Key Challenges Facing Ronald Koeman at Everton

Ronald Koeman’s move from Southampton to Everton may have come as a bit of a surprised given his recent comments rebutting any notions of such a switch but in fairness it makes a lot of sense. Whilst just over 238 miles separate the two clubs geographically and five positions part them in the most recent league standings, the differences between the two clubs are few and far between. Granted an argument can be structured based on history including title wins and European adventures that Everton are the bigger club, but in truth there current respective setups both on the field and off it have them on a similar path. Both clubs whether they like it or not are selling clubs, producing players that will gain first team exposure before being sold for a hefty profit in order to finance the next batch. Both have fallen on hard times over the past twenty years (Southampton more so) that has resulted in a drastic rethink of the philosophy and approach. Both have tasted some success too in the pitch with good runs leading to top six finishes that have yielded European football the following year. The only noticeable difference between the two clubs is the owners and their mindset about what to do next. At Southampton its business as normal with owner Katharina Liebherr preferring to stick with the tried and tested model of buying cheaply from abroad or promoting from the clubs stellar youth academy to bolster the squad. Reckless transfers or overpayments are definitely jot on the cards at St. Mary’s. That is in stark contrast to Everton’s new owner, Farhad Moshiri who is gearing up for a summer shopping spree that Everton fans rarely saw under the previous more frugal ownership of Bill Kenwright. Moshiri believes that progress on this seasons 11th placed finish will only be achieved by buying big and improving the squad, something that will appeal to Koeman’s hunger to grow as a manager. Ultimately Koeman wants to leave the UK for his dream job as manager of Barcelona but first he must be a success at Everton to prove his worth. So following on from Roberto Martinez what three things must the Dutchman do to improve Everton’s current predicament.

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Koeman dreams of managing Barcelona one day (Image from Tumblr)

Keep his big name players

To win football matches, you need to retain your best players. It sounds simple but is often something that most managers fail to acknowledge. Koeman’s first task will be to persuade his three best players to stay for at least one more season. The speculation surrounding the futures of John Stones, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku has become deafening with the only relief from it being that the attention has momentarily switched to the Euros. But come the end of the tournament in France, discussions will be required and decisions will need to be made concerning this important trio. Koeman will be persuasive but in some cases it may be a losing battle with the player having already decided to leave. If that is the case, Koeman has experience in dealing with it at Southampton where each summer one or two of his best players would depart under their own steam for pastures new. Rebuilding is in his blood and Koeman knows how to do it well so if Stones, Barkley and/or Lukaku hand in a request to leave he will be ready. Koeman has shown already that he is a tough negotiator and better still a shrewd spotter of talent. The signing by Southampton of Dusan Tadic, a fairly unknown Serbian winger plying his trade in Holland is a great example as is Virgil Van Dijk who was brought in from Celtic. Both players became key components of Koeman’s team at St Mary’s as will any new recruit brought in to replace exiting stars at Everton.

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Discover the secret to consistency

Under Martinez, Everton struggled to find consistency. One week they would be superb picking apart their opponent with ease and passing the ball effortlessly around the pitch. The following week they couldn’t hit a barn door from five yards or find a teammate in space if their lives depended on it. Consistency is key to a strong season. Look at Leicester who shocked the world by winning this years title with two common themes running throughout – teamwork and consistancy. Koeman needs to discover the special sauce at Everton that turns possession into points on the good days and thrashes out 1-0 wins on the bad ones. If he can strike a balance between defending as a unit and then breaking forward as one too then he should be able to propel Everton further up the table towards those coveted European slots.

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Koeman found a formula that worked for Southampton but can he do the same for Everton? (Image from Tumblr)

Promote from within

Finally it’s important especially to the Everton fans to promote from within as they like to see one of their own taking in field in the dark blue jersey. Roberto Martinez did managed to do this giving starts to youth talent like Tyias Browning and the excellent Brendan Galloway but he struggled to find the right balance in the sides he put out. Koeman has shown at Southampton that he is not afraid to trust youth products, fielding Matthew Targett and James Ward Prowse on a semi regular basis but again has struggled to find a working balance between experienced pros and exciting young talent. To be fair the benchmark was set high by Koeman’s predecessor at Southampton Mauricio Pochettino who did manage to incorporate several academy prospects into his teams. With one of the best youth systems in the Premier League (alongside Southampton ironically) Koeman must look to the clubs academy for the next batch of first team regulars. Ryan Ledson is one such prospect and is expected to make the transition soon but how Koeman balances the need for blood these youngsters with the pressures of getting results is still to be seen.

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Ledson Tipped For Greater Things Following Europa Performance

Ryan Ledson is tipped as a future star for Everton and England (Image from Getty)In the end the result matter little with Everton having already secured their passage into the knockout rounds after three wins and two draws. With the pressure removed, manager Roberto Martinez decided to rest some of his first team players in preparation for Monday’s clash with Queens Park Rangers. It also gave him the opportunity to give some of the clubs most promising youngster’s valuable playing time. Into the starting lineup came right back Tyias Browning, left back Luke Garbutt and striker Conor McAleny whilst Kieran Dowell, Gethin Jones and Chris Long all made appearances from the substitutes bench. It said a lot about Martinez approach that Long at 19 years old, was the oldest squad player on the Everton bench. And it almost paid off with his young team restricting their Russian opponents Krasnodar to only a handful of chances with only one trickling through under reserve goalkeeper Joel Robles to hand them the victory. The fans however did not leave Goodison disappointed as they were shown a glimpse into the clubs future with the unveiling of the latest youngsters from their youth system production line. They all gave a good account of themselves but one other youngster in particular stood out above all of them.

Ledson commanded the Everton midfield against Krasnodar  (Image from PA)

Ledson commanded the Everton midfield against Krasnodar
(Image from PA)

Defensive midfielder Ryan Ledson is seen by the club as one of the brightest prospects to have ever emerged at the club. He took up position at the heart of the midfield alongside seasoned veteran Gareth Barry and demonstrated exactly why the club rates him so highly. Ledson controlled the game with a maturity well beyond his 17 years and looked confident on the ball throughout. His passing both short and long was exceptional with 91% of the 56 passes he made hitting their mark whilst his superb positioning at all times help Everton to retain its shape especially when under pressure from the five man Krasnodar midfield. Having been at Everton since the age of five, Ledson is very much at home at the club and is pushing hard to get into the first team as a regular squad member. Progress has been quicker than expected with Everton keen to secure the player for the long run rather than lose him to potential suitors like Manchester City and Tottenham who have been rumoured to be interested. It would appear though that Ledson has no intentions of playing for anyone else by signing his first professional contract with Everton in August. This was swiftly followed by a first team bench appearance against Southampton, and although he didn’t make it on to the pitch it was a signal of intent by Martinez that he sees Ledson very much in his plans. England are also keen to ensure that Ledson is part of their long term plans having already watched him excel at Under 17 level. Ledson played a significant role as captain as he led the England Under 17 national team to European Championship success last season. Now very much part of Gareth Southgate’s Under 21 squad, it won’t be long until he follows in Ross Barkley’s footsteps into Roy Hodgson’s full team.

Ledson signed his first pro deal in August (Image from Getty)

Ledson signed his first pro deal in August (Image from Getty)

Before that happens, Ledson knows that he must establish himself as a regular starter at Everton. His performance against Krasnodar will go a long way to helping this transition with Roberto Martinez praising the way that he played. This won’t be the last time that we see him pull the strings for Everton at the heart of their midfield.

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