After consecutive excellent seasons with Southampton, Ronald Koeman decided to take on the challenge of managing Everton.
The 53-year-old arrived in England after Mauricio Pochettino left to take over Tottenham in 2014. Koeman took over at a time when Southampton didn’t look like they would be able to survive the exodus. Crucial team members Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Ricky Lambert, Calum Chambers and club captain Adam Lallana departed for different Premier League teams.
It was an awkward moment to take over at St Mary’s, but Koeman managed to find the way to better the eighth-placed finish that Pochettino had delivered in his final season at Southampton. Southampton finished seventh in 2014/15. In the next season, the side did one better and finished in the sixth place, their best finish.
There was little surprise that Everton approached the Dutchman. What was surprising was that he took the job, considering Everton finished five places below Southampton last season. Koeman admitted that he wanted to finish the last season of his contract at Southampton.
However, the Southampton hierarchy wanted to be sure of his future, and he wasn’t keen on committing. This, coupled with interest from Everton, meant the Toffees were successful in landing the 53-year-old who signed a three-year deal worth £6million-a-season at Everton.
The Dutchman has already demonstrated his effect at the club. In 7 Premier League games, Everton have won four, drawn 2 and lost just one. They have scored 11 goals and have the second best defence in the league, conceding only 5.
One of the reasons for Koeman’s success in England so far is his recruitment. The reason Southampton did so well even after the cumbersome sales in the summer of 2014, was that the new manager bought wisely.
Instead of spending cash in a reckless fashion, à la Andre Villas-Boas or Brendan Rodgers, Koeman was smart about his transfers (credit to the Southampton board). He brought in Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mane to lead the attack and Toby Alderweireld, Ryan Bertrand and Fraser Forster to protect the defence, all incredibly smart acquisitions.
Similarly, for Everton, Koeman made smart additions in the summer transfer window. He brought in Idrissa Gueye from Aston Villa for £7m, a sum that looks ridiculously cheap at the moment. Gueye looked good even in a supremely average Aston Villa side last season, and unsurprisingly caught the eye of the Dutchman.
He deserved a move to the Premier League and got it at Everton. He has done very well and so far, this looks like the signing of the season. Many are calling him the new N’Golo Kante. At the moment, he could have an outstanding impact for Everton.
Idrissa Gueye’s Premier League season by numbers:
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 7, 2016
Maarten Stekelenburg arrived from Fulham and has replaced Tim Howard in goal. The Dutch goalkeeper has extensive experience under his belt and has prospered in Everton colours. Ashley Williams, another canny signing for £12m, left Swansea after eight years with the club.
Last season, a reason why Romelu Lukaku showed his patchiness was because often, he didn’t receive adequate service. That is exactly what Koeman hoped to address with the signing of Yannick Bolasie, the summer’s costliest arrival at £25m. Bolasie has shown his ability and has grabbed two assists in five starts in the league. He averages 2.1 key passes, 3.3 successful dribbles and 2.1 shots on goal every 90 minutes.
The summer signings have done well so far, but it is very early to give an overall assessment, given the league is just seven games old. At the same time, there are telling signs that the recruitment in the summer was astute and the manager, as well as the ownership, deserve credit for landing the right players.
Koeman has worked on the defence and discipline of the Everton side that was conceding at will last season. He said, “I believe when you build a house you start down, not at the top, and there is more responsibility now on the strikers to support the defenders.” The signings of Gueye, Williams, and Stekelenburg are clearly helping in the department.
The aim for Everton is to qualify for Europe this season and Koeman is exactly the manager who can get the side there. What’s even better is that while the Dutchman has called it the “realistic” aim, he has also stated that the ambitions are bigger and, “if there is any chance to go for something more, we will try.”
Everton needed a manager with these aspirations, who wasn’t content after his side lost narrowly and who yearned success. Finally, Everton Football Club has that manager.