Everton – This season’s dark horses for Champions League football.
Posted by Joe Bishop | Published on September 20, 2016
Everton have started the season off stronger than most teams; the appointment of Ronald Koeman was widely speculated, with some people believing he took a sideways step in leaving Southampton for The Toffee’s, however, so far the decision seems to have paid off, both for the owners of the club and Koeman himself. Everton have accumulated 13 points this season so far, and are yet to lose, winning four and drawing one game. So, while it may be quite bold or maybe rash of me to hail Everton as candidates for Champions League football, I will attempt to justify my statement to avoid any backlash over what I am saying. So here is why I believe Everton could well achieve Champions League football this season:
Squad Depth Due To Quality Signings
Last season Everton had a lacklustre side and it would be fair to say that a lot of the reasoning as to why they struggled was due to lack of squad depth. While Everton still had a very strong side on paper last year, the additions they have made so far this season are already looking to be worthwhile investments, with all new players impressing in their first few games of the season. The signing of Ashley Williams from Swansea was first questioned by both fans of the club and fans of other Premier League sides, as well as the media, with people questioning whether he would make the cut at Everton and whether he is past his time in terms of playing to the best of his ability. However, Williams is already proving the doubters, with Koeman publically stating that Williams is “an experienced leader” something which in his opinion, Everton needed. Another player who has impressed to the point where some are already hailing him as the best signing of the season is Idrissa Gana Gueye. The Senegalese midfielder arrived at Everton from relegated Aston Villa for a fee of £7.23, a bargain in today’s market. Gueye has already won the Toffees fans over with his stellar performances at the beginning of this season, and he is looking as if he is going to be pivotal towards Everton’s success this season, with him being compared to N’Golo Kante and described by Ronald Koeman as having the ability to “become the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League”. Yannick Bolasie has also impressed so far and along with the addition of Enner Valencia on loan, Everton can surely only get stronger as the season progresses.
Two strong teams Everton could line up with this season, the team on the right more likely to be used for cup matches, the team on the left more likely to be used for more important matches e.g. Cup finals or Premier League. The graphic shows how strong of a squad Everton have. [Created on startingeleven.co.uk].
Ability To Prioritise League
Everton failed to achieve European football last season, which is almost definitely a reason as to why Roberto Martinez left the club, however, what could be considered as a failure can also be seen as a blessing in disguise for Ronald Koeman’s men. The fact that Everton have no European football means that Koeman can highly prioritise the Premier League and that they will have much less congested fixture lists than their fellow competitors for the Top 6/Top 4 places, in teams such as Southampton, who will find themselves playing on Thursday’s and then Sunday’s numerous times this season, depending on how far they get in the Europa League, which if early indications prove to come true, they should at least qualify for the last 32, in my opinion. The fact that Everton could well come up against weakened sides with not fully fit first team players will definitely play in their favour, and there will be many occasions where the Toffees have those one or two more days of training than their opponents, which could lead to them having the edge on them on the pitch.
The Acquisition Of Ronald Koeman
As I previously said, at first the appointment of Ronald Koeman was widely speculated by the media, with some questioning whether leaving St Mary’s was the best choice for him, however he has already shown why he made the decision to leave Southampton, and unlike in Martinez’ reign at Everton, where they began well and then slowed down towards the end of the season, I can’t see Everton’s form deteriorating, and in my opinion the only way is up for the Toffees, the proof being in Koeman’s managerial record. At the age of 53, Koeman has lived a life of football, beginning his career at Groningen, where he scored 33 goals in 90 appearances playing mainly as a sweeper, renowned for his incredible long-range passing ability and the ability to shoot from distance, especially on free kicks. His playing career spanned over 17 years and he played in many great sides, such as the 1988 European Cup winning PSV side, as well as Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona ‘dream team’, helping the club to winning four La Liga titles in a row between 1991 and 1994, and also the European Cup in 1992, where Koeman scored the winning goal in the final against Sampdoria. Koeman began his managerial career as assistant manager of the Netherlands national side from 1997-98, before becoming the assistant manager of Barcelona from 1998-2000. However, his first tenure as senior manager came under Vitesse in 2000, where he led the team to a UEFA Cup spot on a very limited budget. Since managing Vitesse, he has managed the “Big Three” in the Eredivisie, in Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord (in that order) as well as managing Valencia, Benfica and AZ, all before moving to Southampton in 2014, his first Premier League experience. Koeman has great statistics with each club, his highest win percentage (excluding Everton) being 62.25% in four years at Ajax, with the lowest being 32.35% in one season at Valencia, a percentage which is significantly lower than the rest, and what it would be fair to say can be seen as a low point in Koeman’s career. However, the early signs at Everton show that the Toffees are in for a great season with the Dutchman at the helm of Goodison Park.