INSIDE THE OPPOSITION: Everton

City head to Liverpool again at the weekend to take on Everton in a must-win game. All the games feel must-win these days, but anyway. On we go.

We spoke to Lyndon from ToffeeWeb to get the lowdown on “The Ev”…

To start with an easy one (maybe?)… We’re about half way through the season – are you generally happy so far?

Not really. From an outsider’s perspective, sitting in seventh place Everton are probably about where they would be expected to be but it’s fair to say that the first six months of Ronald Koeman’s reign has been under-whelming. The future holds a lot of promise but it looks like it’s going to take longer than expected to get there than we first thought.

Everton have obviously had a big change this year in the dugout. After years of Roberto Martinez, is Ronald Koeman a breath of fresh air or are you missing Martinez? How has Koeman changed your team this year? Is he the man to crack the top four?

Martinez’s relentless positivity had ventured into delusion by the end and, frankly, most Blues were tired of being told everything was fine when it quite clearly wasn’t. In that respect, Koeman’s forthright honesty has been a welcome change for many of us, even if a few would like him to take a bit more responsibility for the way the team is playing!

Because with half a season gone, Everton have yet to put in a decent 90-minute performance and that perhaps underlines just how weak a squad he took over. But it also poses questions about his ability to coach a team that he didn’t build.

The first few games — one draw, four wins and second place behind City by mid-September — had us all purring in anticipation of a possible top-four finish but things went off the rails quickly afterwards. So, again, we’re bedding in for the long haul to see if he, together with Director of Football Steve Walsh, can deliver on the promise of what he says will be a three-year project.

You’ve also had a big change in the boardroom. Farhad Moshiri has changed the landscape at Everton a bit with all his money. Has it been a grand transformation so far or is the powder being kept dry while he works out the lay of the land? What are the plans for the future?

I think the grand transformation is underway and what is likely to be a significant positive net spend this month will be the first real indication of that after a somewhat challenging summer transfer window in which the club were only able to get half of the business done that Koeman probably wanted.

The biggest changes are coming off the field, although many of them will, of course, help in terms of team-building. Moshiri has already consolidated the club’s outstanding debt under one £80m loan which will save £5m a year in interest payments and £75m in new sponsorship deals that are coming down the pike will also help pour some money in Koeman’s war chest.

The big one is the stadium issue where it looks like Moshiri will be able to provide the resources to finally make a resolution of that 20-year problem a reality. The club are looking at a new purpose-built stadium on Liverpool’s waterfront which, if done right, could be a game-changer in all sorts of ways, not least the restoration of some lost prestige is the city.

Koeman was accused of somewhat ignoring youth players at Southampton. How’s he doing on that front with Everton? Any names we should be watching out for?

Koeman was critical of the quality of Southampton’s youth setup at the time he left but it’s been so far so good on that front at Everton and there is a very promising group coming through.

Mason Holgate, long term a centre-back but impressive as a fullback so far, has been given game time. Tom Davies, an 18-year-old central midfielder who looks ready for regular action, has finally got his first starts in the last three weeks. And Dominic Calvert-Lewin, an England U20 striker, made his full debut against Southampton at the start of the month but, unfortunately, suffered an ankle injury just six minutes in.

New signing from Charlton Ademola Lookman, 19, is also exciting based on the word from Addicks fans and video footage of him in action. He is obviously untried at Premier League level but he looks to be a very good young player. Koeman has said he won’t figure against City this weekend but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him named on the bench.

What’s the deal with Ross Barkley? He seems to be living on the “lots of potential” thing still. Is he progressing or has he got stuck in a bit of a rut? How good can he be?

Ross is a concern because while he still relatively quite young, he has made well over 100 appearances for Everton and should now be fulfilling that rich potential he showed in Martinez’s first season week in, week out. Unfortunately, he is painfully erratic and is unable to consistently provide the creativity we need in that No.10 role.

He appears to have all the tools — size, strength, skills, a wicked shot and the ability to pick a sublime pass — but for whatever reason, he can’t deliver on a regular basis. He still has time but it looks like he would benefit from Everton signing another player for that position to take the load off his shoulders and perhaps allow him to reset by coming off the bench more to affect games that way.

Morgan Schneiderlin is a pretty eye catching addition to the team. What are you hoping for from him? How big an impact might he have?

We’ve relied on Gareth Barry for too long and the need to bring someone in who can be his long-term successor has become that much more urgent in recent weeks because he has struggled lately.

Schneiderlin ticks the boxes as a player who can sit in and protect the back four, offer more mobility — Barry covers a lot of ground for a 35-year-old but he’s very slow — while also spread the ball about going forward.

Things obviously didn’t work out for him at Old Trafford but we’re hopeful that a fresh start in a team where he can play a prominent starting role will see him reproduce the form at Southampton that made him one of the most sought-after players in the Premier League two years ago. He could be a big signing for us.

Score prediction?

As we showed the Etihad in October, we’re very good at grinding out 1-1 draws so I’ll go for that result again.

Thanks, Lyndon!

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3 comments on “INSIDE THE OPPOSITION: Everton
  1. Read recently that none other than sir Phillip Green is part of the group providing funds for Everton these days ? Not known for his philanthropy he must only be investing with an eye on an extremely large return !! Perhaps this is what Bill Kenwright meant by “the Everton way ” ?

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