John Giles: Pochettino's 'slow pony' mistake and Koeman's discipline problem
Read John Giles every Friday in the Herald
It's a big surprise to me that Ronald Koeman is struggling so much at Goodison Park. I expected a lot more from Everton this season.
His work at Southampton was very impressive and it seemed to mark him as a man and a manager of some substance.
I would have said the same thing about Mauricio Pochettino, who also left Southampton with a glowing report card and took his methods to White Hart Lane.
If you run a finger down the results both managers have had, there is a curious similarity to the way their seasons have unfolded so far.
They met on the opening day of the season and Everton drew 1-1 with Spurs.
After that, both clubs went on a great run and it seemed that two of the thoughts I had about the coming season in early August would come to pass.
Firstly, that Koeman would transform an Everton team which Roberto Martinez developed into a much more consistent and disciplined outfit and secondly, that Pochettino had successfully negotiated a very tricky summer and found a very good response to adversity from his players.
Both clubs hit the buffers in two months in and since then, their form line reads mostly defeats, a few draws and one win each.
With Spurs, I can offer an explanation which I don’t think will be too far off the mark but I’m at a loss to understand why Koeman’s promising start has evaporated.
I believe Pochettino did poor business in the summer and I’m beginning to think that some old habits have resurfaced. I have £30m signing Moussa Sissoko in mind.
Pochettino has plenty of form as a man who will get the best out of players. He did it well at Southampton and last season, got to within grabbing distance of the Premier League title.
From everything I have seen and read about him, he is meticulous about his preparation and leaves no stone unturned.
I cannot imagine he would do anything different when it comes to buying a player. All he had to do was ask Newcastle fans about Sissoko and he would have been given pause for thought.
Yet Spurs paid £30m for a player Toon fans had very mixed feelings about.
On his day, he was very good but those days never seemed to come on the road or up against the teams Newcastle were battling with to avoid relegation. We used to call lads like that show ponies.
My instinct tells me that Pochettino, who wanted Wilfred Zaha, ended up with Sissoko and the purchase was more down to chairman Daniel Levy than the manager.
The other signing which hasn’t worked is Vincent Janssen, who shot the lights out in the Erevidise last season but can’t find his way at all in the Premier League.
If he was Pochettino’s signing, I would be surprised.
He’s young and may yet repeat the 27 goals he scored for AZ Alkmaar but Pochettino needed a proven goalscorer at the highest level. He needed someone to help Harry Kane and he got someone whose value might increase and make a healthy profit down the road.
Despite the fact that last season’s great run at the title ended in humiliation, Pochettino managed to build them back up again in such a way that they were able to get good results early on and that without Kane scoring.
Sissoko played his part in that but seemed to go off the boil in early October and has now been dropped by Pochettino who is not a man to mess with.
Andros Townsend found that out the hard way and £30m transfer fee or not, Sissoko is experiencing the same ruthless discipline which saw the Englishman shipped out as soon as Pochettino could do it.
Oddly enough, it may well be that ruthless discipline is at the root of Koeman’s problems at Goodison Park.
What I might find admirable about the Dutchman might be seen in a very different way in the dressing room.
From the outside looking in, I think Martinez is an ‘arm around the shoulders’ manager and perhaps Koeman’s passion for discipline is meeting resistance.
It is baffling because I really liked what I saw about Everton at the start of the season. I thought that Koeman would bring consistency to a good squad of players and he did just that for two months.
But in football, everything can change in a heartbeat though and sometimes there is no explanation.
I’m sure Koeman would pay big money right now if someone could tell what is wrong with his team because I don’t think he knows.