Everton after Ronald Koeman
“Write what you want to write.” These are the now infamous last words of Ronald Koeman, who had his head placed on the chopping block at Everton’s Finch Farm yesterday and subsequently lost his job.
As the looming Dutchman departed the club’s press room for the final time after the weekend’s 5-2 demolition job at the hands of Arsenal, he looked poles apart from the renowned manager cautiously linked with the FC Barcelona vacancy not too long ago.
Koeman has become the third managerial casualty in the Premier League this season, after the previous departures of Frank de Boer and Craig Shakespeare. However, these two names came off the back of struggles last season for their respective teams: Crystal Palace have long since flirted with relegation and Leicester eventually finished mid-table after a fling with the drop zone saw fan favourite Claudio Ranieri lose his job. Everton finished 7th in their last campaign, which saw them qualify for this season’s Europa League – but a combination of poor transfers and regular European football has seen the Toffees land themselves in 18th place.
With only two wins in their last nine league games, it isn’t difficult to understand why Chairman Bill Kenwright and Chief Executive Robert Elstone saw fit to pull the trigger today, despite Koeman leading the morning training session under the impression his position was safe if not insecure.
A £140million spending spree in the summer captured the attention of many football fans, who believed it was the perfect way to pick up from a successful end to the season last time around. The acquisitions of Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen and Michael Keane were originally particularly impressive, but they have all struggled at times this season and have failed to match their form from previous seasons which saw them earn the moves to Merseyside.
With the manager now gone, only time will tell if the players can turn it around on the Goodison Park pitch. An unfamiliar, and an extremely disjointed system hasn’t helped the squad in the slightest, and a new manager with a fresh tactical outlook may yet be able to salvage Everton’s season.
So who are the biggest names being linked with the Koeman-sized vacancy in the dugout?
Burnley manager Sean Dyche appears to be the early favourite among many bookmakers and understandably so. The Englishman has been the architect behind Burnley’s promotion into England’s top tier, and the steady effort to solidify them as a consistent Premier League side. His team have been typically difficult to overcome at their home, Turf Moor, and recently with their impressive victories on the road at Chelsea and Goodison Park; potentially his new stomping ground in the near future.
Perhaps the Premier League’s finest relegation prevention method is to hire Sam Allardyce and sit back and watch as his physical and no-nonsense style. Allardyce has, of course, been linked to the Everton vacancy and Bill Kenwright is certain to have cast a watchful eye his way.
David Moyes, Thomas Tuchel, Marco Silva and Mikel Arteta are some of the other names currently mentioned, but as Koeman packs up his office belongings, it would be a perfect time to remember just why Everton had originally hired the Dutchman.
The former Ajax, Valencia and Benfica coach was lured up north with an attractive £6m a year salary and the promise of a significant transfer budget. Koeman replaced the outgoing Roberto Martinez and was immediately identified as the club’s primary target for the vacancy in mid-2016. The Dutchman had led Southampton to an impressive sixth-place finish the season before and used his impressive array of tactical knowledge to pull off a similar feat in his first season at Goodison Park.
The impressive goal-scoring abilities of Romelu Lukaku have been well documented and his £75 million transfer to Manchester United would have come to no surprise to anyone. His final season at Everton played a large part in the success at Goodison Park last season, even if his tally had no effect on the club’s league position. But aside from the Belgian poacher, the squad demonstrated wonderful examples of free-flowing football at times, coupled with a more pragmatic approach when games needed to be ground out.
The tactics worked, and Everton headed into this season with similar expectations. But the facts can’t be denied. The club lies in the Premier League relegation zone, with no visible signs of form picking up, and also rock bottom of their Europa League group; destined for the earliest exit possible. These two factors have led to Koeman’s dismissal, and now the board has to make one of the most important decisions in the club’s recent history.
The club can’t afford to take a step backward, as is the unforgiving and ever-changing nature of the country’s top league. The right appointment is needed, and only time will tell whether it will turn around a dismal start to the season.