will be the year we see Gerard Deulofeu flourish as a No. 10?
- Clear out the deadwood – Aiden McGeady was the only player in this category to leave, and even that was just a loan. Oumar Niasse, Darron Gibson, James McCarthy, Arouna Kone & Bryan Oviedo all remain at the club.
Three out of eight, then? Everton’s transfer strategy did seem strange this summer, why would the club pass up on both Joe Hart and Wilfried Bony and then sign Enner Valencia and no goalkeeper? Then there was deadline day. Much has been made of the disappointment of the fans after a very poor deadline day. But the disappointment didn’t stem from the fact Everton failed to bring in a big name on deadline day, it was that the club were still in the midst of their business with 24 hours of the window to go. Many of the top clubs had done their business well before the 1st of September and were focussing on offloading some of the players on their books. Everton did neither. Lessons have to be learned.
Overall, the side has come out of the window stronger, but we remain weak in a number of positions. Everton are just a couple of injuries away from being right back to where they started.
After a half decent transfer window that has improved the starting eleven, the side should be realistically looking at pushing for a guaranteed spot in the Europa League. Whether that is targeting 5th place in the league or winning a cup. Even if injuries do take their toll on the squad, I’d be disappointed to see us finish any lower than 8th. While the project at Everton is obviously long term, qualifying for Europe is one of the factors needed to take us on to the next level. As we’ve seen, signing players who play European football when you don’t have European football is an uphill struggle. Hopefully that’s one thing Everton will be able to avoid next summer.
Koeman and Walsh will hopefully both prove to be the right people at the right time. Walsh was the attentive eye behind the buys that made history at Leicester last season. Koeman enjoyed a better win % at Southampton than Maurico Pochettino did before he left for Spurs. After the last couple of seasons, I think our players could work under Sports Direct management and they’d find it an improvement. I don’t know anything about any of the backroom staff who’ve come in with Koeman, other than the novelty of Jan Kluitenberg having a twitter account has already worn off. He’s a glorified PE teacher. The only other observation I can make is that I will appreciate goalkeeping coach Patrick Lodewijks for as long as he’s here, before playing villains in Hollywood inevitably calls. I will also appreciate him for the fact he’s not Inaki Bergara. I’m like 90% certain Roberto Martinez just met him out jogging one night with his big daft cap and cycling shorts on and asked him to be Wigan’s goalkeeping coach on a whim. Good luck, Belgium.
Each of the signings have been brought in to improve the weakest areas of our side. Astute stuff from a manager who was clearly familiar with the troubles we faced last season.
Williams: the kind of chest/leader we’ve needed at the back. I don’t really care that he’s 32, because if we’re going the places we’re supposed to be going, most of these players won’t be here in 3 or 4 years. I think he’ll prove quite a savvy buy.
Bolasie: Horribly overpriced, but in the same breath – I don’t know what players are supposed to cost now. He improves us, and gives us the kind of playground unpredictability that we haven’t had since 17 year old Wayne Rooney was taking the piss out of Darren Moore with his hands on his hips. He’ll be exciting. Gone are the days of us being happy to have Tom Cleverley on the left, just because it means Arouna Koné isn’t there. They need to tell him to get his head over the ball and stop chopping underneath the thing when he’s shooting, though – for the sake of the Archibald Leitch detailing round the ground.
Stekelenburg: An improvement on Joel, who was in turn, a massive improvement on Howard towards the end of his Everton career.
Gueye: You can judge from some of my tweets how smitten I am with our royal blue power ranger…
Idrissa Gueye could single-handedly tackle climate change
— Everton Musings (@EvertonMusings) August 29, 2016
Idrissa Gueye could single-handedly tackle fuel poverty
— Everton Musings (@EvertonMusings) September 1, 2016
Idrissa Gueye could single-handedly tackle tax avoidance
— Everton Musings (@EvertonMusings) September 4, 2016
Idrissa Gueye leaving for the African Cup of Nations hitting our season like https://t.co/MCHbwcZnyt
— Everton Musings (@EvertonMusings) September 5, 2016
Best signing of the summer has already been made.
— Everton Musings (@EvertonMusings) August 31, 2016
Difficult to say. The top half of the table is more competitive than it has been for years… Leicester, Arsenal, Spurs, Man City, Man United, Chelsea, Libpewl, us… At least one of these are going to finish at least 8th, and it could be lower- if the likes of Southampton and West Ham have good seasons again. I’ll say 6th… Cups? We always say we want them to ‘make a run’, but we always find a way to mess it up. The side Koeman picked in the league cup against Yeovil was encouraging enough to make you think he’ll take it seriously.
‘Hey Unshy, is that…er…Darron Gibson behind the bins…smoking a…how do you say it in England….a ciggy? And is that Aiden McGeady and Oumar Niasse playing Pokemon Go in the centre circle?’
Considering it was probably scenes very similar to this that greeted Ronnie Koeman on the first day of pre-season training, he’s managed to get us up and running quite quickly. Four matches in and its already very clear what he wants from his Everton team; a high tempo, high-pressing collection of big fuckers – and we’re all made up. So far, so good.
Martin Stekelenburg – He isn’t Tim Howard. He’ll do for me.
Idrissa Gueye – Turns out playing McCarthy and Barry together for all this time has been a massive waste of time because we’ve found a lad that can do both their jobs here. Makes this football lark look easy.
Ashley Williams – He’s only played a couple of matches but already looks like he’s been at Everton long enough to be eligible for a season ticket card with a photo of the ’85 team on the front.
Yannick Bolasie – Wears black boots, plays well at Anfield and has a song to the theme of Heartbeat, what more do you want? Assists and goals? Nah, overrated them.
Enner Valencia – West Ham fans think he’s terrible, I’ve also seen a West Ham fan with a Mark Noble tattoo though. We should probably just wait and see.
FA Cup: Fourth round defeat to Arsenal away. A Lucas Perez brace obviously.
League Cup: Fuck it, we’ll win the thing.
Up The Toffees
It’s been said a lot but it bears repeating: our biggest signings were off the pitch. The most crucial of all these signings, which will become apparent in the coming years, is not Walsh or Koeman but Dutch Roy Batty lookalike and fitness coach Jan Kluitenberg. We’ve never really moved on from the departure of Steve Tash, and the state of the fitness in the whole club when Martinez got the boot was clear to see. Fixing that will be the biggest step getting us back up the table.
There’s been far too much howling about the summer activity in my opinion, particularly the lack thereof on deadline day, and in a way I think the club made a rod for their own back doing business earlier. Its easy to lose sight of just how essential signing players like Stek, Gueye, Williams and Bolasie is. Among Manchester City’s first (and better, Robinho and Santa Cruz anyone?) signings after their takeover were Given, Barry, Bridge and Bellamy for a combined £50m. The marquee names will come, but for now it’s important to get the foundations in place.
I’m putting myself at risk of ridicule here but sod it, I’m sticking my neck out and saying we will get back into Europe this season, be that through a cup win or top six. I think Leicester, Southampton and West Ham will have much worse seasons, with us and Big Stand fighting it out for sixth. It wouldn’t surprise me if Koeman went hell for leather for the League Cup. He’ll see a cup we’ve never won and want to stamp his name on it. Call it winning mentality, or ego, but that’s how he is. Sixth and League Cup winners.
An entirely positive summer on the staff front. Big fan of Koeman’s decisiveness, and the new fitness coach seems to have us not breathing out of arses after 60 minutes every week. If Steve Walsh is going to continue turning up gems like Gana, he can come to my house for turkey dinosaurs.
A bit of a mixed bag for me. Williams looks decent, Gana is Jesus reborn and Stekelenburg looks more than capable. Bolasie though for me will never be any more than a kick and rush merchant. Give him 60 yards to sprint into and he’ll be sound, otherwise, he’s a bit clueless.
A solid top eight finish, a derby win at Big Standfield, a League Cup win, some form of hideous home defeat to lower league garbage in the FA Cup, Darron Gibson to get off the Guinness and turn into Pirlo, Jan Kluitenburg to hit Alan Myers levels of social media positivity before a breakdown after being caught watching midget porn and EAW staff Christmas party at Popworld.
In Ronald Koeman we have genuinely got one of the league’s best managers. His track record and his explosive start to life at Everton suggests he is really taking us places, so fantastic appointment there. Steve Walsh has identified some fine players to bring into the club and it’s not his fault the hierarchy were unable to secure some of the one’s that got away (Ghezzal, Brahimi, Gabbiadini etc) so I’ll give him the thumbs up too. Jan Kluitenberg is sound on Twitter and Pat the new goalkeeping coach whose name I cannot spell has turned Stekelenburg into Big Nev reincarnate so another mighty round of applause for that man. Overall, fantastic changes made to the coaching team.
Not to brag, but I wrote an article (http://www.evertonarentwe.com/2016/07/30/gana-win-lot/) in August saying how Gueye was going to be a class signing so it’s basically all down to me how he’s now our best player. Williams is looking solid and has injected more leadership and steel into the back line. Bolasie is ripping lids for fun down the left and right, Maarten Stekelenburg has more than proved he can be our first choice keeper, and Enner Valencia… is … erm … didn’t he score a good goal against Hull once?
I think we will get to a domestic cup final. The real test of whether this is a new Everton is if we can hold our nerve. Top 7 looks likely now that #SaintsFC and West Ham ‘We’re massive because we’ve got Pie-yay’ United look a shadow of their former selves. As long as by hook or by crook I’m in some random European city with thousands of other Evertonians this time next year then I’ll come away satisfied with Ronnie Koeman’s first season.