A Koeman Philosophy (Part Two): Predicting an Everton side under Ronald Koeman

And so it begins. The Premier League has returned. Another season to enjoy (a first for Everton in a while). Koeman led Everton for the first time on Saturday, drawing at home against Tottenham. It was a fantastic tactical battle between two creative managers, Mauricio Pochettino in the other dugout. Despite a lack of chances actually being created from both teams, it was a very enjoyable game to watch. We’ve already talked about Koeman’s work at Southampton, so what do we expect from an Everton side under our Dutchman? How did we play against one of the best teams last season? Here is part two!

Source: evertonfc.com

Source: evertonfc.com

The New Additions

Everton’s transfer window activity has been rather slow, with no big money moves as a lot of fans expected. It’s fair to say that we’ve done a good amount of business so far, however we have shown our lack of depth and that another 3 or 4 players are needed. .

One man we’ve brought in is Idrissa Gueye. The Senegalese midfielder made his debut on Saturday and showed us all what the buzz was all about. A lot of aggression has been missing at Goodison Park – you’ll get to hear more about that later – but Gueye got completely stuck in. The midfielder made more tackles than anybody else throughout the game – winning 6 of the 9 attempted. What made him even more impressive was his ability to not only win the ball back but to recycle the ball as well. It was a dominant display, something we haven’t seen from a midfielder (especially on his debut) at Everton. Hopefully we will see more.

Another knew addition was announced last week – Welsh captain Ashley Williams joining the club. The former Swansea man’s statistics are arguably one of the best in European football, making more clearances than anybody else (318) in the Premier League. Everton’s defensive targets under Martinez were to keep the ball under possession, no questions asked. Now it’s back to basics under Koeman, be as organised as possible and to clear the ball when necessary. Although I do believe another centre-back is required, Williams is a good replacement for John Stones. Everton are no longer a club that will want to build from the back, Williams isn’t a ball playing centre-half.

Maarten Stekelenburg was Koeman’s first signing, no surprise considering they have the same agent. At first we all thought he’d be back up for whoever comes in, but his performances throughout pre-season and versus Spurs was very impressive. He commands his area very well, clearly showing a lot of communication towards the back line and not afraid to hit the long ball forward from a goal kick. The defense looked more together in that first half than the entirety of last season. Should he be our number 1? Probably not. I do believe we should be bringing in a top class goalkeeper – as much as I like the Dutch keeper.

We need to remember that there is still another few weeks left of the transfer window. All of our signings so far have played in the Premier League and they all want to win the ball at any cost. They are scrapers, aggressive players; the same goes for Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie. He isn’t creative, but he will win the ball back and is one of the best at beating the opposition defender. I do believe that we need 3 or 4 new players, but the signings we have made have all looked as bargains and can provide the team massively.

The Formation Changes

Everton started in a 442 formation against Tottenham. If you want the whole team to press as one, this is definitely the formation most teams tend to go with. It’s also a fantastic formation to rotate in, if one player presses, another will cover, Koeman bringing in his “Total Football” knowledge we talked about in Part One.

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It wasn’t just a 442 we have changed to, but we also change our formation when the ball is under our control. We would move to 3 at the back, yesterday containing Jagielka/Funes Mori and Mason Holgate making his debut. Moving into this formation allows us to counterpress highly and quickly if we were to suddenly lose the ball, before resetting as quick as we can.

Whatever formation it was, Everton would team press all together. One side to the other side, we closed down a lot of space. When Spurs hit the long ball, the defence didn’t want to have it back instantly. It was more “we will have the ball when we want” rather than rebuild straightaway around the back.

With the ball, Everton looked scary at times. We looked so much quicker (this was in pre-season also). In the Espanyol game, we were looking for as many one-twos as we could possibly find, we moved the ball rather than just keep it as we did under Roberto Martinez.

Everton versus Tottenham analysis

Tottenham were one of the most exciting teams to watch throughout last campaign, but they had one huge problem against us. They were to narrow. For some reason Alan Shearer and Ian Wright would disagree on Match of the Day, but Walker and Rose didn’t move out to the wings at all, especially in that first half. Just 12.98% of Spurs’ touches in the first half where on the right flank and only had 9 touches in the penalty area.

(Tottenham touches on the ball – first 45)

(Tottenham touches on the ball – first 45)

As Danny Rose and Kyle Walker pressed, Everton countered by producing ‘channel balls’ into positions where the fullbacks weren’t. Dier and Wanyama didn’t cover the places of Rose and Walker, leaving gaps on the wings. Whoever won the ball back for Everton would try and send the ball towards there, mostly to Gerard Deulofeu who would pull Toby Alderweireld or Jan Vertonghen out of position and creating even more space there. Most of the long balls came from Ramiro Funes Mori.

(An example of one of the “channel balls” produced)

(An example of one of the “channel balls” produced)

(Everton long balls – first 45)

(Everton long balls – first 45)

Everton were a whole lot better during the first 15 minutes, compared to the start of some games under RM. I’m not saying that because of the goal we scored, I’m saying that because of the lack of chances Spurs actually produced. It took Tottenham until the 27th minute to actually have a shot on target, this was due to Everton parking outside of the box and not allowing a single Spurs player inside the penalty area. James McCarthy would drop back into the defence whenever Spurs where in our final third. Mason Holgate would push in, making Everton a back 5 rather than a back 4. The Irishman made 3 interceptions and was involved in 5 tackles in the first half, his first decent performance in about two campaigns.

Unfortunately after an amazing first half of football, we conceded. The only time we didn’t actually press the fullback, they crossed and scored. This put our team into panic mode, our pressure slowed down a lot (expected anyway due to players getting tired), some players looked like they were hanging on, with them going down to break up play in the last ten minutes. It was a relief to get a draw in the end, but a fair result. Tottenham made one change (Janssen replacing Dier) that shook us, but it was still a good performance from the Blues.

Five things that’ll be different under Koeman than Martinez

1. We will be much faster in possession of the ball. Players such as Deulofeu and Mirallas suffered due to the very, very slow build up under the Spaniard’s three years at the club. Now the idea is to win the ball back and move it as quickly as we can. It’s not about holding the ball anymore; it’s about moving the ball. Our possession was only 48% yesterday, whilst we only had a passing accuracy of 75%. A whole lot better than keeping the ball with inch-perfect passing without getting anywhere? I think so.

2. We will have the ball when we want to have it. Everton averaged 30 clearances per game last campaign. Sometimes we’d go through games where we made less than half of the amount. Against Tottenham, we made 46 clearances. The incoming of former Swansea captain Ashley Williams will definitely bolster this amount against the “top clubs”. Better safe than sorry. Probably something somebody should’ve told John Stones.

3. Rotation of formation. We started in a 442 (I would suggest something close to our default position) against Tottenham and changed it into a 352 mid game when in possession; as well as 343 at times. Koeman has used many different variations at other clubs and it will be the same here. There will be many new roles for some players this campaign, not necessarily in what positions they play, but in how they play it. The in game formation will be in my opinion, the key area this season with a possible decline of 4231, interesting with Man City pushing there full backs into the middle as described on MOTD, definitely a space to watch.

4. Aggressive Everton. There once was a time when we had Arteta, Cahill and Fellaini all bullying whoever we faced in midfield. Roberto opted the softer touch, despite having Barry – the secret snide – and Mo Besic who tackles everything he sees. Idrissa Gueye and James McCarthy got heavily stuck in. We didn’t drop back; we pushed up.

5. Very high pressing. An obvious point here but it’s something that really excites me. We chased down almost everything up to the hour mark, every single player. We moved as a team rather than just one or two players making one chase every 3 minutes. The idea is to keep the opposition away from the final third as much as we can.

To Conclude

Saturday was by far the best I’ve seen Everton in a good few years. The fans where a lot happier up till when they scored, but since false positivity was replaced with realism, it has brought a smile to my face. We played amazingly in the first half for a team that was “70% ready” according to Ronald Koeman. The Transfer Window has only just opened for us and I’m expecting us to make a good few transfers – specifically Premier League players. The most exciting thing from the Tottenham game was how much more aggressive we looked. We actually won aerial duels, involved in more tackles and interceptions and put bodies on the line when needed. Has Koeman fully integrated his philosophy?…. It is certainly in progress. We have a lot, lot more to see.

Up the Toffees.

Thanks to Squawka. BBC’s, Chris Smith and many Twitterblues of whose observations I follow.

Joel Parker

Joel Parker

Evertonian and love writing about The Toffees.
Joel Parker

  1 comment for “A Koeman Philosophy (Part Two): Predicting an Everton side under Ronald Koeman

  1. Paul Davies
    August 14, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Williams isnt a ball playing CB? Please go back through his stats…. you are very wrong.

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