The fires were burning hot in all Everton corners of social media during and after yesterday’s game with Atalanta, and with good reason. Everton walked into that stadium last night the more talented side, and they were run out of town like they were a youth team brought in for a training exercise.
Koeman, for the second game in a row, got the tactics all wrong. His formation was too narrow and not pacey enough, and by halftime any hope of fixing the damage was long gone.
So, with people calling for his head, I wanted to take a moment to consider the case for letting Koeman go, and the case for keeping him around.
The case for Koeman out is pretty straightforward, the season is off to a terrible start, we put forth a ton of investment this summer, and we hope to recruit more talent in the winter and in the offseason. If this year goes poorly and we miss out on European competition next season, the entire project is endangered.
While the point total in the league is not wholly unexpected, the way in which we have arrived at that total has been with a horrendously anemic offense whose problems go much deeper than simply not having Romelu Lukaku. Cut ties now before things get worse.
This has been the main thrust of the argument against Koeman, and while it matches the emotional fervor of how we all felt this afternoon, it doesn’t exactly convince since we are only four games into the league year and only once in Premier League history has a manager been cut loose that early. We aren’t Crystal Palace, after all.
A more compelling argument for Koeman Out actually has nothing to do with tactics. The effort given by the team today was absolutely abysmal. In a game that was the group stage opener which should have been filled with fire and energy, our players were uninspired and lethargic. A team can suffer a manager getting the tactics wrong from time to time, but one who has lost the dressing room? Inexcusable. Everton has a team filled with international captains and seasoned pros, if the players have stopped listening because of Koeman's stubbornness, it’s the manager’s fault.
Part of the case for Koeman to stay has already been alluded to, it’s been four league games. Too early to know anything at all. Further, Koeman was very explicit this summer about the additions he wanted, and at the end of the window the club did not deliver for him. It would be harsh to hold him accountable for something he did everything within his power to fix only to be let down by the board.
Furthermore, when we step back from the last couple of weeks and look at the big picture, Koeman has been mostly solid tactically. He’s probably not going to revolutionize the game with his ideas, but he went out and got results last season, and he’s gotten us to the group stage this season in Europa, and as bad as today was we are only one point behind teams we have every chance to beat twice in order to get into second in the group. Plus, Atalanta still has to come play at our place.
On top of that, we have a soft section of the league schedule coming up which will be a great opportunity to get form back on track, and our main competition for top six or seven in the Prem has stumbled already as well. We have played badly but it has not yet cost us everything. We still have Seamus Coleman and Yannick Bolasie who will be joining us from injury to bolster the team.
Finally, whether we like it or not, this team is built to play the style Koeman wants to play, switching to another manager would make our players even more tactically ill-fitting because they would be learning a new system on top of continuing to gel together.
It’s too early for Koeman out. It’s not too early to be angry, it’s no longer too early to be deeply concerned. It is put up or shut up time for the Dutchman and if that requires him to bring in players from the cold and change his tactics and admit his ideas were flawed then that’s exactly what he needs to do. This team has too much talent for us as a fanbase to tolerate the kind of play we saw yesterday, or last Saturday against Spurs.
The main factor I will be watching for is the effort level. If the lads get back to giving it their all and pushing as hard as they can for results then I will believe this manager still has their ear and should be given a bit more rope. If the effort level remains what it was today, we’ll be in the market for a new manager well before Boxing Day.