This is a managerial move that has shocked many as Dutch football legend Ronald Koeman has opted to switch Southampton for Everton, despite the Saints finishing five places above his new club. It is certainly a risky move for Koeman, as the pressure will be increased on Merseyside, but he will feel that there is more potential for growth at Everton. Southampton continually sell their key players and he will have doubted his ability to keep them in the top eight for a significant period of time, whereas Everton showed last summer they are prepared to turn down big bids for their star players. There is also new investment at Goodison Park, and that will excite Koeman, who wants to challenge at the top end of the league.
The first thing that Koeman has to do is deal with the futures of Romulu Lukaku and John Stones, both in huge demand from some of Europe’s largest clubs. He will be keen to keep them at the club as both have star quality and have yet to reach the peak of powers. However, if they want to leave the club, he should let them do so. A big problem at Everton last season was the attitude amongst the players, as they often gave up in matches in which they went behind. Koeman built a good team spirit at Southampton and will want to do the same at Everton. If he can get both to buy into his vision, that would be great for the club. If not, he should let them go and bring in players that will.
Lukaku is an interesting case in point, as he is hugely talented and has the raw attributes to go to the very top of the sport. However, he is inconsistent and goes through lengthy spells of poor performances. He is the perfect striker to lead the line when on form, but that is not as often as Everton would like. It might actually be beneficial to sell him for between £40-50m and reinvest that into two strikers. This would increase competition for places in the squad, while Everton could buy two strikers of different profiles, creating tactical flexibility for Koeman.
Koeman needs to get his recruitment right, which he did more often than not at Southampton. He has a great knowledge of the Dutch game and the Eredivisie is an undervalued market, despite the failure of Memphis Depay in the English game. Everton have been heavily linked with Gini Wijnaldum, which would be an interesting signing. He has played under Koeman before, and he has experience in the English game. There would be doubts about the price tag and his inconsistency for Newcastle last season, especially away from home, but he is a talented player. Christian Tello and Saido Berahino have also been linked, which suggests Koeman is planning to build a young squad, capable of growing together as a side over the coming years.
A goalkeeper has to be a priority for the incoming manager, as Tim Howard has gone to the MLS and Joel Robles didn’t look capable of being a first choice Premier League goalkeeper during his spell in the side last season. They have been linked with Kasper Schmeichel, Joe Hart and Fraser Forster, and they all seem a bit overly ambitious, given they play for sides in European competition, something Everton don’t have. This could be where Koeman’s Dutch knowledge might come into play as both Tim Krul and Jeroen Zoet would be very realistic targets, with neither carrying a huge price task. Jasper Cillessen would be another option, but could struggle with the physicality of the English game.
The most exciting thing for Everton fans is that Koeman is a winner and he will bring a different brand of football to the club. Roberto Martinez was too rigid in his approach and wasn’t flexible when it came to tactics. He only had one way of playing, while the defence got worse and worse throughout his tenure. Koeman will correct that as a former defender. At Southampton, Koeman was very flexible and played a variety of formations, including one with three at the back last season, which worked superbly and put Southampton in the fight for Europe.
The next two or three weeks are huge for Koeman as Everton are behind other clubs due to the time taken to get the Dutchman in. He will need to work quickly to secure targets before pre-season and he will face a huge task when the squad get back together to get them comfortable in a tactic before the season begins. The defensive shape was appalling at the end of last season, and that needs to be the first thing corrected over pre-season. This is an exciting appointment for Everton fans, but the hard work starts now. Koeman has a difficult job on his hands, but he is a great candidate to carry it out.