Romelu Lukaku is in line for his first Premier League start of the season
You wait three months for the Premier League to return and just as it's getting some momentum, the international break arrives after just three games to disrupt the rhythm.
For many supporters, particularly those for whom club trumps country, it's a largely unwelcome distraction but the days off can often provide an opportunity for the team to attain full fitness and shake off any rust that was evident in the early days in the campaign.
Roberto Martinez certainly seemed to find them beneficial, not least in 2013 when he signed three players on transfer deadline day and the following year when, just like his successor did this summer, he received players back in stages from international tournament duty and used the fortnight's interval to bed them back in.
With Koeman suggesting that some of his players are still shy of 100% fitness, this upcoming break could be just as useful, particularly if he too makes some more additions by the deadline, but his immediate focus is on the visit of Stoke City this weekend.
The Potters come to Goodison Park looking for their first Premier League win of the fledgeling season having drawn at newly-promoted Middlesbrough on the opening day and then suffered a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City last weekend.
In their two games against them last season, Everton saw both sides of Mark Hughes's team — the talent that exists in their ranks with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored his first Stoke goals at Goodison, and Marco Arnautovic on the one hand, and their propensity to ship goals, particularly against a team able to move the ball quickly, on the other.
The Blues' 3-0 win at the Britannia Stadium was, the FA Cup win over Chelsea aside, arguably the last stirring performance under Martinez but it was also a completely different affair to the reverse fixture earlier in the season which was more symptomatic of the defensive ills that would eventually bring about Martinez's demise.
3-2 to the good and with their tails up, Everton were 19 minutes away from what would have been an important victory given how they'd lost to Leicester in their previous home game but two late goals, including a press-the-self-destruct-button from John Stones gifted Stoke a sickening victory.
You get the sense that such late collapses through indiscipline, lack of focus and an inability to see out a game will be few and far between under Koeman but the Dutchman is still very much proving himself to Evertonians.
So far so good, however, with a creditable point gained against Tottenham and last weekend's come-from-behind win at West Bromwich Albion which presents the Toffees with the chance to be nicely placed in the top six going into the transfer deadline and the enforced break beyond it if they can pick up a second successive victory.
Koeman has been boosted by the fact that only Seamus Coleman and Muhamed Besic are definitely ruled out through injury, with the Irishman now pencilled in to return from his ankle problem for the Sunderland game on 12 September.
Tom Cleverley, James McCarthy and Darron Gibson were described by the manager as being “slight” doubts but only McCarthy's absence is likely to have any significant bearing on the starting XI, given that he has started all three games so far.
It's the selection conundrums in attacking midfield and central defence that could ultimately determine the formation and starting XI that Koeman goes with. Seeing as Romelu Lukaku will almost certainly start and Stoke's defence is similar in size and physicality to that of West Brom, it's possible he will forego the “back three” he started with last Saturday and go straight to a more orthodox four-man back line.
That would see the precocious talents of Mason Holgate continue at fullback, Idrissa Gueye pair back up with Gareth Barry in defensive midfield, and leave Koeman with decisions to make over which two out of Gerard Deulofeu, Kevin Mirallas and Yannick Bolasie start in attacking midfield.
With Ashley Williams now ready, however, the could be tempted to deploy him in a three with Ramiro Funes Mori and Phil Jagielka, use Holgate as the wing back and have one fewer winger to support Lukaku up front.
Either way, Koeman has already shown a pleasing willingness to make early adjustments if things aren't working so there will be a measure of comfort among the home faithful regardless of what the starting XI ends up being.
In the aforementioned Shaqiri and Arnautovic, plus enterprising midfielder Bojan, Stoke have match-winning quality in their ranks but they lack a reliable goalscoring striker and sophistication at the back. With Everton a more robust side than they were last term under Martinez and superior on paper, they should prevail in this one if they play to their strengths and keep things tight at the back.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Last Season: Everton 3 - 4 Stoke City
Predicted Line-up: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Williams, Jagielka, Baines, Gueye, Barry, Barkley, Bolasie, Mirallas, Lukaku
Reader Comments (48)
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1 Posted 26/08/2016 at 01:26:08
Hopefully we can get all 3 points. Clean sheet would be nice.
2 Posted 26/08/2016 at 02:43:33
I suspect Funes Mori will make way for Williams. The wild swipe which allowed Fletcher in and the ease with which he was brushed aside by Rondon would have alarmed Koeman.
Stoke won't make it easy, but this is a golden chance to get early points on the board. We need to take it...
3 Posted 26/08/2016 at 02:46:41
3-0 to the blues.
4 Posted 26/08/2016 at 04:10:08
If we go about it the right way, I see a convincing victory here.
5 Posted 26/08/2016 at 06:30:56
The biggest question for me is; will this be the match that Lukaku remembers how to score a goal? His touch around the goal midweek, was terrible. We need you to put the ball in the net, big guy.
Still, I think we should handle them. 2-0 First clean sheet in a while.
6 Posted 26/08/2016 at 06:36:57
7 Posted 26/08/2016 at 06:43:32
8 Posted 26/08/2016 at 06:54:14
9 Posted 26/08/2016 at 07:53:24
10 Posted 26/08/2016 at 08:02:44
How times have changed - the bench will include Lennon, Deulofeu, and Funes Mori.
I fancy us in this one - I think we will have too much fire power up front for them and Gueye will make a big difference in midfield.
11 Posted 26/08/2016 at 08:04:53
I think we have more than enough to beat Stoke, so a win by 2 clear goals and a clean sheet would be nice.
12 Posted 26/08/2016 at 08:24:54
Jagielka probably. He's done it for club and country many times. Personally I've never seen the need to have one left-footed centre back. Most of the great partnerships over the years have been two right-footers. It doesn't make a difference to me. Harold Matthews thought otherwise though, so you're in good company.
I hope we ditch the three-at-the-back. It's never worked well in the Premier League. In fact, save for a few years in 90's Italy...it's been a pretty useless tactic entirely.
That said, Koeman has me relatively relaxed for this one. He's shown that he can accept his own mistakes and act upon them. Now that really is 'phenomenal' after the last three years of stubbornness.
The only real issue to sort out is the wingers. Deulofeu has looked out of sorts. I'm a big fan of the guy and he seems a very likeable young man, but if I were Koeman I'd be telling him he has to work so much harder. He also has to stop throwing his arms in the air in frustration. He did it after a Tom Davies pass went astray in pre-season. Totally over the top reaction from a player who has his own fair share of exasperating moments.
Mirallas is nailed on. Get him starting.
Then it's a toss up between Bolasie and Lennon on the other flank. Bolasie is clearly the more exciting player...but Lennon is wonderfully effective. I'm also mindful that Bolasie from the bench is perhaps the best weapon we have if we go behind. Difficult one for RK.
Lastly...is Kone back in with a shout of an Everton career?
Much like the hapless Martinez, I didn't want to give up on the Ivorian. Towards the end of last season I relented. He was truly hopeless.
However! A full pre-season behind him and two goals (more than Lukaku) in midweek, perhaps he still has a part to play.
13 Posted 26/08/2016 at 08:35:07
Jagielka moved to left centre back to accommodate Stones so I imagine it would be him if Williams plays and not Funes Mori.
14 Posted 26/08/2016 at 08:54:48
Phil, in fairness and on "form" both Lennon and Kone deserve to come in to calculations.
New owner, new manager, new mindset, new era.
Up the Blues.
15 Posted 26/08/2016 at 09:05:53
17 Posted 26/08/2016 at 11:16:41
As for the defence if as seems likely the manager opts for a back four I am not so sure Funes Mori will be the one to make way for Williams. Jags had a curtailed pre-season and may still be feeling his way back to full fitness while Mori delivers more of a goal threat at set pieces.
18 Posted 26/08/2016 at 11:22:47
On a side note, I'm just glad to have got all my enthusiasm back and actually looking forward to matches.
19 Posted 26/08/2016 at 11:23:43
I can see the RS losing to Spurs in the early kick-off, so with the old 'let you down again Everton' that would usually signal a 1-0 Stoke victory. Let's hope this 'new, improved Everton' can sign off for the international break with the mighty Blues sitting pretty in the C.L. spots. Looking forward to it.
20 Posted 26/08/2016 at 11:51:35
Holgate Williams Jags
Lennon (RWB) Idrissa Barry Baines(LWB)
Holgate Williams Jags Baines
Mirallas Barkley Bolasie
Bring on Deulofeu for at least 30 mins though, brings so much creativity!
Hopefully Davies comes on too in the second half, for Barry.
21 Posted 26/08/2016 at 11:53:03
22 Posted 26/08/2016 at 12:05:01
23 Posted 26/08/2016 at 12:47:28
Williams, Funes Mori and Holgate in a three; if two in the middle... Williams and Funes Mori at present without doubt more suitable and more balanced.
25 Posted 26/08/2016 at 15:08:44
I fancy us for a win tomorrow. It's actually nice being positive and confident before a game at Goodison after the rancour of the Martinez era.
26 Posted 26/08/2016 at 15:40:52
Holgate Jagielka Williams Baines
Lennon Barkley Gana Mirallas
Lennon will protect Holgate then, on 60 mins when Arnautovic has thrown his toys out the pram, we can chuck on Del Boy and Bolasie, with a chomping Kone ready to come on if Rom isn't doing it up top again.
28 Posted 26/08/2016 at 17:12:41
Impact subs in Deulofeu and Lennon to keep the supporting 3 on their toes, and Williams to close the game out. Cleverley and McCarthy look on from the bench...
29 Posted 26/08/2016 at 17:17:14
Holgate Williams Jagielka
Lennon (RWB) Idrissa Barry Baines (LWB)
30 Posted 26/08/2016 at 17:30:11
You must have been watching a different game than me.
Funes Mori is not a patch on Jags who hasn't put a foot wrong this season whereas Funes Mori is always just one error away from conceding.
I like Funes Mori but he makes at least one serious error per game. Look at the way Rondon lost him totally last week.
31 Posted 26/08/2016 at 19:35:52
32 Posted 26/08/2016 at 20:55:22
Jags and Williams every day for me. Spot on with the team I reckon Lyndon
33 Posted 26/08/2016 at 22:45:36
Also, the Spurs goal the week before was started by Jags who was in possession of the ball under no real pressure and just panicked and cleared the ball forward without any pressure applied to him.
Within the next phase, the ball goes wide, then schoolboy defending by Baines and McCarthy who between them failed to stop the cross which was scored in the centre of our goal. Comedy of errors, yes, which did not include Funes Mori. Or are you blaming him for the Spurs goal too?
34 Posted 26/08/2016 at 22:58:50
35 Posted 27/08/2016 at 00:25:33
36 Posted 27/08/2016 at 09:43:42
37 Posted 27/08/2016 at 09:53:41
38 Posted 27/08/2016 at 11:36:46
39 Posted 27/08/2016 at 11:41:06
40 Posted 27/08/2016 at 13:01:42
Holgate Jagielka Williams Baines
Mirallas Barry Gueye Bolasie
I think that's our strongest 11 (outside of Coleman for Holgate if he was fit).
41 Posted 27/08/2016 at 13:05:50
Do we prefer them to the blue?
42 Posted 27/08/2016 at 13:31:01
Personally speaking, I am happy with the squad we have at the moment, I would prefer to wait if the right players are not available, than buy for buying sake, give Ronnie time, we will have a blip or two along the way, but things are looking great for Evertonians.
Last but not least, judge the match on 90 mins and not the first 15 mins, first moaner gets a yellow card.
43 Posted 27/08/2016 at 13:45:23
Maybe white nets show up better on TV.
44 Posted 27/08/2016 at 13:47:26
45 Posted 27/08/2016 at 13:56:49
all the better to shoot at. Over the course of a season it'll be interesting to keep an eye on.
47 Posted 27/08/2016 at 14:05:08
48 Posted 27/08/2016 at 14:06:57
49 Posted 27/08/2016 at 14:10:04
50 Posted 27/08/2016 at 14:15:09
51 Posted 27/08/2016 at 14:43:58
52 Posted 27/08/2016 at 14:46:22
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