It’s fair to say things aren’t looking too bright at Goodison Park recently after abject back to back defeats to Chelsea and Spurs which have left many fans questioning the methods and tactics of Ronald Koeman. It’s worth remembering that we’ve been given an incredibly tough start to the season and whilst many point to the fact that we’ve spent £150m and in return for that outlay we’ve so far been embarrassed at home to Spurs, soundly beaten away at Chelsea and had the lowest number of shots on target in the league, things are going to take time to work.
Thursday night however sees Everton return to European football after a 2 season absense and it’s a welcome break from the hectic Premier League start we’ve had. Our opponents are Italian side Atalanta B.C. who themselves have had a topsy-turvy start to their campaign. After beginning their season with defeats at home to AS Roma and away to Napoli, they gained a confidence boosting 2-1 win at home to Sassuolo last Sunday. Atalanta were very much the surprise package of Serie A last season and not many fancy them to repeat the form they showed last season in finishing 4th. We certainly shouldn’t underestimate them on Thursday however and with the game being Atalanta’s first European tie since 1991 the fans as well as players will be well up for it.
After our quite shocking last two performances, it’s easy to understand why many want to see Koeman ring the changes.
For me the main thing that has to be done on Thursday is playing Gylfi Sigurdsson down the middle. For some reason Koeman decided to play him out on the left against Spurs and he was pretty ineffective all game.
We’ve lacked any real creative influence all season and signing Sigurdsson was meant to solve the lack of creativity which we suffered from last season as well. Defensively we were a shambles against Spurs and if it wasn’t for Pickford we genuinely could have ended up losing by six or seven.
Playing a back three just doesn’t seem to work for us and whenever Koeman deploys a back three, we always end up changing to a more rigid back four at some point in the game. After Martina’s horrorshow on Sunday, the calls for Jonjoe Kenny to be given a chance at right back are growing ever louder.
Something definitely has to change from the weekend and Ashley Williams may find himself lucky to start on Thursday evening as he was pretty woeful against Spurs too.
Another issue that is beginning to become more prominent is whether we really are benefiting from playing Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gueye together. There’s no doubting the quality of both players and defensively they’re brilliant at breaking up the play but going forward, where we’re having real issues, they simply don’t offer enough. This isn’t a dig at either player as they’re defensive midfielders and shouldn’t be expected to be creating bags of chances but would we be better to play one or the other instead of both? The obvious change would be to drop either Schneiderlin or Gueye and bring in Tom Davies and I feel this is something that needs to at least be tried sooner rather than later. A midfield combination of Schneiderlin or Gueye with Davies and then Sigurdsson infront of them sounds far more attack minded and expansive. Chances have come at a premium for Everton so far this season and a change like this could be worth a gamble.
Attacking wise as we’ve known since Lukaku was sold, we’re short. Sandro hasn’t shown much as of yet but needs time to adapt and has also only just returned from injury. Rooney despite what many have said is still probably our most dangerous goal threat but the one big change that needs to happen is that Calvert-Lewin needs to start. Our whole gameplan last season was to play to Lukaku’s strengths and Calvert-Lewin is bloody big too. DCL has shown the qualities he has in holding up the ball and with willing runners like Rooney, Sandro or Sigurdsson around him he can be a real handul. Also funny how almost everyone now loves him after he was written off by fans after about 3 games last season…
Thursday is a huge game for Everton and a chance to build some much needed momentum before we travel to face league leaders Man Utd at Old Trafford on Sunday. We can’t afford to take it easy against Atalanta and Koeman has stated he expects a big response from the Spurs defeat (I’ve mentioned the Spurs game way too many times now). If we can set up in a more balanced way then we should be expecting to win. Lets hope we can do the business!