After Evertons first five games they were soaring, getting 13 points out of a possible 15, and only dropping points to Tottenham Hotspur on opening day. Then they faced Norwich City in the EFL Cup, ultimately losing 2-0. Since then, Everton have only gone downhill, picking up six points out of a possible 24. There are plenty of possible Everton changes ahead of the visit of Manchester United next weekend.
There are multiple reasons why this drop in form may have occurred. First, Ronald Koeman did say at the beginning of the season the players aren’t as fit as he would like, which could be catching up to them. Second, the players aren’t performing as expected. Finally, Koeman has not so far lived up to expectations as manager. With the January transfer window still a month away, it is up to Koeman to salvage the team ahead of three tough December fixtures. If Everton want to qualify for Europe, they will need as many points as possible in December.
Buying Maarten Stekelenburg for 750,000 pounds this summer looks to be a steal so far. While he has had some shaky moments, he has kept them in many games. For example, against Southampton, in the 58th minute, he denied Charlie Austin from close range with a brilliant save. He also saved two penalties against Manchester City to preserve a draw. Stekelenburg has been fantastic and should keep his place, but the defense in front of him has been questionable.
Ronald Koeman is known for being an excellent defensive coach, which was displayed in the first five games. However, it has been lacking in the last six games. Luckily, Everton have a great in house solution: Mason Holgate. When Holgate played this season, he looked like he belonged on the pitch. Also, he can play center back and right back, which happen to be two out of the three weak links on defense. With Tyias Browning not ready yet, and Seamus Coleman playing better than Phil Jagielka, he should step in at right center back. Holgate would bring to the side more athleticism and good ball skills. Koeman needs to show that even the captain can be replaced with bad form. Then, once Browning is healthy, he can challenge Coleman for his spot.
At left back, Leighton Baines hasn’t looked very good, but Bryan Oviedo has looked worse. If Everton recall Brendan Galloway from his horrendous loan, he could challenge Baines for his spot. The defense needs a shakeup, and it starts with inserting Holgate.
As Everton have faded, so has Idrissa Gana Gueye. However, that might more be because of his partner than him. To cover for Gareth Barry, Gueye is forced to play two roles, and it has clearly taken a toll on him. Gueye can be the steel in defensive midfield that Everton need, but only with the right player. Barry needs to be replaced with a younger more athletic player. Tom Davies may feel he deserves a run out, however, James McCarthy would probably be the safer bet, even with his omission from the squad today.
On paper, it seems Everton should have a strong attacking three, however, they haven’t shown much consistency so far. Ross Barkley might be a little better than last year, but he is still lacking quality in the final third. Everton’s only in house option right now is Kieran Dowell. Dowell impressed against Norwich City in the final match of the season last year, but hasn’t even made the 18 this year. Koeman might try incorporating him into the first team squad, and maybe give him a run out against a weaker team to see what he could do.
As for wingers, Yannick Bolasie has probably been the best of the bunch. As for the other winger, it is a toss up between Aaron Lennon and Kevin Mirallas. Gerard Deulofeu has not been himself this season, and could be replaced in the match day 18.
Romelu Lukaku is a top player, but he has found the going tough in recent weeks. Everton try to play him in the air, when his strength is open space with the ball at his feet. The productivity of the wings needs to improve in order for Lukaku to play at the top of his game. In spite of this, his position doesn’t seem under much threat. As as back up forward, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is an option. Arouna Kone and Enner Valencia haven’t impressed this season, and Lewin is an exciting young talent.
Match day 18 Going Forward
Possible lineup going forward: Stekelenburg, Coleman, Holgate, Williams, Baines, Gueye, McCarthy, Mirallas, Barkley, Bolasie, Lukaku.
Possible Bench: Jagielka, Funes Mori, Oviedo, Davies, Cleverley, Calvert-Lewin