When Ronald Koeman was initially hired to replace Roberto Martinez as manager of Everton, one of the positive things was the Dutchman’s straight talking. He was firm, he was disciplined, and in the end, it may have been his undoing.
According to a new report from The Times’ Everton insider Paul Joyce, Koeman’s internal tactics had deteriorated to what could be termed a point of no return.
Koeman could be aloof and belligerent — there was little empathy, or even contact, with Everton’s academy in recent times despite the production line that had developed several homegrown players — but last season these were seen as qualities.
The rules and regulations that he imposed on his arrival from Southampton in the summer of 2016, such as bringing forward training by an hour to 9am — ensuring the school run was out and hard work was in — and decreeing that players could only eat lunch with his blessing, were taken as welcome departures from the Roberto Martínez era.
In the beginning, you can see how the hard line would have been beneficial to a side that looked bereft of discipline at the end of Martinez’s tenure. Looking deeper, though, it’s clear that Koeman’s ways, when combined with tactical nonsense, were always going to get him into hot water.
The ex-Barcelona defender mistreated Oumar Niasse, pushed Ross Barkley towards the door, and has Ademola Lookman considering greener pastures. It’s possible that Koeman has set the club back years.
The Dutchman’s disconnection with the club and its fans didn’t help, either. Koeman never displayed an interest in learning about the club’s history or becoming part of its culture. Again, per Joyce:
He had never really immersed himself in the club, basing himself in Alderley Edge in Cheshire, and was not a slave to the job, preferring to leave early rather than stay late.
Standoffish from the start, Koeman only got worse as time went along.
Where last season Koeman would go out of his way to explain why he substituted players, particularly younger ones making their way in the game, this term he has been more uncommunicative.
The day before Koeman’s final match in charge, the manager was more confusing than ever before. It’s been extensively detailed here at Royal Blue Mersey how Everton were completely out of ideas in attack, and Paul Joyce’s introductory nugget does nothing but hammer that point home.
Ronald Koeman was overseeing the final preparations for Everton’s game with Arsenal when he resorted to barking out one instruction repeatedly during training at the club’s Finch Farm base on Saturday.
“Long balls, long balls,” came the Dutchman’s command, prompting quizzical looks from members of his first-team squad as a practice game ensued. Everton had spent all summer acquiring No 10s at no little expense — Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney to go with Ross Barkley and others — and here was the manager instructing his team to bypass them all and play direct despite their failure to sign a new target man during the summer transfer window.
Individually, perhaps these details are not damning. When viewed as a whole, though, it’s clear that Ronald Koeman, somewhere along the way, completely lost the plot.
Players should feel comfortable at a club, starting with perhaps being allowed to eat when they want.
An academy with the success of Everton’s deserves more respect and attention given.
A team in crisis needs its manager to work overtime.