Everton open their new Premier League campaign against Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs tomorrow afternoon at Goodison Park as the Toffees enter a new era under Manager Ronald Koeman.
Koeman signed a three-year-deal with the Club in June following two seasons at Southampton and the Dutchman’s first competitive game at Goodison Park as Blues boss is set to be a lively encounter against the man who he succeeded as Saints Boss and both now find themselves up against each other in charge of both Everton and Spurs respectively.
Last season Pochettino’s side blew their chances of a League title late on and eventually finished 3rd in the table but for the majority of the season they threatened to steal Leicester’s thunder and showed consistency and a real energy in their playing style throughout the campaign. When they last visited Goodison Park the result was a 1-1 draw and usually when the North Londoner’s travel to Merseyside it is a lively affair with plenty of tempo and action. Everton will face a well-organised Spurs side who will again fancy a title-challenge this season and they will be hoping their deadly duo Kane and Alli will continue where they left off last season, scoring goals aplenty and causing headaches for the opposition on a consistent basis. Spurs have kept their squad together this summer and only brought in a couple of new faces – Wanyama and Janssen – and Pochettino will be confident that his young side will hit the ground running and demonstrate a vibrant, attacking style with hungry, creative players across his squad.
At the back Spurs are now well settled with the impressive Alderweireld and Vertonghen in central defence, backed up by Kevin Wimmer as support, with Walker and Rose at full back and the excellent Lloris in goal. Ahead of them Eric Dier is just one of many exciting youngsters Spurs have at their disposal – Dele Ali, Clinton Njie, Ryan Mason, DeAndre Yedlin and Nabil Bentaleb are a handful of others, plus in midfield and up front Spurs have the exciting Eriksen, Dembele, Chadli, and Harry Kane who was superb last season and a real handful for opponents. Add to that the additions of Wanyama in the middle and Janssen up front and Pochettino’s squad is looking more than ready for the season ahead.
Unfortunately the same can’t really be said for Everton in terms of squad depth and being ready for the new season. Injuries have hit our preparations but our lateness of transfer activity – plus a few old faces departing the Club – are all factors in Everton looking quite thin on the ground currently. Koeman admits his squad is only at 70% fitness which is a key worry against a side known for their fitness and energy, so the Toffees couldn’t have been given a tougher test on the opening day.
Koeman has injury concerns ahead of the game with Lukaku set to miss out with a heel problem, meanwhile Seamus Coleman is also ruled out too, and Mo Besic has been hit with the news that he will miss the majority of the season following the injury he sustained against Espanyol in pre season. Our side may very much be a mis-match tomorrow with Kone likely to come in for Lukaku up front, Davies or Holgate to move across to right-back to fill in for Coleman. In goal it is a toss up to see if new boy Maarten Stekelenburg gets the nod of Joel Robles and in the midfield Darron Gibson, James McCarthy, Tom Cleverley and Edrissa Gueye will all be vying for places. The game comes too early for new signing Ashley Williams who signed in midweek from Swansea and Koeman will be restricted with his options in certain positions – something which he hope won’t be the case come the end of the transfer window.
If I was to predict a team to start tomorrow I’d go with this: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Davies, Baines, Gueye, Barry, Mirallas, Barkley and Deulofeu. Although Kone may come in up front I feel that following Koeman’s use of Deulofeu in pre season it indicates he is willing to start the Spaniard in a more advanced role and that’s where I think he will be deployed tomorrow. Although we are not in the best of shape in terms of fitness, injuries and incoming signings I do believe in another week or two we will be, with Lukaku and Coleman returning, the team getting back to full fitness and plenty more new faces through the door.
Overall the game tomorrow has the makings of an interesting encounter between two sides who often serve up entertaining battles. If anything Everton should be aspiring to be like Spurs – their model is an exciting one and a style and that has seen them progress from the Europa League spots and ‘best of the rest’ up into the top four, putting title challenges together and sealing Champions League qualification. Only a few years ago Everton were up there with Spurs in the places just outside the top four, however we’ve regressed and dropped down the League. Obviously Spurs have spent well over the years and only now can we look to a brighter financial future ourselves, but Evertonians will hope that we too can begin to look upwards and aim towards the business end of the table after two disappointing and disheartening seasons in succession.
Goodison will be packed out to welcome Ronald Koeman tomorrow so let’s hope we get off to a positive start. I’ll go with a 1-0 win to Everton as I’m feeling optimistic, Kevin Mirallas with the goal.
Up the Toffees.