Where Did It Go Wrong For Ronald Koeman At Everton?

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: Everton manager Ronald Koeman gestures during the Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on October 22, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images)

Modern football is a harsh world, especially for managers. More often than not, there can be evidence to suggest why a manager given the chop should have been handed more time in his job. The word ‘patience’ is something that seems to be going out of fashion in a sport where results are the ultimate factor, above all, that decide a manager’s fate.

Where Did It Go Wrong For Ronald Koeman At Everton?

With Ronald Koeman’s departure from Everton, however, there was little, if anything, to suggest that his time was not up, even with the Premier League season only nine matches old. The Blues currently lie in the bottom three with only eight points and two wins, and after another dismal display against Arsenal on Sunday, Koeman was sent on his way.

Yet how did it come to this? How did a manager with such an increasingly impressive reputation, with a fortune to spend and a good group of players around him, get it so horribly wrong?

The catalyst to the Dutchman’s downfall began several months back during summer. The decision to sell Romelu Lukaku for £75 million, Everton’s best player and scorer of 25 league goals the previous season, was a tough one but the pain would have been softened with the right recruitment to replace the Belgian and add further quality in other areas.

It didn’t happen. Instead of replacing Lukaku, Everton dithered over doing so and decided to try and bolster other positions, particularly the creative midfield role. In came Davy Klassen (£23.6 million), Gylfi Sigurdsson (£45 million) and the returning Wayne Rooney (undisclosed). It left Koeman’s squad unbalanced and resulted in him playing the likes of Sigurdsson and Klassen in wider positions to accommodate them in the team.

Jordan Pickford (£30 million) and Michael Keane (£30 million) looked more astute additions despite the alarmingly high fees, yet still, Koeman failed to add a centre-forward to provide a much-needed goal threat. Consequently, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin out of position and Sandro Ramirez proving lacklustre, it left Oumar Niasse, a man Everton loaned out to Hull City midway through last season, as the club’s only reasonably reliable option up front.

Overall, around £140 million was spent without a replacement being brought in for Lukaku and a winger to offer pace on the flanks. Koeman’s summer policy was puzzling as it was naive, and it resulted in his squad looking worryingly unbalanced and on the back foot before the season began.

Still, there was hope that a manager who performed so admirably at Southampton and guided Everton to seventh last season could get his team to gel together quickly. However, a tough early fixture list left Koeman and his side struggling gain momentum. An opening day victory at home to Stoke was followed by two trips to Manchester to face City and United, either side of a tough outing against Tottenham at Goodison Park.

The Toffees picked up only one point from those three games and such a run left Koeman and his side low on confidence, especially with the ease with which his team were brushed aside by United and Tottenham. If that wasn’t hard enough, Koeman had the Europa League to contend with and a defeat and draw to Atalanta and Apollon Limassol respectively further piled on the pressure.

Form failed to pick up, either. The month of October saw a damaging defeat at home to Burnley and another loss at Goodison Park, this time to Lyon in the Europa League before the last nail in Koeman’s coffin—a 5-2 home thrashing at the hands of Arsenal.

Koeman consistently failed to find the right balance to his side. Weak recruitment and confusing team selection led to a virtually irreversible loss of confidence during his reign at Goodison Park. The talented Kevin Mirallas, one player who could provide some much-needed pace and width, fell out of favour due to the need to play Sigurdsson, Klassen and Rooney together. In addition, the uncertainty over Ross Barkley’s future provided more distraction, with the midfielder’s absence through injury also proving an untimely blow.

Koeman’s bizarre tactic of sitting back and letting Arsenal play, a well-known fatal error against such a talented attacking side, summed up his and his own side’s muddled thinking. The Dutchman didn’t know his best combinations or the right way to approach matches. And with such a vast amount being spent over the summer, it was proving unforgivable.

Perhaps Koeman needed more time, and given his previous record at Southampton, it may seem like that. Yet Everton looked a side confused as to what was being asked of them. From poor recruitment to playing players out of position, the Dutchman led himself down a path he couldn’t return from. And as soon as that became clear, it was then evident that he was on borrowed time.

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