“We Dutchmen are pigheaded. Even when we’re on the other side of the world, we’re always telling people how to do things. In that respect we’re an unpleasant nation.” – Johan Cruyff
On Saturday against Bournemouth we witnessed another stubborn display from our own pigheaded Dutchman. Yet again picking three number 10’s in the same side. Yet again, ignoring pace, youth and form, and stuffing them on the bench. The fear isn’t that he’s making mistakes, it’s that he seems unwilling to correct them, persisting with his mistakes in the hope that they’ll somehow turn into good ideas. At least Calvert-Lewin started, and at least the batsh*t rumours about Baines playing in a back three proved to be made up. And at least we have Oumar Niasse…
Whilst there’s a small sliver of sense to the argument that Everton have had a nasty fixture list up until now, the horror show scorelines and hangdog performances were the worst of Koeman’s tenure at the club, and some of the most gutless I’ve ever seen. That 7th place ceiling that we smashed our heads up against seems even more solid now. The problem isn’t that we’re losing to all the big teams, it’s that we’re getting destroyed by them, receiving bigger beatings than we were last season. Somehow, all that money we’ve spent in the summer has taken us further away from the top four promised land.
It’s also a pretty weak excuse to talk about the need for all our new players to “learn to play with each other,” when thanks to the Europa and Premier Leagues a large chunk of our squad are in double figures for games played this season.
I wonder about our summer. Did we honestly care who we bought during the throes of our spend-spend-SPEND madness, or were we all gripped by a transfer bloodlust? Throw in a nice sounding lapidary scouting report – “He’s a hard working Ajax captain! He’s the ex Barca star who scored one more than Neymar! He’s Swansea’s superstar! He’s a goalie who can pass! He’s hostage to his willy and his waistline!” – and garnish it with an eye watering transfer fee and most of us seemed happy. Did we notice that a worryingly large chunk of our transfer spend was splurged on people who played in the same position, or were we just excited to be buying players?
And then there’s the striker issue. Dutch football expert Priya Ramesh was on the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast last Thursday, and she made some good points about Koeman’s dependance on a main goalscorer:
“His best seasons in club football as a manager have always come when he has had a striker who he can depend on. At Vitesse he had Pierre van Hooijdonk, at Ajax he had Zlatan Ibrahimovic, at PSV he had Farfan, at Feyenoord and Southampton he had Graziano Pelle, and last season he had Lukaku.”
Clearly Koeman is most comfortable with a player like that up front, but we missed out on our big targets, apparently Giroud (Missus didn’t fancy moving) and Diego Costa (only had eyes for Atlético Madrid) – but Koeman didn’t want to settle, opting instead to leave a massive Lukaku shaped hole in our team. All those number 10’s we have? They’d love a striker to pass to. Shorn of last season’s top scorer and unable to nab his top targets, Koeman has been crippled by indecision for quite a while. Yes, Calvert-Lewin was great against Sunderland midweek and started on Saturday, but will Koeman accept that he was wrong about Niasse or just hope that his goals go away and drop him at the first sign of a dip in form? And what of Koeman’s claim that our team would share the goalscoring burden this season? It doesn’t look like Koeman’s ever played that way before, judging from he reliance on a goal-getter up front. Was that just wishful thinking from the Dutchman?
Our manager told Niasse to go away, didn’t give him a locker, exiled him to the U-23s, and dismissed him from the off. Pretty much all of us agreed with his decision, after all he was a Martinez signing… Niasse is still here, by all accounts a popular figure with the youngsters he’s been playing with, and most importantly he cares. He cares even when he’s sitting on the bench and the dismissive Dutchman who turned his nose up at him tells him to get ready to come on. Niasse – and Davies and Kenny too – came on and changed the Bournemouth game, perhaps even saved Koeman’s skin. I don’t attribute Koeman’s substitutions to the fact that he’s suddenly seen the light – he was just desperate. Perhaps now though he’ll trust these players who won the game for him.
We had Davie Moyes, Mr Knife to a Gunfight, then Roberto Martinez, the brown shoed Catalan Speaking DoubleDutch. And now Ronald Koeman. He’s brought FC Sexy to a screeching halt, and we’ve hit the footballing menopause. And YES it’s OK to ask questions about Koeman!
It’s even OK to ask the ultimate question: should he be fired?
Koeman’s contract at Everton is a three year one – we’re just a “project” to him – he has every intention to leave at the end of it. When your manager is on a short-term contract, success can’t wait. After all, he did us a favour. We’re not his dream destination, just a stepping stone. If he’s short term, why can’t we be too?
I can’t help thinking that we thought we were getting the strong silent type. A suave and ruthless James Bond who would turn us from amiable mediocrity to a hard nosed team of winners with a license to kill. A man who would make the tough changes in personnel and bring us into the top 6…
What we really got was our very own 007th.
Our slow, boring, dowdy football has to end. We have to start promoting youth, and at number 10 we have to stop jamming three of the same pegs into the same hole. When asked about this, Dutch football expert Priya Ramesh seemed genuinely confused by Koeman’s tactics:
“Sigurdsson had his best season at Swansea when he had Wilfried Bony up top. Davy Klaassen works best when he has some pace down the wings and he can then run on to the cutbacks and that’s generally how he scored his goals at Ajax. The profile of the players they have bought doesn’t really work well with the squad, unless they play someone like Calvert-Lewin who was very impressive against City. I was really disappointed to see Rooney, Sigurdsson, and Klaassen starting one of the games. Just a very puzzling selection.”
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife. After such a promising summer, it turns out we’re nothing more than a crappy Alanis Morrissette lyric, and Koeman needs to change that. Fast.