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Out on Loan – EFC’s Young Players 21.09.17

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Antonee Robinson played both full matches this week for Bolton, unfortunately both away defeats, one in the Championship and one in the League Cup.

Joe Williams also suffered the same results in both Barnsley matches, although there was praise for his all-action performances and he was given the MOM award for one game.

Kieran Dowell was started and was subbed around two-thirds of the way through both Forest games. Once again, fan comments were a mixed bag, with some praising his skill and others criticising his lack of effectivity in other periods of the games. Against Chelsea in the league cup, Dowell clanged a free-kick off the crossbar, whizzed another couple of shots wide and even had a shout for a penalty not given when he was upended in the box.

Liam Walsh had the single Championship game for Birmingham City at the weekend after his manager was sacked. He started on the bench but had to come on early in the game and appeared to struggle in a home defeat.

Callum Connolly started but came off at half time of the Ipswich match after getting a whack from fellow EFC academy member Robinson.

Henry Onyekuru had a mixed bag of a week, being booked for a dive at the weekend but also scoring a scrappy goal and then repeating the same type of poacher’s goal for Anderlecht in the midweek cup game.

Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway did not appear for Sunderland’s two games (they were ineligible for the cup game at Goodison).

Matthew Pennington and Conor Grant are both still recovering from injury.

The post Out on Loan – EFC’s Young Players 21.09.17 appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Everton 3-0 Sunderland

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Two well taken goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin confirmed his blossoming promise before a sublime strike from Oumar Niasse sealed a comfortable victory.

Goodison welcomed back no fewer than four former Blues – Jack Rodwell, Darron Gibson, James Vaughan and substitute Bryan Oviedo – in the Sunderland squad for this Carabao Cup tie.

Four straight losses and no goals scored saw Ronald Koeman make a number of changes in hoping to find a cutting edge and recover the confidence of some Evertonians. In search of a much needed win, he selected a 4-3-3 starting line-up of: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Williams (c), Keane, Kenny, Davies, Besic, Klaassen, Vlasic, Ramirez and Calvert-Lewin.

Sunderland, with enough form issues of their own to contend with following relegation last season and a poor start to the new season saw manager Simon Grayson pick: Steele, Jones, Love, Kone, Matthews, Gibson, Rodwell, Ndong, Honeyman, Vaughan and Gooch.

In charge of proceeding was referee Oliver Langford.

Everton forced an early corner, but it was a Besic error that allowed Vaughan the first shot of the game that thankfully, for the Bosnian, went wide.

Besic was involved again in a decent attack, lifting a ball over for Klaassen to head on for DCL but his weak shot sat up nicely for the keeper to gather.

The game needed some pace and it came from DCL to feed Vlasic, but his shot hit the side netting. He returned the favour in the next attack cutting in to release DCL into a shooting position, but he dragged it wide.

A quick left wing move including a lovely dummy and turn by DCL earned the Blues their fourth corner ahead of a Ramirez free kick from 25 yards that forced the Sunderland goalie into his first proper save.

On the half hour with Everton comfortable, but not rampant, Keane found Klaassen and his flick on saw Vlasic gather, turn and shoot narrowly wide.

It had taken longer than expected, but the opening goal final came on 38 minutes as Holgate got forward and cut in before finding Vlasic who instantly found Klaassen and he squeezed the ball through for DCL to take and slot past Steele.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin vs Sunderland. pic.twitter.com/EMtnMnSo3Q

— Everton Goals (@EFCGoalss) September 20, 2017

As the teams retired for their half time cup of tea, with the exception of Vaughan who worked tirelessly, the visitors hadn’t really troubled the Blues and Jonjoe Kenny who had enjoyed a solid first 45 minutes.

Half Time: 1-0

Darron Gibson marked his return with a yellow card early in the second half for chopping down Vlasic, but Ramirez fired the free kick well over the bar.

Everton doubled their lead on 51 minutes as Davies won the ball and his instant pass released Ramirez at pace to feed the onrushing DCL who fired a fine shot past Steele at his near post.

We've got ourselves a striker 🤦🏽‍♂️🔵⚪️ #Calvert-Lewin @Everton @CalvertLewin14 pic.twitter.com/glvPqWi1yZ

— Ryan Ra'velle (@ryanravelle) September 20, 2017

Vlasic, Klaassen and Ramirez caused havoc in the visitors defence but somehow they survived only for the next Everton attack to see Klaassen find DCL with a super cross, the diving, full length header cannoning back off the post.

DCL got a standing ovation for his efforts on 65 minutes as he was replaced to great applause by Oumar Niasse.

Vaughan put a header wide off a right wing cross from Love ahead of Ademola Lookman coming on for Ramirez, and the speedy winger was straight into the action nearly scoring from close range.

Aaron Lennon came of for the final ten minutes for the hard working and impressive Nikola Vlasic but the biggest cheer of the night came two minutes later when a chip into the box from Davies was well controlled off his chest by Niasse and his one time finish bulged the Gwladys Street net.

NIASSE! #EFC pic.twitter.com/vY80Wba6a6

— Bradley Cates (@Bradley_Cates) September 20, 2017

A solid game from Everton with Vlasic and Kenny impressing and Tom Davies anchoring the midfield saw them run out comfortable victors, with three good goals to reflect upon.

Full Time: 3-0

Managers comments to follow…

The post Everton 3-0 Sunderland appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Form is Temporary, Classlessness is Permanent

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He was lauded. He was loved. His name graced our shirts, it was sung by grown men, thousands invested their hopes and dreams in him. He came with his career in the balance. Discarded and unwanted by his former club. Everton invested in him, rebuilt his confidence, brought him on as a player. He was transformed in the process, a superfluous loanee to a £100m footballer.

For him, in football terms, it was a complete success. Just compare the player he is now to the player he was when he first arrived. More than any other club, he owes Everton. He came during a period in his life when time spent with a different club, different managers, different fans could have proven ruinous. There was no guarantee his undoubted talents would have blossomed. There are plenty of young players who fall by the wayside. He has a lot to thank Goodison for.

The side was built around him, no small honour for a young player. The style of play geared to his abilities, enabling him to fine tune his attributes, surrounded by those willing to serve. Players were bought and employed on the pitch with him in mind. He got everything that he wanted and thrived as a result.

The club did everything right. Not a foot put wrong. And as fans, we did the same. We kept up our end of the bargain. And that was even the case when he didn’t keep up his. Think of the games when he disappeared, think of the times that he ran the club down, think of the occasions that he sulked. We forgave it all.

And yet, you would think that all of the above wasn’t the case. You would think that Everton had treated him shabbily, that the supporters had made his life hell, that his time at Goodison was a period of endless misery and frustration. If fact you get the distinct impression that Romelu Lukaku has no affection for Everton or its fans at all.

Perhaps that’s just the nature of modern football. Perhaps we should expect nothing else from the travelling band of mercenaries who occupy the higher reaches of the game. They come for a pay-cheque and personal glory but nothing else. They see football as a business, one in which they sell their labour for the highest price. The fact that their exalted position is built on the hard earned money of those who sit in the stands or watch at home seemingly passes them by. They are economic operators and nothing else, their loyalty paper thin.

They play us though, trade on our memories. Because we remember what players used to be like. We think of the giants of the past. We think of Dean, of Hickson, of Young. Of Royle, Latchford, and Sharp. Of Ferguson, Campbell and Cahill. And we yearn for that feeling again. The lionisation of a terrace great, a player that you loved and who loved you back.

And they know this. They make the right noises, they say the right things, they inhabit the role. And they do it all right up until it’s no longer in their interest. And then you see them for what they really are.

Of course, people will say that Lukaku is a Manchester United player now, and so owes no loyalty to his former employers and their fans. He left for a club that can match his ambitions and if he wants to diminish Everton, if he wants to gloat in front of Blues, if he wants to make it clear how little affection he has for Goodison, then that’s ok.

But is it?

Just think about Lukaku’s behaviour since it became apparent he was off. Think about his indifference towards those who helped him become what he is. And then think about what he did on Sunday too. In that crowd were people who had paid his wages, who had sung his name, who had encouraged their children to idolise him (those same children were likely watching at home and could even have been in the stadium too). Then, to pour salt on the wound, he laughed it off as ‘banter’; the last refuge of the inescapably moronic.

Lukaku’s celebration towards the Everton fans. #mufc pic.twitter.com/rLtVn2Ggs5

— Devils of United (@DevilsOfUnited) September 17, 2017

Should the media have really let him off? Surely some exploration of his deliberate crassness was warranted? Apparently not

Instead, Lukaku (as has always been the case) was been given a free pass. It seems that exhibiting the behaviour of a petulant, self-entitled brat, so enamoured by his own ‘brilliance’ that he forgoes such redundant notions as gratitude or humility is acceptable. He will continue to grace the covers of magazines, be sought after for endorsements and remain an ever present face in the ‘Sky’ universe.

When footballers transgress, when they gamble, break the law, shag about or say something that is socially or politically questionable, the media goes for them. The position of a footballer as a ‘role model’ is brought to the fore. Their reputation can be diminished and with that the loss of wages, endorsements and valuable media appearances.

Romelu Lukaku vs Everton Fans:

✅ After his goal: "Can't hear you" 👀

✅ After Mkhitaryan's goal: "Shhhhh" 👀

Absolutely savage 🙈pic.twitter.com/Jx3009LeIS

— SPORF (@Sporf) September 17, 2017

But when a footballer is simply a massive prick; that seems to be ok with the media. In these instances, their position as a ‘role model’ doesn’t appear to matter. And yet, I would argue that it is just as valid to question this behaviour. In the same way that you wouldn’t want your child to grow up thinking that drinking and driving, racist ‘banter’ or rampant misogyny is ok, you equally wouldn’t want them exhibiting the same character traits as someone like Lukaku.

In time, the animosity between Lukaku and Everton will unquestionably dissipate. In part, there is too little heat between the two clubs for it to continue (it’s not like he moved to Liverpool). But equally, it seems unlikely that United will be his last stop. This is a player in search of the top honours, both domestic and European, and it seems unlikely that United will be able to accommodate the latter.

But for a short time, and specifically at Goodison this season, we will likely have to put up with more ‘banter’ from our former forward. Some fans will unquestionably want to give him a hostile reaction. That’s understandable. But surely better to give him no reaction? That’s how you treat petulant toddlers after all. You don’t give them what they want.

He has chosen to act as though the past few years meant nothing to him. Perhaps we should do the same in return.

The post Form is Temporary, Classlessness is Permanent appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Hope Springs Eternal?

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‘We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope’; Martin Luther King

If he’d ever seen Cuco Martina play in a blue shirt, I bet Dr King’s perspective on hope might be slightly bleaker.

Hope infused Goodison over the summer. For a generation, Blues had longed for another Holy Trinity, but this time one comprised of a good owner, a good manager and money in the bank. After a lengthy wait, it looked as though this long sought after dream might have actually come true.

Following the early summer transfer activity and the belief that more was to come, Evertonians, even those battered by decades of false dawns and shattered dreams, were hopeful that at last, the club was heading somewhere good.

And yet, after an underwhelming start to the campaign hope now seems to be in less ample supply.

As a Blue of thirty-odd years, one who has experienced almost every possible emotion football can throw at a fan, I should be inured to hope. I should recognise supporting Everton for what it is, an exercise where happiness will only ever be fleeting and where hope is best discarded, replaced by cold, brutal realism.

I can’t let it go though. I can’t help looking for mitigation; the ridiculous number of fixtures we’ve had compared to most, the cruelly difficult start to the season, the fact that it’s still early days.

But more than any of this, I’m taking hope from the fact that what is being done at Everton was never going to produce miracles overnight.

When the Blues lined up against Spurs, there were seven players in the starting eleven who weren’t with the club at the end of last season. That is a remarkable (and some would say ridiculous) turnover.

Why would we as fans ever think that changing the side that much and then sending it out to face last year’s runners up was ever going to produce a happy outcome?

Forget talk of missing centre forwards, of the lack of direction, of Martina being unacquainted with even the vaguest concept of defending, what Everton more than anything represent is a club undergoing a herculean transition. And that was never going to be a walk in the park.

When I first began following the club in earnest, something similar was happening at Goodison. It was the early 1980s, a time when footballers still sported tight perms, facial hair was largely restricted to ‘porn’ moustaches and shorts roamed into ‘hot-pants’ territory.

After the Gordon Lee-era came to a close, (a time that had initially promised so much but ended in dire football, drift and relegation fears) in 1981 Everton had turned to a promising young manager in the hope of restoring the club’s fortunes.

Since moving into management with Blackburn Rovers Howard Kendall, a member of Goodison’s original Holy Trinity, had quickly built a reputation as a man to watch. After taking the managerial hot-seat at Ewood Park in 1979, Kendall had pulled the Lancashire club out of the Third Division and into the Second. Having narrowly missed out on promotion to the First during the following campaign, he had caught the eye of a few top-flight clubs.

When he arrived at Goodison he ushered in not just a new approach to the game but also a dizzying amount of transfer activity.

The midfielder, Alan Ainscow arrived from Birmingham City, the mercurial Micky Thomas came from Old Trafford, Mike Walsh was bought from Bolton to shore up the defence, Alan Biley and Mick Ferguson were signed from Derby County and Coventry City respectively to spearhead the attack and two keepers, Blackburn’s Jim Arnold and Bury’s Neville Southall were bought to replace Jim McDonagh between the sticks.

Collectively they were labelled ‘The Magnificent 7’, and as Everton lined up at Goodison to face Birmingham City on the opening day of the season, Kendall’s first in charge, excitement filled the air. That sunny August afternoon was my first at the ground and I can recall a palpable sense of expectation, an atmosphere tingling with possibility.

Two of the new contingent, Ainscow and Biley, scored in that game as Everton eased their way to a 3-1 victory. Goodison crackled. The football was bright. Hope seemed justified.

And yet, of those seven that arrived only Southall, who couldn’t even get in the side to begin with, would have a lasting impact at Goodison. As Kendall’s early teams stuttered and stalled, the likes of Ainscow, Ferguson and Walsh would make way for a new generation of Everton players, such as Sharp, Ratcliffe and Stevens, players who would go down in history as amongst the greatest the club has ever seen.

Some of those who became part of Everton’s golden generation, like that triumvirate above, were at the club when Kendall arrived (and other, less heralded signings would come over the following couple of years). The creation of a side that maximised their talents, and those of others, was a lengthy process, one that was often confusing, frequently unsuccessful and not always convincing. But Kendal got there in the end; creating the greatest side to ever grace the Goodison turf.

I’m not suggesting that Koeman is the next Kendall or that the players that we currently have at the club (and might acquire in the future) are collectively going to eclipse what the class of 1985 achieved. But I am suggesting that patience and the willingness to maintain hope should be considered.

Great sides are not built overnight. The wrong players arrive, younger players take time to mature, style and system often take time to emerge.

Everton were in a low place just eighteen months ago, a club heading the wrong way in the league and filled with an array of ‘stellar’ talents who turned out to be not very good at all.

Turning that ship around was always going to take time and was never going to be easy (specifically after losing the squad’s one world class player).

Our transition might come to nothing, that’s always a possibility. Sitting through that first half against Atalanta, it was hard to picture a bright future arriving any time soon. But equally, with a raft of young talent, like Lookman, Calvert-Lewin, Kenny, Holgate and Pickford, teamed with players of maturity, such as Rooney, Sigurdsson , Schneiderlin and Baines we have the blend of youth and experience that bristles with potential.

Not all the players we have today will make it, and several of those that arrived in the summer might turn out to be flops. But hope should remain. The club is in a better position than it has been for a generation and through the long, sometimes frustrating process of transition, a better Everton can still emerge. It has done before. It can do again.

Jim Keoghan is the author of ‘Everton’s Greatest Games’, which is out on 2nd October

The post Hope Springs Eternal? appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Atalanta 3-0 Everton

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Pressure begins to mount on Ronald Koeman as Everton endure another appalling performance in a 3-0 defeat at Atalanta.

The final scoreline could, and perhaps should have been more damning as Atalanta dominated a lethargic, uninterested Everton.

Ronald Koeman opted to make SIX changes to the Everton side following being taught a lesson by Spurs, handing a full debut to Nikola Vlasic, Maarten Stekelenburg was preferred in goal over Jordan Pickford.

Mason Holgate took the place of Cuco Martina at right-back, Phil Jagielka returned to replace Ashley Williams with Mo Besic in for Gana Gueye.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin was preferred over Sandro Ramirez up front.

Match report to follow.

Everton's lack of pace and urgency is close to embarrassing. Serious flaw in Koeman's team. Atalanta just quicker and more committed so far.

— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) September 14, 2017

Many Everton fans are calling out Ronald Koeman's approach. #EuropaLeague https://t.co/GGIvjlOILb

— Moments UK & Ireland (@UKMoments) September 14, 2017

The post Atalanta 3-0 Everton appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Atalanta vs Everton Preview

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It’s fair to say things aren’t looking too bright at Goodison Park recently after abject back to back defeats to Chelsea and Spurs which have left many fans questioning the methods and tactics of Ronald Koeman. It’s worth remembering that we’ve been given an incredibly tough start to the season and whilst many point to the fact that we’ve spent £150m and in return for that outlay we’ve so far been embarrassed at home to Spurs, soundly beaten away at Chelsea and had the lowest number of shots on target in the league, things are going to take time to work.

Thursday night however sees Everton return to European football after a 2 season absense and it’s a welcome break from the hectic Premier League start we’ve had. Our opponents are Italian side Atalanta B.C. who themselves have had a topsy-turvy start to their campaign. After beginning their season with defeats at home to AS Roma and away to Napoli, they gained a confidence boosting 2-1 win at home to Sassuolo last Sunday. Atalanta were very much the surprise package of Serie A last season and not many fancy them to repeat the form they showed last season in finishing 4th. We certainly shouldn’t underestimate them on Thursday however and with the game being Atalanta’s first European tie since 1991 the fans as well as players will be well up for it.

Line Up
After our quite shocking last two performances, it’s easy to understand why many want to see Koeman ring the changes.

For me the main thing that has to be done on Thursday is playing Gylfi Sigurdsson down the middle. For some reason Koeman decided to play him out on the left against Spurs and he was pretty ineffective all game.

We’ve lacked any real creative influence all season and signing Sigurdsson was meant to solve the lack of creativity which we suffered from last season as well. Defensively we were a shambles against Spurs and if it wasn’t for Pickford we genuinely could have ended up losing by six or seven.

Playing a back three just doesn’t seem to work for us and whenever Koeman deploys a back three, we always end up changing to a more rigid back four at some point in the game. After Martina’s horrorshow on Sunday, the calls for Jonjoe Kenny to be given a chance at right back are growing ever louder.

Something definitely has to change from the weekend and Ashley Williams may find himself lucky to start on Thursday evening as he was pretty woeful against Spurs too.

Another issue that is beginning to become more prominent is whether we really are benefiting from playing Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gueye together. There’s no doubting the quality of both players and defensively they’re brilliant at breaking up the play but going forward, where we’re having real issues, they simply don’t offer enough. This isn’t a dig at either player as they’re defensive midfielders and shouldn’t be expected to be creating bags of chances but would we be better to play one or the other instead of both? The obvious change would be to drop either Schneiderlin or Gueye and bring in Tom Davies and I feel this is something that needs to at least be tried sooner rather than later. A midfield combination of Schneiderlin or Gueye with Davies and then Sigurdsson infront of them sounds far more attack minded and expansive. Chances have come at a premium for Everton so far this season and a change like this could be worth a gamble.

Attacking wise as we’ve known since Lukaku was sold, we’re short. Sandro hasn’t shown much as of yet but needs time to adapt and has also only just returned from injury. Rooney despite what many have said is still probably our most dangerous goal threat but the one big change that needs to happen is that Calvert-Lewin needs to start. Our whole gameplan last season was to play to Lukaku’s strengths and Calvert-Lewin is bloody big too. DCL has shown the qualities he has in holding up the ball and with willing runners like Rooney, Sandro or Sigurdsson around him he can be a real handul. Also funny how almost everyone now loves him after he was written off by fans after about 3 games last season…

Prediction
Thursday is a huge game for Everton and a chance to build some much needed momentum before we travel to face league leaders Man Utd at Old Trafford on Sunday. We can’t afford to take it easy against Atalanta and Koeman has stated he expects a big response from the Spurs defeat (I’ve mentioned the Spurs game way too many times now). If we can set up in a more balanced way then we should be expecting to win. Lets hope we can do the business!

The post Atalanta vs Everton Preview appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Atalanta v Everton

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After four European games, the Blues are face their first fixture in the group stages. A trip to Italy to face Atalanta beckons for Ronald Koeman’s troops.

The Italians are no pushovers, a fourth place finish in Serie A last season for La Dea.

However they’ve suffered an indifferent start in the league this time around with one win and two defeats. Their first win came at the weekend, a 2-1 win against Sassuolo.

Coincidentally, the fixture is being played at Sassuolo’s Mapei Stadium and it won’t be a walk in the park.

It’s a 23,717 seater stadium, 192 kilometres away from Atalanta’s home ground due to UEFA regulations not being met at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia

But knowing the passion of Italian supporters there is no doubt a hostile atmosphere will be created when the Blues come to town this Thursday evening.

There’s a damning stat that the manager will be eager to change – Everton are yet to pick up a competitive victory on Italian soil. Three games, three losses.

The loss of influential midfielder Franck Kessie to rivals AC Milan during the summer can’t have helped Atalanta.

But the signing of one of Middlesbrough’s very sporadic bright sparks from a relegation season, Marten de Roon, could prove to be a snip.

Captain and dynamic attacker Alejandro Gomez is one to watch for Atalanta. The Argentine has explosive pace and an eye for goal.

Standing at 5ft5, he’s not the biggest, but boy is he effective for the Italians.

9 – The number of dribbles completed by Alejandro Gomez so far in Serie A this season – more than any other player. Dancer. pic.twitter.com/e1n6qRjIlz

— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) September 6, 2017

Thursday is a massive chance for Everton to get over the two major disappointments against Chelsea and Spurs respectively, and hopefully gain a bit of momentum before facing a formidable Manchester United side on Sunday.

Squad wise, the Blues are exactly the same as they were against Tottenham last weekend. Hopefully Koeman can use what he’s got more effectively than he did in that 3-0 home loss…

Early days, but victory is a necessity to both sides if either team want to fulfil their ambition of moving into the into the next round of the competition.

Up the Toffees.

The post Atalanta v Everton appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Out on Loan – EFC’s Young Players 13.09.17

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A summary on how Everton’s players out on loan are getting on.

Joe Williams seems to be settling well into his Championship loan with two competent and unfussed matches for Barnsley.

Antonee Robinson rebounded from a much-criticised weekend performance on his Championship debut with a better match as a wingback in the second of two consecutive home defeats.

Liam Walsh played parts of two matches on his introduction to the Championship and did enough to warrant initial praise from Birmingham fans.

Kieran Dowell also played parts of both matches for Nottingham Forest this week and appears to be having less of an impact on games at the moment.

Callum Connolly started his loan spell with Ipswich with a competent display against QPR.

Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway continued their somewhat torrid loan periods with struggling Sunderland. Browning played both matches and was at fault for the losing goal in the defeat to Nottingham Forest. Galloway apparently had a nightmare in the first match and was not in the squad for the second.

Conor Grant was knocked out during his first appearance for League One Crewe Alexandra in the previous week and remains on the injury list.

Matthew Pennington is also still recovering from his lower leg injury.

Henry Onyekuru is having, it would be fair to say, a mixed experience with an Anderlecht team who are struggling for form, playing in the League and Champions’ League this week.

The post Out on Loan – EFC’s Young Players 13.09.17 appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Early Days

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There is some discouraged Evertonians right now.

Agree with this fella, Evertonians? pic.twitter.com/01WQ1nZT3N

— Tony Scott (@Tony_Scott11) September 9, 2017

Some very discouraged Evertonians – with even some calling to see the back of Ronald Koeman…

Today’s Everton fancam is in here.
Here’s a taster of what it’s like.https://t.co/8gA8WCTxWW pic.twitter.com/xWyuiWmgoi

— Tony Scott (@Tony_Scott11) September 9, 2017

Against a backdrop of early optimism, a string of below-par performances, off field shenanigans with headlines around Rooney, Barkley and Mirallas and the transfer window closing without the prerequisite signing of a striker have left some Evertonian’s feeling pretty despondent.

Even Ronald Koeman himself seems a little downtrodden about his club’s prosperity.

Speaking after being taught a footballing lesson from Spurs, Koeman spoke about unrealistic expectations and how top six for Everton remains a challenge.

Not the comments you want from a manager who has just spent billions. *cue argument over exact amount and NET spend*

Koeman: “I know how it works in football. If you sign some players they are losing a bit being realistic. Everyone is talking Everton top six but if you know the qualities of the players in the top six it is a challenge”.

Common ‘shouts’ from fans on GrandOldTeam and beyond bemoan the consequence of failing to bring in an “out and out”, top quality striker.

Niasse to the rescue?

Others point to a lack of pace throughout the side and there’s discussion around whether there’s room to accommodate both Rooney and Sigurdsson in the same side. The futures of Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley continues to bubble away, with some pointing to Koeman having paid the price for pissing on the chips of almost everyone at Valencia.

Ronald Koeman has publicly condemned Kevin Mirallas’ “attitude”

Others are simply left wondering “What’s the plan?” as Everton appear to turn up every week with a different setup, and play almost as though on a whim.

It’s easy to point at problems, but of course it’s a little more difficult to find solutions and that’s why I’m not going to try and offer any. Ronald Koeman’s earns his £6m+ a year to do just that, while I’m sat here in my boxies on a Sunday evening typing an article on GrandOldTeam.

What I will endeavour to do, is try and conjure up three plausible explanations towards why Everton look so jaded – with the hope it’ll hold a mirror up to some of the more voracious Evertonian’s questioning Ronald Koeman.

Number of signings.

Ronald Koeman overhauled his side in the summer.

On Saturday, in Pickford, Martina, Keane, Klaassen, Rooney, Sigurdsson and Ramirez – Everton started with SEVEN summer signings – contrast that with Spurs, with just one new arrival in their starting eleven.

Is it any wonder Everton look so fractured? We’re not far off a team of strangers.

Everton were in a league of their own last season – sat in 7th, 15 points clear of 8th and 8 away from 6th.

We needed to make big changes to have any hope of competing with the teams above us.

We’ve made a lot of those changes and the new lads need time, and opportunity to perform before being so readily, and conclusive written off.

You don’t give a manager the autonomy to make such sweeping changes and then look to change it after four league games, more so considering the opponents in those games;

Think we shouldn't underestimate the time it'll take for so many new players to gel…

— GrandOldTeam.com (@grandoldteam) August 3, 2017

Opening Fixtures.

“Every team plays the same teams the same amount of times” “You have to play every one twice…”

Still, Everton’s start to the Premier League is eye-watering…

Stoke (H)
Man City (A)
Chelsea (A)
Spurs (H)

With Man Utd (A) up next – results wise, could we have realistically expected much more? Performance wise is another question…

A late Raheem Sterling’s volley salvaged a point for 10-man Manchester City as Everton were denied victory

Not to mention the sprinkling of Europa games presenting it’s own challenge on top of trying to blend together a new team.

Although it is defeatist – all considered, it feels as though we need to “get through” a difficult period, and look to build some momentum in the Europa League and League cup, before successive league games against Bournemouth, Burnley and Brighton. A team growing in familiarity, with some positive results in succession could really see us kick on.

Striker

There’s no skirting around this – not bringing in another striker was a considerable failing from Everton’s board.

Not Ronald Koeman.

We’ve brought in the likes of Sigurdsson and Rooney, and without doing a disservice to Sandro who is an unknown quantity, have no target man.

As in previous windows, Koeman was left talking up the desperate need for a striker only to be left with egg on his face – in previous windows it resulted in a last second desperate loan move for Enner Valencia, and now bringing Oumar Niasse back into the first team fold.

We’ve known Lukaku was leaving for some time but completely failed to even try and r̶e̶p̶l̶a̶c̶e̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶ – mitigate the loss – how many more transfer windows is Farhad Moshiri going to allow the team he has in place to not meet the public requirements of the manager?

I’ll conclude then with a question.

What is the minimum expectation, both league and cup performance of an Everton manager of which failure to achieve should cause dismissal.

Keep that in mind, and see where we are in January at the earliest. Not now.

The post Early Days appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

Time for a rethink… and a role for Barkley ?

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Eight games into the new season and in the wake of a summer transfer window that started oh so brightly but ended disappointingly, is it time already for Ronald Koeman to review his strategy, particularly up front?

Despite a few glaring and horrendous instances against Spurs last Saturday, the defence does, in general, look more solid than last year. Jordan Pickford is living up to the expectations heaped on his young shoulders, Michael Keane looks to have settled well and Mason Holgate performs admirably at right back, not his natural position.

Leighton Baines is more conservative in his forward forays than in yesteryear, possibly choosing to conserve energy for defensive duties as much as not having a definitive left-sided partner to link with in the vein that Steven Pienaar filled.

There’s a conundrum for Koeman with Jagielka and Williams that he simply has to resolve. Jags is older, but probably still quicker than Williams, who is an out and out stopper who patently needs someone else to do his distribution for him.

If JonJoe Kenny isn’t going to blooded into the first team, then we need Seamus Coleman back fully fit as soon as possible, as it would be folly to continue with Cuco Martina at right back. The Dutchman looks okay going forward and can clearly cross a ball, but his defensive qualities appear to be distinctly average… at best.

The midfield is still our strongest area, despite the sale of Gareth Barry, with the likes for Gana Gueye, Schneiderlin, Davies, Besic and McCarthy (when fit) to select from. Davy Klaassen is still finding his feet, adjusting to life in the Premier League and maybe carrying the hefty price tag somewhat uncomfortably.

But it’s up front where we have the big issue… we simply don’t look to have enough striking capabilities at present.

Ronald Koeman has already shuffled his options, but with only two league goals, both from Rooney, and no pure line-leading centre forward to focus around, we look bereft in the goalscoring department.

Everton cannot expect Wayne Rooney to carry that load all season, it’s simply crazy to expect him to do so, on a numbers of fronts. Firstly, Wayne is not as quick as he used to be, physically at least, his quickest football is played in his head. Secondly, he’s never really been big enough nor physical enough to be a true, classic centre forward type; and thirdly, he – all too often – allows his emotion and frustration to boil over into yellow cards. Three already this season in four games !!

Given the lack of a genuine centre forward to lead the line, leads me to think that maybe we need to change, much sooner rather than later, to employ a more versatile, mobile, diverse attacking strategy.

A strategy based more on better utilising our skills set than a physicality we simply don’t possess at present. And if we moved to a more skill based attacking strategy, would this open the door for a return to the fold for the erstwhile on-his-way Ross Barkley ?

Call me crazy if you like, but I think we’re already at the point where we have to change and therefore need to be bold and it’s why I think Everton could and perhaps should look to utilise a five-man forward unit.

Rooney, Sigurdsson, Lookman, Calvert-Lewin… and as soon as he’s fit, Barkley, would give us options.

Sigurdsson, Rooney and Barkley could pull the strings, Lookman and Calvert-Lewin would add pace and width, particularly Lookman and if we moved the ball much more quickly from defence through midfield and into attack, at pace, with first-time passing, surely we could work openings for any one or more of these five to get into a shooting position ?

Calvert-Lewin has impressed greatly already this season and in Ademola Lookman, we have pace and width that the first team has been sadly lacking, all too noticeably against both Chelsea and Spurs. And both these young players are seemingly oozing with self confidence and that’s vital.

And we have to get away from the long ball game we’ve seen too much of already in the opening eight games – as we’re simply not very good at it. So stop it, now !!

We are currently the most shot-shy team in the Premier League, so something HAS to change.

Many people, and I’m one of them, feel that Barkley could and should be benefiting from playing with and learning from the vastly more experienced Rooney. Ross has shown he’s more than capable of being mobile, and he can shoot – what he lacks is confidence to play more instinctively and quicker, Rooney could surely help him in these areas couldn’t he ?

Put Barkley in such an offensive unit – and one that can be supplemented by Mirallas, Vlasic and Ramirez – and even Oumar Niasse, who bagged a brace for the U23s last Sunday – and on paper at least, we’d look far more capable of causing opposition defences problems.

Until the January transfer window and assuming we will be actively looking to sign a recognised centre forward, we have to find other ways to worry opponents and score goals.

We’re in four competitions, expectations are high perhaps too high, but if we want to be a ‘big club’ again, we have to find ways to get the job done and if that means changing strategy, then get on with it… because we can’t have too many more limp performances like that against Spurs.

The post Time for a rethink… and a role for Barkley ? appeared first on GrandOldTeam.

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