Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Next Step

No. 4 in a regular series of Everton articles

Koeman unveiled
New Everton boss Ronald Koeman was unveiled to the media on Friday
Throughout Ronald Koeman’s first press conference as Everton manager on Friday afternoon, the straight-talking Dutchman was accompanied by chairman Bill Kenwright as he answered questions from the media.

However, it almost felt as if there was something – or rather, someone – missing: the real man of the moment, Farhad Moshiri, was not present.

Much of what Koeman and Kenwright discussed at the presser was influenced by the club’s major shareholder. Koeman spoke of “looking forwards, not backwards”, and how “everybody is hungry - the people at the club and the fans - to put Everton back to where we were”. He talked of “ambition”, of a “great project” and that he plays football “for winning”. He promised that “from the start, we will be a team who gives the fans nice things”.

Perhaps the most revealing quotation from the press conference that truly enforced the Toffees’ new financial power, was when the new manager declared: “the club is ready for the next step”.

Every single one of the above quotes is a consequence of the meetings and conversations Koeman has evidently had with Moshiri; without the new level of ambition that the businessman has brought to the club, Everton’s future would be looking nowhere near as bright. Despite being absent on Friday afternoon, he was the catalytic figure in the events which culminated with Koeman’s signing. 

This is why I believe the real man of the hour to be the one who was not sat at that press conference, and was not the one stating his intentions or making promises. It was and remains Farhad Moshiri, the billionaire whose money is beginning to put Everton on the right track to becoming great again.

Bill Kenwright

Kenwright said some questionable things at the press conference
Once the media turned the attention to the chairman, Kenwight said something which I found impossible not to pick up on. Smiling and half-looking at the new manager, he declared that “[Koeman] is a big signing for this club”.

To me this appeared to encapsulate the attitude which has been an issue at Everton Football Club for far too long. It suggested Everton were lucky to have the opportunity to recruit Koeman – yet it should be Koeman who feels lucky to be given the opportunity to become manager of Everton.
In fairness, it must be almost instinctive for Kenwright to treat the appointment this way. After the best part of two decades making the most of a small budget and being content with mediocrity, his attitude now appears to be the complete opposite of Moshiri’s and therefore the opposite of the new-look Everton Football Club.

Again, this is why Farhad Moshiri deciding to invest in Everton truly is the best thing to happen to the club for a long, long time – it is most certainly the most significant development for the Blues in my lifetime and therefore will be for a whole generation of Evertonians as well.

Summer recruitment
Lukaku could be Everton's most important 'signing' of the summer if he remains at the club
If indeed Lukaku is intent on leaving then the money from his sale, in addition to the funds Moshiri has entrusted the new manager with, has to be spent wisely.

Everton must start the new season with several new players. One of the most important signings of the summer could be a top-class goalkeeper. While Joel Robles is good at what he does, with the money available to Koeman he could recruit a ‘keeper with significant experience or potential if he believes he needs to do so. Tim Howard’s continued selection last season, and the continued mistakes which came as a result, proved just how important it is for there to be a reliable and confident figure between the posts.

The Blues’ defence requires, mostly, good coaching rather than an overhaul. Retaining John Stones should be at the very top of Koeman’s list, for there are significant similarities between the two: Koeman, being a world-class, ball-playing centre-back in his day will be able to coach and advise John Stones in a way neither Moyes nor Martinez ever would have been able to. Jagielka may not have too long left at Everton’s level, however perhaps some basic organisation and coaching will help to shore up the back four and make the Blues a real unit once again.

In midfield, at least a couple of fresh faces are necessary; Gareth Barry, despite being last season’s player of the season, will likely begin to fade sooner rather than later. While injury-prone Kevin Strootman may not be the answer to this problem which Koeman will have to deal with, an experienced and able central midfielder needs to be a priority. A quality wide-player would not go unappreciated either.

As for the forwards, the Lukaku situation has to be sorted out by Koeman as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Whether the Belgian stays or leaves, Everton will profit from the outcome: if he remains and stays fit, he will contribute 20-25 goals and be a huge player in the Blues’ charge for the upper echelons of the Premier League; if on the other hand he leaves, his departure should gift Koeman with £50m+ to recruit perhaps two quality forwards in his place. As for Kone and Niasse, I can’t imagine any Evertonian being particularly fussed if they are sold quickly and cheaply.

Ultimately, all of the above is mere speculation. Koeman must be allowed time to assess his squad and decide upon the components he requires to strengthen the machine. Aside from the inevitable discussions with Stones and Lukaku, if the Dutchman takes his time bringing in new players then so be it; naturally, his opinion and evaluation matters far more than mine or the rumours on Twitter.

This is a huge summer ahead for the Blues. And now it is time for Koeman to begin crafting a squad which will make Everton great again. 


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