I caught up with Mark Ellis (ME), Graeme Seddon (GS) and Andy Craven (AC) to get their views on Everton’s season so far. You can follow the lads on Twitter here – @Markthablue @Seddo1984 & @AndyEST1878
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?
AC – I think we will finish below 6th in May, I would suggest 8th.
ME – Truly I don’t know, if Koeman can get into this team and imprint his ideas on it then I’d expect top 6 with a big transfer window in January, but looks like its gonna be a slow process getting his identity on the team, we have to be patient sadly.
GS – For me this season is about qualifying for European Football. We have seen in the past transfer window that this is what players want. It’s also about stability for me. As we know the previous two seasons have been nothing short of a disaster so giving us a stable platform of which to build, will help us get to where we would like this season. If I had to give you a realistic final league position, 5th or 6th is where we will be, anything else over and above is a bonus.
Which player(s) have impressed you the most so far this campaign?
AC – Idrissa Gueye has stood out a mile and been excellent so far. I have been impressed with Williams and his leadership and communication at the back. Gareth Barry, now surpassing 600 games has also impressed and continues to show his worth and popped up with a couple of goals too. Steklenburg in flashes, City & Tottenham fantastic, Boro and Burnley not so good. Holgate has been fantastic when he has played.
ME – To start with Idrissa Gueye was unreal, so impressive, wanting the ball chasing it down, closing space and influencing the game in an attacking sense. Understandably his performances have levelled out a bit last few weeks but he’s still retaining that quality. The stand out l player for me, Ashley Williams is emerging as a consistent perfromer like we all knew he would do. I’d say Stekelenburg too but a few mistakes and a few worldie performances make it only an ok start for him.
GS – For me, you look no further than Idrissa Gueye and Martin Stekelenburg. Both have been majorly impressive so far. Gana looks like he’s been playing for Everton for a number of years and Stek has proved a lot of doubters wrong with his heroic display expecially against Man City.
Which player(s) have failed to impress you as yet?
AC – I feel like I bang the same drum all the time here, but Lukaku still is in and out for me. I have wondered is this because of the expectation I put on his shoulders £50m + player and I expect him to brilliant every game and show a certain level of consistency. City brilliant, Palace fantastic free kick but other games he is non-existent, is this down to service, maybe I just expect more. Geri has struggled as well for me, great in pre-season and maybe that goal goes in against Spurs and that kicks him on but hasn’t been the case. I think Jags is struggling and his decision making has been questionable this year, not sure if this is due to having a new partner.
ME – Easy one this.. Kevin Mirallas and Gerard Deulofeu, been hugely disappointing, Geri looks like he’s lost a yard and been robbed of his tricks, while Mirallas, well I don’t even know what position is best for him now, is he a number ten, a winger, a striker, couldn’t tell you but he’s been given a lot of opportunities and wasted every one of them. Just hasn’t influenced the play going forward, badly needs to retain some kind of identity Mirallas, right now hes drifting into nothingness.
GS – Easy one for me, Ross Barkley. A lot of people know my views on Ross. For me, he doesn’t do as near enough as he should for a player of his age and supposedly his ability. You can throw all the stats you want at me and compare him to the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. The truth of the matter is, he’s simply not good enough. Also because he’s “local” and “a blue” he seems to be immune from any critisim thrown at him, but until he looks himself in the mirror, it’s only going to get worse. We know players go through spells in their career where they don’t play well, but this has been going on for 18 months and more. The world class players pull themselves through in a short space of time, something Ross hasn’t been able to do. Come January, I fully expect us to sign someone who will relegate Barkley to the bench on a regular basis.
What are your thoughts on Ronald Koeman and Everton’s style so far this season?
AC – It is early days for Koeman so difficult to pass judgement. He has had one transfer window and he is instilling a regime which takes time to adapt to. I like the fact he makes changes early and is not afraid to make decisions or drop players if they are not performing. He, despite the Burnley game has made us difficult to score against which was a massive issue last season so for me he is building from the back and shaping the team for the future. My observation is that this is a long-term plan for Koeman and when we seemed to start so well the level of expectation rose with fans and it was always going to be a bumpy ride to move the team forward. I will answer this again at the end of the season.
ME – I think we’re yet to gain our identity under Koeman. I don’t think this was helped by Koeman not getting all the players he wanted in the summer window, he’s having to cut our cloth accordingly in games, not really a possession team like we were under Martinez which is no bad thing, just think it’s going to take time and personnel to truly be the image of Koeman on the pitch.
GS – Very impressive. Koeman takes no prisoners, something which we as supporters have been crying out for, for a number of years. You can see the disipline he has installed on the field to, by this I refer to the defensive side of our game something which we neglected in previous years under Roberto. It looks like Koeman has/is starting with the foundations and getting to build on them. He’s brought in cover at Centre Half brought in Stek and made us defend again. The next step will be the midfield. Rome wasnt built in a day!
Strengths and weaknesses of the current Everton team?
AC – Strengths – fairly stable defence, looks like we have got a great talent in Gueye. The new recruits Bolasie, Williams, Steklenburg and Gueye have all settled in well. Weaknesses – lack of strength and depth in key areas, Keeper and Striker which are causes for concern.
ME – Strengths – our core is much stronger. We have a much more solid base in Stekelenburg, Williams, Gueye and Lukaku in which to build. Weaknesses – out wide, flair players like Geri, Mirallas, Lennon not had any impact at all this season.
GS – Left back is a massive issue for me. I am really suprised we didnt bring in the cover for Baines. I know we have a couple out on loan. If the players out on loan were of the standard Koeman expects, they wouldn’t have been shipped out. Important for me that a left back is brought in in January. I would also expect us to sign a goalkeeper. I don’t expect us to make sweeping changes in the January transfer window, however I do expect us to bring in one or two where areas are less than adequately covered.
If anything, what would you change at the moment in terms of formation, players involved?
AC – No I do not think we have got enough personnel to change things around that much.
ME – I would like to see two up top for a few games, see if Lukaku and Valencia, or even Mirallas or another can link up with the big man and take some of the goalscoring responsibility off Rom. But currently, I think Aaron Lennon deserves a go in place of Mirallas or Geri, he deserves a chance as the other two have been non existent this season.
GS – I would go 3 centre halves and drop Oviedo. I think Oviedo is a massive liability although giving him credit, he did do well against Manchester City (as did everybody else) I also think our forward play needs to be adapted. I mentioned this on Twitter and got a bit of stick from some, but my point, I think was a valid one. Take Liverpool for example, when they go forward they have 3, 4 or even 5 players flooding forward, their movement at times is unplayable for defenders. We look extremely static when we get into the final third. We have the pace to cause teams problems and giving the likes of Bolasie, Mirallas, Deulofeu a free reign in the final third, we would cause massive problems for any team.
What areas do you think we need to strengthen in January if we dip into the market?
AC – Simple 2 areas – Goalkeeper & another Striker and if the opportunity presented itself bring Rooney back!
ME – We clearly need more in January, big investment required to get that number ten we crave, a top striker to play alongside or provide competition for Lukaku, a left sided attacker and I think a better understudy to Baines than Oviedo, goalkeeper required also.
GS – I think we still need to strengthen and in priority:
2) Left Back
3) Number 10 Role
3 key areas for me. We are desperate for another striker, god forbid anything happens to Lukaku, we could well struggle to score goals. I think Calvert-Lewin may see some first team football soon but we can’t rely on a young inexperienced lad to fill Lukaku’s boots.
Left back is another area as I don’t see Oviedo as an ideal replacement. Although saying that he’s been ok in the last couple of games, however he doesn’t fill me with confidence.
For me, the “Number 10” role is the third key area. I would make every effort to bring Rooney back to Goodison Park. The lad still has a lot to offer both on and off the pitch. Playing with Barkley day in day out in training can only enhance what we know is hidden in Barkley’a locker. The lad needs a leg up and Rooney could be the one to give him that. He would also complete our attacking play with his vision and goals.
Overall Assessment of the season so far?
AC – 9 Games in and it is still very much early days and work-in-progress for the new regime. There have been some positives WBA & City away, Boro & Stoke at home, however as with Everton there have been some not so good times Burnley & Bournemouth not so good. Norwich EFL exit was embarrassing when we are crying out for a trophy. So for me the overall assessment of the season so far is very much work in progress and I think it is going continue this way for a few months yet. Saying that I really hoping for a good performance against West Ham on Sunday as last year vs West Ham at home doesn’t bear thinking about!
ME – We are still handidly placed amazingly, given the recent poor run, which underlines just where we’d be if we’d not had some ridiculous defeats to the likes of Bournemouth and Burnley, lots of room for improvement and I’m confident in time we’l see it.
GS – If this was a school report, I would probably mark it as a “Could Do Better”. It was a great start to the season, however we have hit the buffers a bit. Interesting to see how we bounce back in the next few weeks starting at the weekend against an in-form West ham at Goodison.
Please note – the lads all answered these questions before Sunday’s win over West Ham.