Wednesday 21 March 2018

Koeman's patience runs as thin as squad

Everton 1 Leicester City 2

Ronald Koeman Picture: Getty
Ronald Koeman Picture: Getty

Chris Bascombe

Ignore the growing menace of Manchester United at your peril. Not only could they win four trophies in Jose Mourinho's first season in charge; they were the big winners twice within a matter of hours on FA Cup third-round weekend.

Never mind their routine home victory over Reading, as events at Goodison Park will have chief executive Ed Woodward giddily staring at his mobile phone.

Three years ago, Woodward looked a novice when he overpaid by at least £10m for Marouane Fellaini. As an agitated Ronald Koeman gave the impression that bids for Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay are being dispatched to Old Trafford by carrier pigeon, a large chunk of that £27m fee could make the return journey.

Everton must appease their manager, who is intolerant of having his reputation sullied by a mediocre squad. Koeman did not leave Southampton to waste time in mid-table.

Everton's major shareholder, Farhad Moshiri, appointed the Dutchman because as a player and manager he has always oozed class and has such contempt for the ordinary that he can barely spit out post-match observations after an average or lousy display.

Now the Everton manager is piling on the pressure to secure his targets this month and few will be convinced that a former Koeman player (Schneiderlin) and a winger who came through the ranks at a club Koeman managed (Depay at PSV Eindhoven) have been pursued as a consequence of extensive background checks by Everton's director of football Steve Walsh.

The Merseyside club are the latest to discover why the idea of a director of football is often more attractive in theory than practice.

When it works, you have the perfect business plan. Find yourself a manager with a track record for immediate results and put him alongside an overseer who will build the foundations for sustainable growth. What can possibly go wrong?

Leicester City's Ahmed Musa celebrates scoring their second goal Picture: Reuters
Leicester City's Ahmed Musa celebrates scoring their second goal Picture: Reuters

Well, plenty, as we know, and tensions surface if the aforementioned manager spends six months demanding experienced, high-quality expensive players and instead the first deal of the transfer window is an inexperienced, expensive teenager 'for the future'.

If being a Premier League coach is the most precarious job in the game, being a director of football is the most sheltered.

Buy a good player and you take the credit; buy a poor one and you can tell the chairman the coach is not getting enough out of him. Buy a young player and you buy yourself time with the idea you have made a long-term investment.

There is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of the relationship between manager and director of football, which chairmen and chief executives must constantly keep an eye on.

It is made all the more complex by the fact both are within their rights to pursue their own agenda.

The best a board can hope for is a pairing of the like-minded and an occasional overlap between immediate and long-term policies.

While Koeman (below) craves a quick and thorough squad revamp, Everton's luring of Walsh from Leicester was part of a necessary restructuring of football operations - the kind of safeguard needed to ensure a seamless transition, should Barcelona do to Everton what Everton did to Southampton.

So, Everton began this transfer window making a statement about their future.

They signed a 19-year-old - Ademola Lookman - from Charlton for £7.5m, the figure potentially rising to £10m.

Koeman's reaction to Saturday's FA Cup defeat demonstrated he would have preferred the first arrivals to be established players to help prevent that loss.

To inject some hope into this season and a sense of promise ahead of the next, Everton may have no choice but to indulge in a heavy dose of short-termism.

Longer-term, Everton still have the potential for one of the greatest, or certainly most significant, results in their history this season - the one that will have the most transformative impact.

Should they confirm their new stadium on Liverpool's dockside, it will be the game-changer they've craved since Moshiri joined.

Until those negotiations are complete, the immediate Goodison rebuilding must be directed at Koeman's ageing and unbalanced squad.

Gareth Barry may be just a few months away from retirement, while up front it is hard to see who in this current squad can trouble Romelu Lukaku in the scoring stakes.

No matter how impressive the plans for the future are off the field, Everton must address the current issues now on it. If not, they may face having to recruit a new manager.

Lukaku's seventh goal in seven FA Cup matches put Everton ahead on 63 minutes. Eight minutes later, they were behind.

No Everton player sensed the danger when Demarai Gray received the ball and proceeded to run with it.

Ahmed Musa, introduced in the first-half because of an injury to Leonardo Ulloa, needed two stabs at the subsequent pass that came his way.

Musa's second goal was rather more convincing - the product of some unusually patient build-up around the box by his team-mates affording him with the necessary space to slide a brilliant finish beyond Joel Robles. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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