Let me pause from singing songs and shouting for joy that Ronald Koeman is gone to inspect another element of this current Everton situation. Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad has decided that a good deal of the blame falls at the feet of Steve Walsh, internationally renowned talent finder of Leicester fame, now at Everton.
Here’s what they had to say:
‘The inability of Technical Director Steve Walsh, hijacked from Leicester City, led to chaos. The discoverer of revelations like N’Golo Kanté and Riyad Mahrez appeared to be green at the negotiating table. Koeman was still short of a successor for Romelu Lukaku and a left-wing defender at the end of August, but largely received footballers for whom the Premier League came too early.
‘The incapable technical director Walsh caused a swamp, from which the coach did not find a way out fast enough.’
How much validity is there to this? Well, if you ask me, not a whole lot.
For one, there’s the comment about a lack of successor to Romelu Lukaku. Koeman did in fact want another striker, but he did not want a Lukaku replacement. In Koeman’s mind, Everton were too dependent on Lukaku last season, and his desire was to have three or more players hit ten goals in a campaign rather than have one man carrying the entire load.
This fits the MO he took at his previous destinations, as you can read about here. What’s more, Koeman was under-utilizing the tools he did have at striker. For one, Dominic Calvert-Lewin had the highest xG of any player in the Premier League yet to find the net under Koeman, yet Wayne Rooney, who isn’t nearly as good as DCL at staying central and holding down the line, consistently got more minutes at the #9 position.
What’s more is that Koeman refused to give Oumar Niasse a proper opportunity throughout his time in charge, never mind the fact that Niasse also held his central positioning well and showed great form when actually given an opportunity.
Calvert-Lewin is on his way to being a very high quality player in this league, Niasse has shown he has a nose for goal, and yet neither got enough credit from Koeman.
As for the other bit - receiving footballers for whom the Premier League came too early - let’s inspect this claim.
That claim just can’t be referring to most of the inter-EPL transfers: Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford, and Gylfi Sigurdsson have all shown they more than simply belong in this league. Sigurdsson has even played decently well despite being forced by Koeman to play out of his true position. (I’m in denial that Cuco Martina actually exists.)
This comment cannot be directed at Nikola Vlasic, who has played extremely well, so who then?
I suppose this is a shot at Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez. First, let’s note this is hardly ‘largely received’, because as we just covered above, Koeman received a strong number of wholly capable Premier League level players.
Second, let’s note that Davy Klaassen is only here because of Ronald Koeman. It was the case of a former Ajax player and coach bringing in the current Ajax captain. So that, too, is Ronald Koeman’s fault.
Third, in the case of Sandro Ramirez, we’ve said repeatedly here at RBM that Sandro’s best position would be out wide. That, after all, is where he largely received the ball last year at Malaga, (who are absolutely lost in La Liga this year without him, by the way) and Koeman just absolutely refused to give him consistent minutes out there.
We have no idea how good Sandro actually is in the Premier League because he was sabotaged by his own manager and started the season dealing with a foot injury.
Speaking of managerial sabotage, the burials of Ademola Lookman, Aaron Lennon, and Kevin Mirallas on this team that so badly has needed attacking wide play was just absurd. (Lookman is an extremely good Walsh-identified prospect, as is Henry Onyekuru, who looks great in Belgium and may come back to the first team in January.)
The summer recruitment wasn’t perfect, but I am wholly convinced that the Everton fanbase and the pundits who all expected Everton to be right around the top six did not in any way overestimate this team nor the summer recruitment. What they overestimated was Ronald Koeman’s ability to be competent at his job.
Walsh could have had a perfect summer by getting one more striker, one more left defender, and switching Davy Klaassen for a true wide player, but at least part of that is not his fault because he went after Klaassen because of Koeman, and as for the rest, a scout should not need to have a perfect summer for a team that finished 7th and added tens of millions in talent to be actually competent ten games into the season.
If Ronald Koeman had been playing players all along in their natural positions without success, then it’s Walsh’s fault for not getting him players, but that’s not what happened. The Dutchman played players out of position constantly, alienated his locker room, and got what he justly deserved. I’m glad Steve Walsh is around to help the next manager continue to identify quality talent.