After leading Everton to seventh place last season, Ronald Koeman went into the summer and spent a whole bunch of cash as he tried to take the Blues into the top six. Instead, the selection of players he added over the summer have not gelled, and the Dutchman paid the ultimate price just sixteen months into his contract.
Here are some thoughts from the Royal Blue Mersey writers on why Koeman failed to get the Toffees over the hump, where it all went wrong for him and other miscellaneous thoughts.
He came to the club with a swagger and seemed to have the right mentality to match Moshiri's "Back to the big time" philosophy. After a decent first season things went downhill fast.
In the end he leaves with his reputation in tatters, spending huge sums of money yet failing to get his team to do the simple things right. Humiliating losses and terrible performances this season had all become to much and it was well overdue by the time the board pulled the trigger.
Brian L -
Ultimately I think Koeman was undone by not prioritizing the right positions in the summer transfer window. Everyone knew Lukaku was leaving. But the plan to find a replacement could not be described as competent. And without a real striker this team has a lot of problems, even if the squad got better at a lot of positions. That coupled with a stubbornness to play without wingers was a recipe for disaster.
A stubborn refusal to change his tactics and use the players available to him has ultimately cost him. Sticking with Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson and not giving the likes of Kevin Mirallas & Ademola Lookman a chance has been criminal at times.
It cannot, however, be overlooked how badly he has been let down by the board. The failure to sign a striker and centre back in the summer left him with his hands tied behind his back.
I think the biggest reason for Koeman's failure and this team's struggles is a lack of a replacement for Romelu Lukaku. Last season he scored 26 goals in all comps, 20 more than the next highest, Ross Barkley. With that in mind, it's not at all surprising that this team has struggled to score. Defensive lapses can be forgiven when the team is scoring 3 or 4 goals.
Also, not bringing in adequate defensive cover was a huge mistake as well. I don't think Koeman forgot how to coach defense, I think his players aren't capable of playing at a high level anymore. If your team is relying on Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka to pair with Michael Keane, things aren't going to end well. The fullback depth chart is a mess too. Seamus Coleman has no decent back up and a declining Leighton Baines has no back up at all.
However, Koeman did put out countless questionable line-ups, made some baffling personnel decisions and seemed unable to create a tactically sound game plan this year. Overall, I think the organization as a whole completely bungled the summer transfer window and somehow made the team worse than it was last year.
Ronald Koeman entered the 2017/18 season with an idea of how things would work -- inverted wingers in Sigurdsson and Rooney/Sandro, a floating attacking midfielder in Davy Klaassen, and full-backs providing width. But the fill-in right-backs failed, Sandro and Klaassen didn't adapt to the Premier League quickly, and the whole setup just looked wrong.
Instead of simplifying things at that point -- putting Sigurdsson as #10, playing with two true wingers, and utilizing a striker who could press a backline -- Koeman elected to over-complicate things. Players were routinely out of positions in tactical setups that made no sense, and his players often looked lost as a result.
Brian F -
I think that Ronald Koeman is a manager, not a coach. Give him talent and he can give them the tips and tricks to help get them over the top over. He is not someone brought in to build from the ground up.
Think of him as more of an interior decorator than an architect, and right now Everton are in desperate need of the latter, not the former. When the pieces started to fall apart, it seems Koeman didn't have any answers, nor the ability to even recognize WHY there were certain struggles. I don't think Koeman is a poor manager, just a bad coach.
From the beginning, Koeman did not seem to fit in with the Everton culture. Remember Hibbert and Osman getting fired via text? Not a good start. Koeman was hellbent on changing everything this season, bringing on 10 new players and spending tons of money. Problem is, it didn't work and he never wanted to admit it.
Losing Lukaku and not getting a big signing to replace him may not have been totally his fault but there should have been a better plan in place. Hiring your brother as your #2 is problematic and suggests that he liked "Yes" men. The board may have said "Yes" to Koeman way too many times.
Ultimately, Ronald Koeman didn't fail because Everton didn't replace Romelu Lukaku, or because there was no cover for Leighton Baines. The Dutchman failed because he persisted in playing narrow, clogging up the midfield, and forcing the attack through the right side despite Seamus Coleman being injured.
Koeman was thoroughly out of ideas despite a plethora of new players, and anything he tried was just a variation on the same tune.
Koeman was set up for failure after the poor close to the transfer window. His buying, like his tactics, had no direction and failed to address key needs that have been glaring since the beginning of the season. Lack of key players along with the wrong tactics game after game is a recipe for disaster and will almost always lead to a sacking in the end.
I’m sad it has come to this as I don’t want Everton to gain a reputation for hiring and firing managers. It creates instability, costs a lot of money and rarely makes things better in the long term. However, the manner of the performance yesterday left Koeman’s position untenable. He seems to have completely run out of ideas and a change is needed while the season is still salvageable.
I do have some sympathy though as the uneven recruitment in the summer left him with an imbalanced squad - he mentioned several times that he needed a left sided defender and a striker, but neither arrived. Steve Walsh and the board need to take some of the blame for that. However, Koeman was paid handsomely to try and improve things on the pitch but the team instead looks to have regressed, with no real identity or tactical plan.
I think the simplest analysis is that the task was too big for Koeman this season. He isn't an idiot, but he's definitely not a visionary. Given a solid squad he will produce solid results, but given a team that needs some reorganization and some creative solutions, he will struggle for answers. It's not that he's inflexible, just that he's not a particularly good problem solver.
With Lukaku gone and a transfer policy oblivious to the actual needs of the squad (which I think is less his fault than Walsh's), it was an uphill battle for him and his utter lack of a plan was apparent for all to see.
It came down to Koeman trying to fit square pegs in round holes. Mason Holgate isn't really a right back, but he played there anyway. Wayne Rooney isn't a striker anymore, but he got a lot of time there early on. Gylfi Sigurdsson is best in the middle of the pitch, but saw a lot of minutes on the left wing.
And true wingers were ignored entirely. Then, when it wasn't working, Koeman didn't have an alternative plan. The attack became an amoeba of players taking any role they liked. He just could not figure out how to make the pieces fit.
We often laugh at our neighbours across Stanley Park for transfer market futility, but this summer it is us who have been the biggest spenders and biggest losers as well. Despite spending all that money on rebuilding the squad and arguably improving it at certain positions, the balance was lacking with a lopsided midfield and no attack, and therein the fire that burned down the foundations of Koeman’s project was lit.
Ultimately, Koeman just failed to ‘get’ the club and its fans, what we’re all about and what we want to see. He might have thought we were a stepping stone to a bigger club, turns out he couldn’t even get that right despite being given the resources required.