It has been yet another action packed few days for Everton FC and thankfully the new season is back up and running with Ronald Koeman getting his first taste of competitive action as Blues boss.
After a slow transfer window and concerns about our fitness going into the opening weekend of the new Premier League campaign, the mood is slightly less concerning now after a couple of new signings and a decent result against Spurs on Saturday afternoon at Goodison Park.
The opening game of the season at a sun-drenched Goodison Park was a lively encounter against a highly-regarded Spurs side. The game ended 1-1 and to summarise it was a game of two halves. Everton, to their credit, appeared to adapt well to a new, high-tempo style, full of pressing and hunger, with three at the back and two wing backs deployed. Ross Barkley gave the home side an early lead from a free kick and for the best part of an hour we could contain Spurs, keep the ball, win the ball back and also create opportunities going forward, we deserved to be in front. However we did appear to run out of steam in the second half and Spurs wore our tired legs down, eventually finding an equaliser through Erik Lamela to make it 1-1. Although Spurs pressed for a late winner I was impressed with how organised we looked, a unit, and playing as a team again. But for Stekelenburg’s excellent heroics in goal we may have gone on to lose the game but we did have chances in the first half ourselves – most notably Deulofeu’s one-on-one opportunity which saw his effort foiled by Worm.
Overall it was a positive display from Koeman’s side and one which we can take heart from. Our new style may take time to implement fully, and such high tempo pressing will take a lot out of our players, but the signs are good and with a healthier looking squad currently being assembled then our options will improve in the coming weeks.
Jagielka was impressive at the back, as were Funes Mori and the young but composed Mason Holgate. McCarthy did well even though he was out of position at right wing back, meanwhile Gareth Barry, Leighton Baines, Kevin Mirallas and Gerard Deulofeu all had solid performances. Ross Barkley looked hungry, got a goal and most of Everton’s positive play went through him, however like his team mates his presence simmered in the second half as the home side found themselves digging deep.
Our two debutants – Maarten Stekelenburg and Idrissa Gueye – were without a doubt the two stand-out performers on the day. Stekelenburg looks comfortable in goal, almost like he has been at the Club a lot longer than just a couple of months, and his string of impressive saves late on from Janssen and Lamela gave Evertonians confidence he can cement himself as our number 1. His distribution looks good, he deals with things with no fuss, and even though he is over the age of 30 he could well be in the reckoning to keep Robles out of the side and be a regular, but that may well depend on whether or not follow up their interest in Joe Hart. Gueye on the other hand was equally impressive, in fact he was superb. He broke up the play, but also looked to drive the ball forward from midfield. A combative, energetic display saw him awarded the man of the match award and rightly so – a great debut from a player who has the makings to be a huge revelation at Everton FC.
Following the capture of Ashley Williams from Swansea last week, Everton swooped on Monday to sign Yannick Bolasie from Crystal Palace in a deal worth a reported £22.5 million rising. The 27-year-old joins the Toffees on a five-year deal and his arrival – similarly with that of Williams, has had a mixed reception. Many keep drawing on his price tag and his goal ratio whilst at Palace but I’d have to say I’m largely positive about the move. Having spoken to a Palace fan his main criticism was a lack of end product and inconsistency but Bolasie is now making a fresh start, at a Club where he will be given the freedom to express himself under a new manager and he brings much-needed pace to a side who often lack it. He is an additional creative means now at Koeman’s disposal and any player who can put the opposition on the back foot, possess tricks and skills and have the ability to take players on will get supporters excited. Certainly every time Everton have played against Palace and he has been involved he has caused us countless problems, so I am willing to give the lad a chance to prove his worth here and I’m excited about his addition.
As ever there has been even more rumours over the course of the weekend and a few more big names have been linked with moves to Goodison Park. There was unrealistic whispers of a £72 million bid from Everton for James Rodriguez who looks set to leave Real Madrid, meanwhile the Wilfried Bony and Juan Mata rumours refuse to go away. Another name linked is Joe Hart and Everton are reportedly front runners to sign the ‘keeper either on loan or on a permanent deal after being frozen out at Manchester City. Again Hart has his critics, but if Everton move for him and he improves what we already have, and offers further competition, then so be it. We need to develop strength in depth and you get the feeling that Koeman will not rest until he has this at Everton. Elsewhere we’ve been linked with a move for Lyon’s Rachid Ghezzal and Sporting Lisbon’s Islam Slimani – do ask me I don’t play Champ Manager anymore. Closer to home we’ve been linked with Charlie Austin on loan from Saints, and also a big-money swoop for Moussa Sissoko who looks set to leave Newcastle. Sissoko can be a real player on his day but has gone missing at times during his spell at Newcastle, meanwhile Austin’s move to Southampton hasn’t worked out because of injuries, and both are likely to leave their respective Clubs before the deadline at the end of the month, but will it be to Everton?
After confirming the deal for Yannick Bolasie our majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri came out with the below statement and it left me feeling refreshed and excited:
“We are very pleased about today’s signing but remain anxious to further strengthen the squad.
“The chairman Bill Kenwright is relentlessly pushing things forward with my total support for him, for [director of football] Steve Walsh and for Ronald Koeman.”
For once we are hearing all the right things from the Blues hierarchy and I was relieved to see Moshiri come out with this statement of intent that backs up our hopes as supporters for more players and success. It shows ambition, we aren’t going to stand still anymore, and although we’ve had to wait for action this summer things are certainly beginning to move in the right direction both on the pitch and off it too – with whispers about the docklands stadium suggesting it is very likely to happen.
It has certainly been an eventful week for us Blues but I’d say it has been mostly positive – with time left to continue to bolster our squad and games with West Brom and Stoke ahead of us over the next two weekends, I’m feeling excited about happenings both on the pitch and off it.
Up the Toffees