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Koeman keen to dampen expectations ahead of season opener

Everton take on Tottenham at Goodison Park

Everton v Espanyol: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Well, are you ready?

Just 90 days after a manager-less Everton ended a dismal season on a relative high with victory over relegated Norwich, the Toffees will once again stride out at Goodison Park ahead of what promises to be another eventful season.

In the intervening three months we have fed our football fix with a combination of Euro 2016 and Copa America action, but nothing quite beats the Blues on a Saturday afternoon in the Premier League.

This summer was supposed to be when everything changed. When Everton, fuelled by Farhad Moshiri’s billions, stamped their new-found authority on the Premier League.

An Axel Witsel here, a Juan Mata there, we were supposed to see the Mersey Millionaires spur back into action.

Instead it’s felt very much like we’ve travelled back in time to the David Moyes era, with the club’s major transfer activity only kicking into gear after a major sale.

Things are, of course, very different from Moyes’ time at the club and the arrival of Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh are two astute appointments by the Everton hierarchy.

The final two weeks of the transfer window may yet yield a few surprises too. The departure of John Stones was sadly inevitable and largely out of Koeman’s control. But the three new signings we have made will undoubtedly improve the side and it seems a few more deals are imminent.

But for now we need to show a touch of patience and accept that things will not change dramatically overnight.

Koeman was very quick to dampen expectations going into the season opener, warning that his squad were only 70% fit and expressing his frustration at the length of holiday they were given.

It is a damning indictment of the Roberto Martinez regime that the players can be deemed so unfit on the eve of a new campaign.

The side regularly looked out of juice in the closing stages of games under the Spaniard and perhaps now we know why.

Koeman’s concerned expressions on the touchline during pre-season are also indicative of a man only just realising the size of the task put in front of him.

There may be a few choppy waters ahead before the Dutchman can start to turn the good ship Everton around.

The opposition

Tottenham, in contrast, have had a serene build-up to the new season. Fresh off the back of their most successful Premier League campaign to date manager Mauricio Pochettino has wisely chosen not to meddle with his squad.

The only major arrivals are Victor Wanyama from Southampton, for what looks like a bargain fee of £11m given today’s market, and Vincent Janssen for £17m from AZ Alkmaar.

That means the core of last season’s side remains, with the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris set to feature at Goodison Park.

Only champions Leicester had a better away record than Spurs last season and only a 5-2 collapse at Newcastle on the final day prevented them from finishing with the best defensive record on the road.

It all points to a tricky first day at the office for Koeman and his new side.

Team news

New signing Ashley Williams will not feature for Everton on Saturday. The defender has is short of match fitness after returning to training late after Euro 2016. Romelu Lukaku (heel) and Seamus Coleman (ankle) are to be assessed. Captain Phil Jagielka is fit after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Maarten Stekelenberg is expected to make his debut in goal with Idrissa Gueye poised for his first Toffees appearance in midfield.

Tottenham will be without Mousa Dembele who still has four games to serve of a six-game ban issued last season. Defender Jan Vertonghen is fit to start after recovering from an ankle injury suffered at Euro 2016.

The last word

Koeman may well be indulging in a bit of mind games by publicly declaring his dismay at his side’s lack of fitness.

He will be all too aware of the expectations surrounding the side following his appointment as manager and will be keen to try and secure some breathing space in case things don’t go right straight away.

It is clear the team needs strengthening and a pre-season that yielded two wins, two defeats and two draws perhaps sums up where the team is at right now.

Tottenham look a much more settled, balanced side but will also feel the pressure of expectation after such a wonderful season last time out.

A packed Goodison Park means it will be a raucous atmosphere for Koeman’s debut but I fear it won’t be enough to secure the win.

An entertaining 2-2 draw will leave all parties satisfied and allow attention to be switched back to the transfer market before the window closes in a fortnight’s time.

Predicated Everton XI: Stekelenberg, Holgate, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Baines, Gueye, Barry, Mirallas, Barkley, Deulofeu, Lukaku.