Food for thought for Koeman as Everton have to settle for Palace draw

By Lyndon Lloyd 01/10/2016  34 Comments  [Jump to last]
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Everton 1 - 1 Crystal Palace

Seven games, 14 points and what will at the very least be a 6th-place berth heading into the second international break of the season represents a good start under new manager Ronald Koeman. Obviously, you’d have taken that record at any point during the final seven games of last season and, obviously, if it establishes the pattern for the campaign, it puts Everton on course for Europa League qualification.

Yet, there’s a feeling that the Blues have spurned an excellent opportunity to be sitting even higher in the table heading into October and a return of just one point from Bournemouth and Crystal Palace serves to underline the fact that Koeman still has plenty of work to do with a team still finding its way.

The ingredients for a stirring return to winning ways against Palace were certainly there — a packed house under the lights at Goodison Park and only the absence of Leighton Baines seemingly denying the manager his strongest line-up. What is his best starting XI remains up in the air somewhat, though. Tom Cleverley, who was arguably the best player in blue last weekend when he came on in the second half at the Vitality Stadium, was drafted in for this match at the expense of Kevin Mirallas, with Koeman seemingly sacrificing either width or further attacking options in favour of greater energy in the middle of the park.

Though the former Manchester United and Aston Villa man would play the full 90 minutes, it’s doubtful that he justified his selection, particularly where his use of the ball was concerned, but Mirallas’s inability to make the most of his 15 minutes illustrates the difficulty Koeman is having in finding a settled and consistent combination among the forward four players.

While not especially pretty or convincing, Everton were good value for the lead they took into half time thanks to Romelu Lukaku’s brilliant 35th-minute free kick. Chances had been at a high premium up until that point, with neither team working the opposition goalkeeper, but exemplified by a much more robust and combative Ross Barkley, the Blues seemed to be in determined mood even if they lacked craft.

When Phil Jagielka went in bravely to a high-footed challenge and was awarded the foul against him, though, it set up Lukaku to open the scoring. Strictly, it should have been an indirect free kick, but the Belgian striker swept the ball past Steve Mandanda with a well-placed strike.

With three wins on the bounce behind them, a team boasting physical threat and height, Palace are a difficult proposition these days, even without the injured Scott Dann in the team. They came out after the interval strongly and had caught the home side out before they’d really settled back into the contest.

Bryan Oviedo, who was impressive from a defensive standpoint until he made way for Ramiro Funes Mori late on, made a rare error by showing Joel Ward inside which culminated in Christian Benteke rising easily above Seamus Coleman to loop a header that seemed to arc into the net in slow motion with Maarten Stekelenburg perhaps thinking it was destined to drop wide.

The sense of unease within Goodison briefly turned to despair shortly afterwards when, in an almost carbon-copy move, Ward centred to Damien Delaney who also beat his marker in the air to plant a header into the same part of the goal. Fortunately, the linesman’s raised flag came to Everton’s rescue, with James McArthur having been adjudged to have strayed into an offside position.

Responding to that let-off, the Blues regained the initiative for a short while but the second half would provide a neat summation of their present predicament. Palace looked the stronger outfit and were finding plenty of space at times while Everton battled to find an outlet ball and were resorting too often to aimless balls forward. And yet, apart from a diving catch to deny James Tomkins, Stekelenburg was barely troubled for the remainder of the game, underscoring the improved defensive solidity under Koeman.

Though few in number, the best chances fell Everton’s way. A nice move put Idrissa Gueye in for a great chance to open his account since joining from Villa but he was denied by a blocking challenge that deflected his effort wide.

Then, from a corner on the Blues’ left, Barry darted to the near post to flick on the dead-ball delivery and his header would have found the inside of the far post had Jason Puncheon not been on the line to help it behind on the far side.

Yannick Bolasie, dynamic and powerful in the first half against his old team but noticeably poorer in the second, went close with an acrobatic overhead kick, but arguably the clearest opening fell to Coleman who was released into the box by a nice flick from Lukaku but the Irishman snatched at the chance rather than let the ball drop and he sliced it off target.

Ultimately, a draw felt like a let-down, particularly with two weeks off now and a trip to formidable-looking Manchester City looming next. There are signs of progress under Koeman — let’s face it, he’s still only a month and a half into his first season with the club — but they might be more incremental than those early results suggested.

Everton showed a worrying lack of guile, a shortage of quick, incisive passing moves and the final ball was too often delayed or mis-placed when opportunities did present themselves. While Barkley answered the call to press and harry the opposition more in forward areas, certainly more so than Lukaku, it appeared to be at the expense of creativity and that gave the Toffees a disappointingly one-dimensional feel.

Koeman expressed his satisfaction with his team's points return after seven matches and Everton are unquestionably in a better position than before to take advantage of the Dutchman's experience. Being hard to beat, as one Premier League defeat demonstrates, was an important first step. The rest will come... but perhaps over a longer period of time than those first few results suggested.

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Reader Comments (34)

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Alun Jones
1 Posted 01/10/2016 at 12:03:31
Thanks, Lyndon, for a pretty accurate report. I think we are making progress under Ronald Koeman as I think under Roberto Martinez we would have lost this match in the second half, no matter the disallowed goal. Certainly our attacking potency is still lacking but our defensive solidity should enable us to make a challenge for European football this season.

I'm not yet convinced about Bolasie – he flatters to deceive quite a lot and Mirallas still looks hopelessly inconsistent in his decision making; I was hoping to see Lennon rather than Mirallas for the last 15 as his direct running might have yielded something more. <:P>However I'm reasonably happy with our start notwithstanding the poor shift at Bournemouth. Nice to see Oviedo put in a good defensive performance. Here is hoping all our boys come back from the International break in one piece.

Danny Broderick
2 Posted 01/10/2016 at 12:47:13
Our conundrum is the midfield 5. Barry and Gueye are a good solid partnership, I'd rate them both as 8/10.

From the 3 that play in front of them, I would rate Bolasie as 7/10 currently – he could become an 8 or a 9 if he can develop a bit though. The rest of them: Deulofeu, Mirallas, Barkley, Lennon, Cleverley, I would rate them all as 6/10. You never quite know what you are going to get from any of them, certainly on a consistent basis.

The only thing that can solve this is recruitment. We need better players in those remaining midfield positions – we also need a decent back-up striker to push Lukaku. But our first choice 11 will always be a bit lacking while we have those 6/10 players in our starting line-up.

Kunal Desai
3 Posted 01/10/2016 at 12:57:52
Bench Barkley and get someone like Sigurdsson from Swansea in. Let him dictate the midfield.
Steavey Buckley
4 Posted 01/10/2016 at 13:16:47
The Everton performance last night was simply not good enough. Everton played far too deeply in their own half, encouraging Palace to have a go at them. The reason could be, Everton have too many older players playing. Because, at times, Everton were playing with only 2 or 3 players upfront. And you can't win matches like that at home.

For heaven's sake, it was the same Crystal Palace, who leaked 2 goals against Sunderland in their previous match with Dann playing. Everton could only score 1 goal against them from a free kick. 1 of only 2 shots on target in the whole match.

The rest of the season is not going to get much better. Until 2 or 3 quality players are signed, which should have happened during the summer, as the winter transfer window is not the best time to sign players.

Peter Fearon
5 Posted 01/10/2016 at 13:53:15
Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose.

That performance could have been taken from any of the last five seasons or more. On top, foot off the pedal, let them back in, struggle for a point. Moyes or Martinez or Koeman, you wouldn't be able to tell who was in charge.

Bolasie is emerging as an exciting player with almost no end product. He may as well be entertaining the fans with fancy footwork at half-time.

Cleverley should not be on the field. Barkley should take a long holiday. The longer the better. Lukaku needs a strike partner at his shoulder. Very disappointing to see the same old same old.

Ray Said
6 Posted 01/10/2016 at 14:09:27
i would love to see Lukaku played as second striker with a target man ahead of him. Martinez turned him into a target man and, although he scores, that role does not make best use of his strengths which are running and bullying his ay past players and shooting.

I also have never liked the 4-2-3-1. It unbalances the team as we have 7 (including the goalkeeper) defending, two wide, and only one supporting the striker/assisting the midfield.

John McGimpsey
7 Posted 01/10/2016 at 14:52:29
It seems Barkley is the scapegoat for everything lately. He did no wrong last night and even when a few boo boys in the paddock were sweating on his releasing the ball, he held a second and placed a perfect ball between three players only for Bolasie to lose it...

Bolasie has been shite the last two games yet not a sniff from writers on here. How Cleverley played the full game is beyond me. Where was Deulofeu? Was he injured? Lots of work ahead for the boss but seeing 5 leave and only five come in and not one pence spent stinks to high heaven.

Sell-to-buy in January, anyone? I know the ones trying to get Ross off the pitch will be shouting for him to go – just like they did for Rom in the summer.

John Pierce
8 Posted 01/10/2016 at 15:06:35
I believe that, looking at the game the selection, formation and performance, were not good enough. More in a sec. However, in context, we've collected a decent return of points and had a reasonable start.

Everton have not played well for more than 45 mins in a game at most. So yes, it needs some patience but I need to see more from the team and the manager.

Many defending Koeman saying it needs 2-3 windows but what then? Does magically buying Koeman style players mean success? At the very least with the current crop you'd expect to see something more cohesive and fluid. Everton are so up and down in games it makes you sea sick!

It feels a bit Moyes-like with better attacking players; we have immediately become more robust and can hang in games often when we are not playing well.

Koeman shouldn't be derided as yet, but let's not go overboard with the patience thing. We had 3 years of that. New era at Everton – expect better... don't just settle for average.

David Hallwood
9 Posted 01/10/2016 at 15:15:35
Great report, as ever. Agree with the majority, the problem is if Lukaku isn't scoring neither are we; and the front 3 don't even look like they've got goals in them.

Particularly concerning is Barkley, who I've defended throughout but he now looks like a player who has given up chasing lost causes because he found one. Where are the runs ahead of Rom, with or without the ball? What's happened to the Ross that went past players with ease?

Koeman has got his work cut out because nothing seems to be working offensively.

Andy Meighan
10 Posted 01/10/2016 at 15:56:44
No, Lyndon, you're right. Cleverly didn't justify his selection. Not in the slightest. Can anyone tell me what these managers see in this impostor?

There was an instance last night when we broke in the end half when it was 5 against 3, the ball broke to Cleverley and he stopped and went backwards Result: the move broke down and :Palace regrouped

That was him all night. The lad hasn't got a forward thinking nerve in his body and it looks like he's conned another manager. What really annoys me is him getting game time over the likes of Davies and other talented kids at the club. Believe me, while we've got the likes of him and his ilk at our club we are in for a long hard season.

Yes, we've got 14 points from 7 games but haven't put a 90-minute performance in all season The striker issue is another bugbear – no half-decent striker is going to sign for us while he's got no chance of game time while Lukaku is around The alternatives, Kone, Valencia... say no more.

A long season ahead but nothing more than I expected. A massive job on his hands; let's just hope he can turn this mini-slump around... He's getting paid enough!

Paul Holmes
11 Posted 01/10/2016 at 16:28:21
How anyone can say Gareth Barry should play and be rated 8/10 is unbelievable in my opinion. Gareth Barry would NOT get in any of the top six teams so why should he be good enough for us?

The game has changed... watch Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City, it's high tempo football, pressing and athleticism. Gareth Barry and Ross Barkley do not fill that mould; no wonder we have to play Cleverley instead of Mirallas to stop the midfield being overrun.

Unless we buy players in January, Lukaku will be off next season to score plenty of goals with assists from top midfielders like Ozil and Courtino!

Eddie Dunn
12 Posted 01/10/2016 at 16:37:34
Ray Said, The formation you mention is the problem. We needed to be harder to breakdown, but in achieving this, we are failing in our creativity.

The defence were sitting too deep and the gap grew too large between them and Lukaku up top. He is starved of the ball and no-one but Coleman and on occasion Bolasie had the gas to help him.

I think that Koeman should have seen early on that we did not need the four across the back, especially with Barry and Gana sitting so deep. I would have liked him to go to a back three and put Valencia up near Rom, who had two or more defenders on his every move.

Mark Daley
13 Posted 01/10/2016 at 16:49:02
28th October is the feast of St Jude, if anyone's interested in going to mass then to pray to the Patron Saint of Lost Causes. It's the best plan I can think of...
Rick Tarleton
14 Posted 01/10/2016 at 21:05:33
John McGimpsey (#7) seemed to watch the same game I watched; most others saw it differently. I thought Oviedo and Barkley were good, and Gueye and Barry did their usual solid job.

Bolasie leaves me cold. He seems no more consistent than Lennon or Deulofeu; if I had to choose one of them, I find Deulofeu more capable of linking up with Lukaku.

Eddie Dunn
15 Posted 01/10/2016 at 22:48:11
Rick, I suppose it's early days as regards Bolasie but, if you spend £27 million on a player, I suppose you will give him a few games.

I thought all of our side tried hard, but some of the chasing down that Koeman asked for, was not carried out by Bolasie or Lukaku to the extent of others. Barkley seemed to take it on board.

Of course, there is nothing more galling (even at my 5-side level) than when you bust a gut to close a man down only to look over and see him pass to his mate who has not been closed by your team mate. It has to be a collective action.

The sterility of our play is worrying. There were moments of lovely passing with just the end product missing. At least we look a tighter unit. Rome wasn't built in a day, but oh for a Juan Mata!

Anthony Dwyer
16 Posted 02/10/2016 at 01:24:50
I'm with John @7 here. Why is it that, when we don't win, we all have to attack Barkley?

Looking at the stats, Ross isn't at his best, but he's still outdoing Mirallas, Deulofeu, Bolasie, Cleverley and Co in terms of assists and goals. If he was to play out this season in the manner he played last season in, then he would hit double figures again. I'd bet that Ross's double-figured goal tally would surpass the combined efforts of Cleverley, Barry, Gana, Gibson, Besic, and Deulofeu all by himself.

We seem to think that, because Ross isn't the world beater we wanted him to be, then he's just shit. Why no middle ground?

Are the likes of Deli Ali, Payet, Erickson, Courtinho, Hazard, William, Rooney, Sigurdsson, Widjaldum, Marcel, and so on doing any more than Ross? My answer is no, but their fans still support them, they still know that they have done it before so they can do it again.

If Ross isn't the play maker we desire, then fair enough, we may need to cash in and mix it up. But first we should move Cleverley, Deulofeu, Kone, Niasse, Valencia, Besic, Oviedo, Lennon, and Gibson on as they offer much less than Ross, week after week, month after month.

I simply can't understand why on earth we choose to pick on Ross. People claim he should be dropped, so okay, let's drop him. Who should replace him? Deulofeu who can't seem to affect a cup game when given a chance v Norwich! Cleverley, Kone or Lennon who have proven to be bang average at best there whole career! Gibson, the one-game-a-season man! Maybe Dowell or Davies as they're the new blue eyes, but they still have a lot to prove.

Imo, Ross is not the problem, Ross is the solution. Get him performing and Everton are a much better side for it. I'd say we own 3 players capable of double figures: Ross, Rom and Kev. All of them need to play most of the time if we are to do anything this season.

Geoff Williams
17 Posted 02/10/2016 at 09:22:26
Anthony (#16) – my sentiments too.
George McKane
18 Posted 02/10/2016 at 10:39:50
When Benteke rose above Coleman(?), look at Jagielka's position, not marking anyone never mind the tallest man forward. This happens quite regularly, he's lost in no man's land. He's been a decent player, Jags, but never a captain. Time for change, I think.

Williams Captain and new central defensive pairing; we also must make a place for Holgate.

I don't understand Cleverley's or Barkley's place in team at the moment – both have no form.

Oliver Molloy
19 Posted 02/10/2016 at 12:04:28
John @ 7.

I would suggest that you need to catch yourself on regards Ross Barkley and your 'scapegoat' remarks. What has Ross Barkley done in 5 seasons bar the odd brilliant goal – which EVERY player is capable of, by the way.

The criticism from people like me regards Ross is he just doesn't seem to be learning his trade – it's not personal.

Even those who really rate him and so wish him to do well (as I do, and they know more about football than you or I) are now beginning to have their doubts.

He's had three seasons (not including him finding his feet after his broken leg) to show he is capable of leading our team. It's one thing having great feet, it's quite another in knowing how to use them. His decision-making is simply awful most of the time and it appears he just doesn't see things like the "great" footballers do.

Barkley is not alone; Mirallas is another whose time is up at Everton. Deulofeu and Jagielka are others, in my opinion. Both fullback positions and a goalkeeper also need to sorted.

We need players who can do the business week in week out, not choose which week they want to play and still pick up their massive wages... Most fans just want to see Everton players giving their all for the shirt you know – that would be a start.

I predict this season is Ross Barkley's last chance at Everton as a nailed-on starter. We have zero creativity in our midfield for far too long – if I was Koeman I would be moving heaven and earth to sign a player like Mata or Fabregas – whatever it takes if they were available. If he doesn't address this, we will be going nowhere.

Rant over...

Kevin Turner
20 Posted 02/10/2016 at 12:39:04
It's going to take a few transfer windows for Koeman to stamp his mark on the squad and take us forward. For every one coming in, there'll be a departure and the list is full of the usual suspects, you know, the likes of Kone and Gibson, but I also think we will see the back of Jags as he was dreadful. His positional sense, always suspect, is really leaving us exposed at the back and his distribution as always was fairly dreadful.

It'll be to Koeman's eternal credit if he turns Barkley's potential into the player we all wished for but at the moment the lad looks confused and a little intimidated. I think it's his personality but he's worth his place ahead of the tripe elsewhere on our books.

Brian Harrison
21 Posted 02/10/2016 at 12:46:53
I am sure that Koeman is as frustrated as we are are not beating Palace after doing the hard part in scoring first but, unlike some of our fans, he realizes that it will take time. He has started to work on the fitness of the players and that is already having an effect; he reckons that on average each player has lost about 8 pounds. Now when you consider that these guys train 5 days a week, that is some weight loss.

He has also inherited a team whose forwards (Lukaku apart) don't score enough goals between them. He also said after signing Bolaise that he would have to up his goal tally of 9 goals in 3 seasons.

So I am sure he is well aware of where we need to improve collectively as a team, and I am sure he and Steve Walsh will be identifying players needed to make the changes he wants. Let's not forget, he took over a team who had finished in the bottom half for the last 2 seasons.

I have also said on other threads that Klopp had virtually a whole season to change them into a high-energy pressing team and, while making the changes, failed to qualify for a Europa League place. So, when judging Koeman, let's remember that it will take time for him to get it right – but I have every confidence that he will. Mourhino has already lost 3 on the bounce and Chelsea under Conte are not yet setting the world alight. And they took over better squads of players than Koeman took over at Everton.

Michael Polley
22 Posted 02/10/2016 at 13:40:10
Defensively we have improved. Last season, we would've probably conceded a second goal and lost the game.

Offensively we were poor with the final ball lacking. We need to give Lukaku more support and generate more creativity from the midfield. I can't see that the January transfer window will help us bring in any decent personnel but we will see.

Koeman is a good manager and he will turn us into a great team but it will take time – patience.

Don Alexander
23 Posted 02/10/2016 at 15:02:21
Core fitness having perished right through the squad under BBS, allied to his permission for them all to extend their summer holidays rather than come back early for preseason, which seriously stymied RKs plans before a ball was kicked, allied to the apparent need for everyone to realise how important it is to win the bloody ball back for God's sake, and it's a tribute to RK and his team that we are where we are.

This season we'll do well to qualify for anything. We need other players worthy of the money they're paid and time for them to bed in. It's the same at every club.

Let's be patient with the new regime.

Rick Tarleton
24 Posted 02/10/2016 at 20:46:18
Incidentally on figures in today's "Observer", Barkley is the fourth most successful mid-fielder in providing scoring chances with 20 so far. I hope he doesn't hit form, he'll really be something.
Jon Withey
25 Posted 02/10/2016 at 20:51:23
I'm looking forward to see how they manage against a top side now.

Sure, Koeman should have plenty more time but unconvincing performances against Norwich, Bournemouth and Palace speak for themselves of where we are at.

A bit insipid right now.

Brent Stephens
26 Posted 02/10/2016 at 20:56:49
Rick, I noticed that. Interesting in the context of our criticism of the lad. Wasn't he also quite good on the assists last season?
Rick Tarleton
27 Posted 02/10/2016 at 21:13:51
Exactly, Brent. He's not quite the useless plonker that half the correspondents think.
Anthony Dwyer
28 Posted 02/10/2016 at 23:08:58
Geoff, Rick and Brent, nice to see there's other blues who don't just want to ribbon Ross. 👍
David Ellis
29 Posted 03/10/2016 at 02:45:13
I couldn't understand why Koeman was always interested in wingers in the summer transfer window – didn't we have plenty already? Now its clear... they aren't good enough for the first XI (Mirallas, Lennon and Deulofeu...and only Deulofeu is going to get better).

I agree that moving forward (ie, next summer) we will replace Jags and make Williams captain. A winger will come in for Mirallas. Another midfielder will come in for Barry. Cover for Lukaku (and if he leaves, a proper replacement). Then we'll be a real force. For all his faults, I think we need to hang on to Lukaku – if only because it is hard to attract a similar quality replacement without Champions League football.

But that's for the future. For this season, it is what it is. It's a long season. We've got points on the board and confidence in the manager. Top 6 is entirely possible. Top 4 is not impossible. COYB

Jay Harris
30 Posted 03/10/2016 at 05:03:31
Anthony, I totally agree with your defence of Ross but it doesn't stop with our own support.

The Delle Alli loving media are all over him, Jamie the dog Carragher is on his case and the Sky darlings are all saying he has to go to one of their Sky 4 to progress.

This is all having an impact on the lad and he really needs our encouragement and support to get his confidence back.

Philip Bunting
31 Posted 03/10/2016 at 11:38:51
What I'd give for a Thomas Gravesen in his prime in the middle of the park alongside Gana. That lad could play.
Rick Tarleton
32 Posted 03/10/2016 at 14:31:07
I watched the Burnley game yesterday and particularly watched their left-sided central defender, Ben Mee, after seeing he came high on many of the statistics for interceptions, tackles etc. I'm sure the Everton management are aware of him, but he reads a game beautifully and is one to watch.
Laurie Hartley
33 Posted 03/10/2016 at 23:13:25
Philip (#31) – spot on. Tommy had that mad glint in his eye – something that is missing from this squad.

I was hoping that Mo Besic was the answer but he has a major injury to overcome. Mind you, regardless how anyone rates Brian Oviedo, he has shown that it can be done. That lad has got a big heart.

Kevin Dyer
34 Posted 04/10/2016 at 14:11:24
Oliver (#19), not a chance Koeman is interested in Mata or Fabregas. Neither are athletes which it appears Koeman prefers. Pace and Power, to use the cliché.

Now they are great characteristics for a player to possess, but do they trump Creativity and Vision? I guess it depends how you intend to play.

The Bournemouth game worried me because Koeman's solution to our terrible first half was to do exactly the same but at a busier pace, replacing players like-for-like as they tired. IMO our set-up was all wrong and gave their midfield ample time to control the game and pull the strings. We failed to recognise that and make adjustments, hence the easy win for them. Second half vs Palace was the same deal.

Despite (deserved) early season plaudits for some astute formarional shifts and decisive substitutions, I'm afraid it's looking like Koeman is in thrall to his tactical dogma of the high tempo pressing game, which is the latest flavour of the month in football. Now if that's his approach, then fine... but there has to be a Plan B, maybe even a Plan C.

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