Eight games into the new season and in the wake of a summer transfer window that started oh so brightly but ended disappointingly, is it time already for Ronald Koeman to review his strategy, particularly up front?
Despite a few glaring and horrendous instances against Spurs last Saturday, the defence does, in general, look more solid than last year. Jordan Pickford is living up to the expectations heaped on his young shoulders, Michael Keane looks to have settled well and Mason Holgate performs admirably at right back, not his natural position.
Leighton Baines is more conservative in his forward forays than in yesteryear, possibly choosing to conserve energy for defensive duties as much as not having a definitive left-sided partner to link with in the vein that Steven Pienaar filled.
There’s a conundrum for Koeman with Jagielka and Williams that he simply has to resolve. Jags is older, but probably still quicker than Williams, who is an out and out stopper who patently needs someone else to do his distribution for him.
If JonJoe Kenny isn’t going to blooded into the first team, then we need Seamus Coleman back fully fit as soon as possible, as it would be folly to continue with Cuco Martina at right back. The Dutchman looks okay going forward and can clearly cross a ball, but his defensive qualities appear to be distinctly average… at best.
The midfield is still our strongest area, despite the sale of Gareth Barry, with the likes for Gana Gueye, Schneiderlin, Davies, Besic and McCarthy (when fit) to select from. Davy Klaassen is still finding his feet, adjusting to life in the Premier League and maybe carrying the hefty price tag somewhat uncomfortably.
But it’s up front where we have the big issue… we simply don’t look to have enough striking capabilities at present.
Ronald Koeman has already shuffled his options, but with only two league goals, both from Rooney, and no pure line-leading centre forward to focus around, we look bereft in the goalscoring department.
Everton cannot expect Wayne Rooney to carry that load all season, it’s simply crazy to expect him to do so, on a numbers of fronts. Firstly, Wayne is not as quick as he used to be, physically at least, his quickest football is played in his head. Secondly, he’s never really been big enough nor physical enough to be a true, classic centre forward type; and thirdly, he – all too often – allows his emotion and frustration to boil over into yellow cards. Three already this season in four games !!
Given the lack of a genuine centre forward to lead the line, leads me to think that maybe we need to change, much sooner rather than later, to employ a more versatile, mobile, diverse attacking strategy.
A strategy based more on better utilising our skills set than a physicality we simply don’t possess at present. And if we moved to a more skill based attacking strategy, would this open the door for a return to the fold for the erstwhile on-his-way Ross Barkley ?
Call me crazy if you like, but I think we’re already at the point where we have to change and therefore need to be bold and it’s why I think Everton could and perhaps should look to utilise a five-man forward unit.
Rooney, Sigurdsson, Lookman, Calvert-Lewin… and as soon as he’s fit, Barkley, would give us options.
Sigurdsson, Rooney and Barkley could pull the strings, Lookman and Calvert-Lewin would add pace and width, particularly Lookman and if we moved the ball much more quickly from defence through midfield and into attack, at pace, with first-time passing, surely we could work openings for any one or more of these five to get into a shooting position ?
Calvert-Lewin has impressed greatly already this season and in Ademola Lookman, we have pace and width that the first team has been sadly lacking, all too noticeably against both Chelsea and Spurs. And both these young players are seemingly oozing with self confidence and that’s vital.
And we have to get away from the long ball game we’ve seen too much of already in the opening eight games – as we’re simply not very good at it. So stop it, now !!
We are currently the most shot-shy team in the Premier League, so something HAS to change.
Many people, and I’m one of them, feel that Barkley could and should be benefiting from playing with and learning from the vastly more experienced Rooney. Ross has shown he’s more than capable of being mobile, and he can shoot – what he lacks is confidence to play more instinctively and quicker, Rooney could surely help him in these areas couldn’t he ?
Put Barkley in such an offensive unit – and one that can be supplemented by Mirallas, Vlasic and Ramirez – and even Oumar Niasse, who bagged a brace for the U23s last Sunday – and on paper at least, we’d look far more capable of causing opposition defences problems.
Until the January transfer window and assuming we will be actively looking to sign a recognised centre forward, we have to find other ways to worry opponents and score goals.
We’re in four competitions, expectations are high perhaps too high, but if we want to be a ‘big club’ again, we have to find ways to get the job done and if that means changing strategy, then get on with it… because we can’t have too many more limp performances like that against Spurs.