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Toffees’ Thursday Mailbag

Answering all of your relevant, and irreverant

After spending days trying to figure out what to make of the current squad and where to place my expectations, I find myself asking the same question as Adam.

WHY CAN’T WE EVER HAVE NICE THINGS??!?

After a derby that....well...let us just say.....didn’t go well; the supporters, coaches, and players were left to reflect up on what had just transpired.

Some responses took into account the NUMEROUS key injuries facing the squad.

Forced to cover for the likely starters Seamus Coleman, Morgan Schneiderlin, James McCarthy and Ramiro Funes Mori, Ronald Koeman opted to go young (as I am sure you are aware).

The inclusion of Mason Holgate and Tom Davies weren’t shocking based on how much faith the manager has shown in him all year, but it was the introduction of Matthew Pennington in a three back system with veterans Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka and Dominic Calvert-Lewin out wide leftish that caught most fans off guard.

So how did the pair do?

Well, for DCL, it was an uninspiring performance.

Stationed as a wide-left (?) player who was told to cut in and connect with Romelu Lukaku, the offensive patterns never manifested themselves and the found themselves isolated much of the match.

As for Mr. Pennington?

Talk about a roller-coaster day.

First, he found himself stepping late to a Sadio Mane shot and was on hand as the ball headed to the back of the net.

Peter Byrne (PA)

Then, the young defender found himself the recipient of a great bounce off of a corner and scored the goal to tie the match back up.

Phil Noble (Reuters)

Unfortunately, he found himself on the wrong end of the score sheet again when he (along with a host of other poor Everton defenders) allowed Coutinho to give the Reds the lead again.

Carl Recline (Action Photos)

(On a separate note, it appears Williams and Pennington were physically connected the whole match. )

Talk about emotionally exhausting, I am sure young Pennington’s head was spinning when he got taken off as he tried to wrap his head around the match.

How did the manager feel overall?

While Koeman was certainly dismayed by the result, the performance didn’t appear to upset him, and THAT upset some fans!

While others took a more pragmatic approach to the loss, especially those players who had been thrown to the wolves.

This match (and subsequent responses) are a perfect cross-section of the 2016-2017 Toffees: a mix of optimism and frustration.

Normally, I take the position of the the optimist, while also acknowledging fans’ right to be frustrated at the happenings on the field, but derby are slightly different.

While I can certainly appreciate Koeman’s desire to ‘blood’ his young players, it was the tactics they were asked to carry out that ultimately doomed the squad.

I won’t get too much into the nuances (you can read more about the tactics via Adam Braun’s insight here ) but a general summary is that the young players, while talented enough, weren’t asked to do the things they do best.

This put out a bunch of young players who perhaps didn’t have the confidence in themselves in order to effectively impact the match.

I am not going give some damning indictment of Koeman, as he has forgotten more about the sport than I have ever known, but I don’t think even the Dutchman himself would say he got the tactics right.

This doesn’t happen often with the new manager, so I don’t see a trend happening.

He was, however, happy with his teams performance.

And as a outside observer unable to say EXACTLY what the players were trying to execute, I have to take his word on it and have some belief in a manager who has done nothing but push the squad higher in one year than anyone would have imagined.

When the squad came out against Manchester United Tuesday, Toffees supporters were anxious to see how the team would adjust/ respond.

The team that he called on ebbed a lot of fans’ fears.

The inclusion of veterans Kevin Mirallas and Gareth Barry, while not ideal, were viewed by many fans as an admission of having over-served youth at Anfield Saturday, and up against a squad reintroducing a Zlatan Ibrahimovic fresh off his suspension Koeman knew the attacking threats would be vastly different from Liverpool, allowing him to revert to a back four after starting the derby in a three back system.

I’ll spare you the details until later, but as you probably know the Toffees suffered another heart-wrenching result as they let two points slip in the final minute.

So what did the gaffer think after the Man U performance?

As frustrated as fans seem, it appears to me that Koeman knows exactly what to expect from his squad, what they are capable of with their current roster, and how he would like to see them perform.

While the edges are still very rough, it is evident that the Dutchman is happy with the direction of the club (WHO ISN’T???!?!) and acutely aware of what needs to be done to push into the Champions League, and eventually the title, discussion.

In conclusion: It’s not perfect, but it’s better than anyone could have imagined (on and off the pitch) at this point in the rebuild. So sit back , root on the team, expect them to play with passion and get excited for the big steps to be taken this Summer and beyond.

Hey, maybe I am optimistic after all!

Now, onto your questions!


So after watching Barkley stumble around the field for these last two games - does everyone owe Southgate a huge apology because he knows better, or do we torch him even more for killing our boy's confidence and form?

- Jeff

The Barkley divide persists.

Reactions to his Liverpool performance ranged from:

and

to

Our questioner Jeff obviously fell in the former group, unhappy with Ross Barkley’s performance against Liverpool and Manchester United.

His pondering as to what effect another playing time snub from England and Gareth Southgate is a legitimate one considering the emotional frailties Mr. Barkley has shown in the past.

So, what do I make of Ross after the last two matches?

I COULD go down the stats route: shots, assists, passing percentage and location all put together to draw a quantifiable and defensible answer as to whether he is to blame fro the attacking struggles or is just an easy punching bag for Everton fans.

But I’m not.

You see, I assess Barkley on my gut.

When Ross is on the field, SOMETHING might happen, and that is unique to a handful of players in the league.

I know he isn’t consistent enough, not by a long shot, but when he is on the ball, there is always the possibility of magic.

SO WHY ISN’T THERE MORE $^&%$^^##$ MAJIC?

Well, just like Harry needed Ron and Hermonie, Ross needs Rom and Rachel ……well that’s the problem.

You see, the Everton snake is powerful, but only has one head (Rom).

Ross and the squad can wriggle all he wants, but when the head is detached from the team (like it was in the derby) the Toffees aren’t going anywhere, and have NO bite.

In spite of his best efforts, Ross isn’t going to be able to balance out an imbalanced team like Everton on his own.

Without a Yannick Bolasie or other piercing attacking options, Barkley finds himself inundated with zonal marking schemes, curbing his ability to run at individuals and break down defenses by beating lines himself.

If you were to line up against Everton how would YOU defend them?

Here is how I would summarize how most opposing coaches describe their game plan:

“Keep Barkley deep by possessing and isolate Lukaku away from ballside”.

“Got it?”

Ready…..break!

I’m a pretty good coach, huh?

The obvious response is to say that the front office erred in their offseason approach (a battle for another day), but procuring legitimate second options requires deep research into not only the players talents, but their personalities as few accomplished strikers enjoy sharing the spotlight.

Not an easy task for the winter market.

Without a consistent second option (we lost one of our best attackers when our RB(!) Coleman got hurt) Everton has been either feast or famine.

I don’t blame Ross, though.

As it stands, Everton fans are asking the young man to play Mozart on a piano that is missing some keys and is slightly out of tune. There will be flashes of brilliance, but overall it’s disjointed and not indicative of their talents.

So after a Summer of fine tuning the squad and working on his rhythm I have no doubt that Mr. Barkley will be composing displays of brilliance week in and week out.

(PS. Southgate’s snubbing was more an indictment on the skipper than it was on Ross, Gareth is in over his head.)


Joel is a good guy

A perfect second option

Not the solution


Ugh.

In the 92nd minute it felt like we were so close to an early/notable Koeman-era victory, then the final two minutes happened.

As if the handball/PK/red card on Williams wasn’t harsh enough, the vocal leader of the team, Williams, immediately got into Lukaku’s ear across the field, presumably based on the Belgian’s inability to hold the ball up and relieve pressure.

While that is certainly notable, it was Romalu’s response that drew the most hand-wringing from fans.

Whether he was shushing the Welsh captain or simply reminding him that he was a lone striker, Romelu did turn to his good friend Paul Pogba after the game and presumably gesticulated/ commented on the situation.

I will leave the specifics to the experts and lip readers, but regardless of if he was showing up Williams or not, Lukaku’s body language left a lot to be desired.

If we have learned anything about Rom it is that he is an intelligent young man who takes his future seriously, and has given it much thought.

While issues like this seem like heat of the moment, run-of-the-mill teammates stuff, in reality, these are the types of things that can fester and create divisions amongst the team.

I have no doubt that Koeman will bring the two men together to clear the air, or simply tell them not to let it impact their on-field performance, but that is not Rom’s long game.

Lukaku knows that by having an on-the-field dust-up he will continue to incite the rumors of a summer departure, drawing interest and keeping his name in the headlines.

I know it seems cynical, but based on his comments I believe the Belgian striker is willing to do anything to achieve his objective of moving to a “bigger club”.

How do I think it will pan out for Everton?

I’m not so optimistic anymore.