Connect in the back of the net

It was slightly disappointing to hear Everton fans, with their team 0-3 up against Sunderland, gleefully booming out a rendition of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” towards their old manager David Moyes on Monday night.

Moyes had given Everton 11 years’ service in which he guided the club to five top 6 finishes and brought Tim Cahill, Yakubu, Seamus Coleman, Mikel Arteta, John Stones, Kevin Mirallas and Leighton Baines to Goodison Park.

The way Everton had stagnated during the latter days of the Moyes era, before the Scot accepted a glittering offer from Manchester United to jump ship in 2013, may have lasted in the memory longer than his halcyon days on Merseyside but it was still sad to hear Everton’s fans revel in the misfortune of their former coach.

The Everton Moyes witnessed on Monday was lightyears away from the club he had left behind in 2013, while if Roberto Martinez, in his brief as Belgium coach, was casting an eye over Romelu Lukaku, Adnan Januzaj, Jason Denayer and Mirallas, he would have found an unrecognisable team to the one he left behind in May.

Martinez was sacked after his hapless Everton were mauled 3-0 in the north east four months ago, but with Ronald Koeman now steering the ship the difference was made ominously clear.


Breaking the duck

After a forgettable first half Everton brushed Moyes’s Sunderland aside with 3 goals in 11 minutes from Lukaku, the Belgian breaking a goal drought that had lasted since March with a simple header from Idrissa Gueye’s cross.

Yannick Bolasie then sent in a cross from which Lukaku headed home his second and, despite misgivings about the price it took to prise the Congolese winger away from Crystal Palace in the summer, issued a stark warning over the attacking threat at Everton’s disposal.

With Bolasie running amok on the left and Gerard Deulofeu, a half-time substitute for the ineffective Ross Barkley, lively on the right, Lukaku was riddled with confidence and could have helped himself to more than his hat-trick.

Koeman has shown with Graziano Pelle down on the south coast that he can produce regular goal-scoring form a centre-forward in the Premier League and with Lukaku now off the mark and buoyed by the service of Bolasie, Deulofeu and Barkley, the Belgian will be justifiably eyeing an improvement on the 18 league goals he scored last term.

Everton already look more cohesive and potent than they did in the final two years of Martinez’s reign and in the lightning-quick Bolasie they possesses a direct option that was often lacking under the possession-based game of the Spaniard.

Following the opening 1-1 draw with Spurs, Everton have bossed the possession battle in each of their last three games, but while Martinez was often criticised for failing to make his team’s passing game count, there is clearly more thrust and impetus under Koeman.

Present too is a new found defensive resilience that simply wasn’t there under Martinez, a manager who openly admitted that he doesn’t base his game around solidity at the back.

Under Koeman Everton failed to buckle after falling behind to an early goal at West Bromwich Albion while, at home to Stoke City, after Marko Arnautovic hit the post and John Walters fluffed a late chance to equalise, they edged out a game to narrowly win a game that last year one suspects they may have lost.


Shrewd signings

Ashley Williams, a shrewd £10 million signing from Swansea, has provided the experience and organisation to ensure that John Stones has not been missed while Idrissa Gueye, signed by Koeman under the advice of director of football Steve Walsh, has righteously been praised by his manager for his “fantastic” early season form at the base of midfield.

Walsh, whilst unearthing the gems that guided Leicester City to their wonderful league title triumph during his role as chief scout, had allegedly wanted Gueye ahead of N’Golo Kante for Ranieri’s team and his impact on Everton has been immediately clear.

Only Kante made more interceptions and won more tackles than Gueye last season and while the Frenchman moved to Chelsea for £27 million, Walsh, aided by the Senegalese midfielder’s unheralded year with relegated Aston Villa, was happy to pick up the cheaper alternative for a bargain fee of £7 million.

Gueye, with a midfield partnership with Gareth Barry blossoming, has won more tackles than anybody else in the league over the opening four games and against Sunderland he was busy shuffling across midfield on the hunt for the ball.

The 26 year old was named man of the match by Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports, some feat in a game where a striker scored 3 goals, for a vibrant display in which he stole the ball back six times and dictated Everton’s play with 95% of his passes completed.

Gueye’s energy will permit Williams and Phil Jagielka to hold a deep defensive line that will not expose their lack of pace, while in midfield he will act as the legs for an ageing Gareth Barry.

His assist for Lukaku’s opener, a pin-point cross that swirled in from the right, suggests he can play a bit in attack too.



The only concern for Koeman on a night where his Everton team suggested they can be a considerable force this season was the subdued performance of Barkley, with the Dutchman planning to sit down with the midfielder after he was substituted at half-time.

The way Deulofeu performed after coming on means it would not be a surprise if Barkley finds himself starting next weekend’s game with Middlesbrough on the bench.

“He did not show the level what I expect,” said Koeman. “I had to do something. He lost too many balls and I will speak to him. It’s no problem.”

Given the impressive way Barkley started the season, it shouldn’t be but the setback of missing out on Sam Allardyce’s first England squad may have knocked the 22 year old’s confidence.


Barkley crucial

It is vital to Barkley’s own progression that Koeman manages to ensure his torrid time on Monday was only a blip.

If he does, and is encouraged to start reproducing the form of last term, then Everton will have another exciting option added to an already exciting team.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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