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Koeman defiant as Everton battle to avoid a deepening crisis

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Dutchman insists he is the man to turn things around ahead of Arsenal visit

Everton FC v Olympique Lyon - UEFA Europa League Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Everton’s quest to discover new and inventive ways of losing football matches continued on Thursday as defeat to Lyon all but ended their hopes of playing European football beyond Christmas.

To cap it off a supporter tried to slap an opposition player after our captain sparked a mass brawl.

It’s little wonder Ronald Koeman is looking so disheveled.

The pressure certainly seems to be taking its toll on the Dutchman as he battles to save Everton’s season - and his own job.

I actually thought Everton played well in the second half on Thursday, but were let down by sloppy defending at crucial moments.

At least the players showed a bit of fight and spirit, something they didn’t afford Koeman’s predecessor Roberto Martinez.

The squad downed tools during the final weeks of the 2015-16 season, meaning Martinez’s departure was inevitable.

While the team continue to fight Koeman still has a chance, however slim, of turning it around.

But with confidence shattered it seems he is relying on luck to try reverse flagging Everton’s fortunes. Not something you expect to hear from a £6m/year manager.

The opposition

Arsenal were supposed to be the team Everton would catch this season after the Gunners failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1998.

That fifth-placed finish heaped more pressure on Arsene Wenger, with the fans actively voicing their displeasure during the second half of last season.

But despite their protestations Wenger, in perhaps one of the finest examples of a club trolling its own fans, ended up signing a new two-year contract in the summer.

The Frenchman insisted he was still the man to lead the club despite their failure to win the league since the legendary invincibles side of 2004.

However, there has been little evidence of the side righting any of the wrongs that have dogged Wenger’s sides over the years.

Their defeat at Watford last weekend was a classic case in point, with Troy Deeney later claiming Arsenal lacked the “cajones” to battle their way to victory.

That said Wenger still has a glittering array of attacking talent at his disposal and when they are on song are hard to stop.

The key for the Frenchman is trying to ensure they produce it on a consistent basis.

Team news

Ronald Koeman has confirmed Wayne Rooney, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines will return after being rested for Thursday’s defeat to Lyon.

James McCarthy could also feature after coming through an U23s game unscathed. Oumar Niasse will also return to the squad after being ineligible on Thursday.

Predicted starting XI

Pickford, Martina, Keane, Jagielka, Baines, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Vlasic, Rooney, Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin.

Final word

Is Koeman in the last chance saloon? The board remain behind him but support from the terraces is draining away rapidly.

Defeat on Sunday would seemingly push the Dutchman further towards the abyss.

It’s one of the tougher challenges in management to try and raise morale amongst a dispirited squad but Koeman must somehow do something to try and lift spirits.

The only positive is the effort and commitment shown during the second half on Thursday and the hope that could be extended over 90 minutes against the Gunners.

A late 2-1 victory over Arsenal last December turned Everton’s season around. What we would give for lightning to strike twice on Sunday.