This week I caught up with Ben Ellis (BE), Rodger Armstrong (RA) and Darren Lyons (DL) – aka @benbluenose79 @rodgerarmstrong and @DazzaEFC to get their views on Everton’s season so far. I put some questions to the lads, and their responses are below.
Everton are currently 6th in the league, based on what you’ve seen so far this season, will we be above, below, or in the same position come May?
DL: I think this season will be a massive period of transition. I think we need a lot of rebuilding and this will be reflected in our league position. I believe we’ll finish in the top 8.
BE: I think just below 7-8th just because we have so many players Koeman doesn’t fancy or just doesn’t think will fit into his style of play. If we finish higher it will be a very good season, Koeman needs another two windows to make an impact on the team.
RA: Below, sadly. 9th position.
Which player(s) have impressed you most so far this campaign?
DL: I think Stekelenberg has been solid enough although I would like a replacement to come in. If not January then in the summer. Gana and Williams have been brilliant and have really sured us up defensively.
BE: So far Ashley Williams, Idrissa Gueye and Rom have all impressed me. Bolaise has his critics already but at least he tries to make things happen, Ross just needs to believe more.
RA: Obvious successes are Barry, Gana, Williams, Stek (bar Burnley) but my standout player so far is Lukaku. Appears reinvigorated under Koeman, got his Mojo and has scored some excellent goals.
Which player(s) have failed to impress you as yet?
DL: I think we may well have seen the best of Jagielka and injuries and age may have caught up to him. Also Ross Barkley is struggling and I’m not sure he has the mental capacity to make it at the very top as we all wish and hoped he would. I believe it may take a move away from Everton to see him truly blossom in a less expectant and pressurized setting. Deulofeu seems to have gone backwards since X’mas period last season. He seems unfit and looks to have lost his pace/ability to beat a man. Whether it’s a confidence thing I’m not sure but at the moment his role sees him best as an impact sub!
BE: Phil Jagielka, Kevin Mirallas and Gerard Deulofeu have all massively underperformed this season so far.
RA: Jags, Coleman, Geri, Ross, Mirallas. The latter three show how woeful we are up top, and how lost we’d be without Rom (see above). At the back Jags looks ready for his bus pass and Coleman has forgotten how to defend, not sure he was ever that good at it to be honest.
What are your thoughts on Ronald Koeman and Everton’s style so far this season?
DL: I actually like Ronald Koeman’s style. I like that we are a bit more direct and we press and get stuck in a lot more. Although I believe the current players aren’t fully capable of playing this way and it may take a couple of transfer windows before we see it reach its full potential.
BE: I like him, he’s ruthless but we’ve had some stinking defeats, it seems the stench of the last two seasons is still lingering and getting his message across is going to prove very difficult with some players.
RA: Blowing hot and cold; when we press high and consistently we’re hot: Bolasie and Lukaku have a decent understanding; we look generally tighter at the back, hard not to be after Martinez. However, we lack a cutting edge when we have to take the game to the opposition and lack of positional awareness at the back make us vulnerable to set pieces and crosses into the box.
Strengths and weaknesses of the current Everton team?
DL: I believe our spine is a great strength of ours. Stekelenberg-Williams-Gana+Barry and Rom. I think our major weakness is creativity and has been for a few seasons. We are crying out for a proper number 10 in the Mata/Silva mould. Also behind are first 11 we have a lot of lower quality players and if our first 11 can’t get the job done then there is little real ability to change the game.
BE: We’re strong middle of park … pace, pace, pace! Also, we have a lethal 20+ goal striker up front. On the weakness front … we still switch off at set plays and always try and walk it in! Shoot more!!
RA: Fitter without doubt, but lack of attacking flair (see above) lets us down. More than anything we lack competition for places, especially for the attacking positions.
If anything, what would you change at the moment in terms of formation, players involved?
DL: I’m not sure if we have the players outside the first 11 to really change anything significantly at the minute. The only viable option I can come to is maybe try Kev in the number 10 role and give Lennon a go at right mid.
BE: I’d like to see 4-4-2 two strikers even if one is Valencia just to give Rom another body up there.
RA: I favour 4-1-4-1 with Holgate at RB, Jags, Williams, Baines, Barry in front of back 4, Gana +1 (Ross, Davies) in middle, Bolasie +1 (Geri, Mirallas, Lennon, Dowell, Valencia) on wings and Rom up top.
What areas do you think we need to strengthen in January if we dip into the market?
DL: January is always a difficult window to use. Therefore I don’t see any major signings. I think we may need to sign a left back depending on Baines ability to recover and see out the season. I would love Rodriguez from Wolfsburg but I think that is highly optimistic especially in the January window. An interesting proposition could be a loan move for a certain Mr Rooney as he seems out of favour at Utd and it would give us a chance to assess him up close to see if he still has something to offer us.
BE: We need a goalkeeper, left back, creative number 10 and a striker to finish our team off nicely.
RA: A RB, CB, #10, Winger, back up striker, probably GK too
Overall assessment of the season so far?
DL: We started well but have faded badly since the Norwich result. Even the so called spirited draw at city was an onslaught to be honest and we we’re extremely lucky to salvage a point. We desperately need a victory. So let’s hope we get it against are favourite team the Hammers! So let’s honour one of greatest players / servants and get a win Sunday. And I hope Barry or Gana do Payet just to see the Twitter fume rise.
BE: Encouraged but still signs that the last two seasons linger. These are going to be difficult to shake off as too many players are still “Martinezzzzed”.
RA: Reminds me of that inflatable bungee run at a fair; just as you think you’re getting somewhere, it pings you back to the beginning. Bi-polar, hot & cold, flatter to deceive. Proof that under Martinez we’d have been relegation fodder, Mirallas, Geri, Ross need to step up or move on. RK now knows the job ahead is much bigger than he probably first thought. Fact is, though, the League is wide open, everyone is dropping points. Had we beaten Burnley & Bournemouth we’d be top!