Ronald Koeman, somewhat surprisingly, has indicated in recent comments to EvertonFC.com that his team could look to play more direct against Burnley on Sunday after a poor first half display against Apollon Limassol.
He told the club website:
First of all, we must support the players, pick the best team to start the game and give the players different options to play forwards. We started aggressively (against Limassol) but we did not start well on the ball. That lowered the confidence in the team and gave our opponents the boost to play comfortably in the first half.
The second half was much better… different from the first half.
And that is what we spoke about this morning: how we can make the team more aggressive, play more direct balls, do not play too short, do not take risks in the build-up, play simple balls and keep the ball. Then the confidence can grow in the team – and that is what you need to play football.
The idea is a reasonable one — try to play a little more direct and stretch the field, rather than shrinking it by playing only through inverted wingers and central midfielders, while exclusively relying on the right-back for width.
He has the pace and explosiveness in the side to bring this element into play, but I’m inclined to put little stock in Koeman’s comments. He’s spent the entire season trying to fit square pegs into round holes at the front of his 4-3-3, and his actions indicate he’s learned very little.
Almost exclusively this season, he’s chosen starting lineups with absolutely no pace (i.e., ‘wingers’ Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney), and his team has struggled mightily to get going. He then injects more pace in the side — in the form of Nikola Vlasic, Oumar Niasse, Ademola Lookman, Aaron Lennon, or Kevin Mirallas — and his side improves in the second half.
Then, he has proceeds to start similar lineups in the next match, and appears confused as to why things aren’t working out!
The Dutchman has been utterly stubborn in his starting lineup choices, as well as in the style he asks of his players. Until we see changes in personnel and style that come at the start of the match, rather than in the second half, his words will continue to ring hollow and meaningless.