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Ronald Koeman’s curse

Everton sacked Ronald Koeman after just nine matches in the Premier League this season following a humiliating home defeat by Arsenal

Everton spent almost £150 million in  the summer transfer window but the results haven’t been to Ronald Koeman’s plans. Photo: AP
Everton spent almost £150 million in the summer transfer window but the results haven’t been to Ronald Koeman’s plans. Photo: AP

Premier League team Everton sacked manager Ronald Koeman on Monday after they dropped to the bottom 3 following a humiliating 5-2 home defeat by Arsenal on Sunday.

It is quite remarkable that less than 10 matches into the new Premier League season, rumours of David Moyes replacing Koeman as Everton manager were being flung around with a semblance of credibility. Moyes is a man, it must be kept in mind, who has won just 20 of the 85 games he has managed across the last two years for Real Sociedad and Sunderland. The last few years of his managerial career have been nothing short of dreadful.

And yet here he is being talked up to take over from a man who, not so long ago, was talked of as being one of the next great prospects in world football management. One of the post-Cruyffians, as a recent Guardian piece called him.

What has happened to Everton and Koeman? After last weekend, Everton find themselves in the relegation zone, with just two wins from nine matches. And they thoroughly deserve to be there. Everton have been a sluggish, disjointed mess.

But then, to be fair, so have Arsenal for a very long time. So it seems a particularly cruel kind of irony that the defeat to the Gunners became the final straw that fractures Koeman’s spine.

Koeman’s, and his team’s, failings have already been subject to widespread analysis. Yes, he has been stubborn with his selections. Yes, his formations, selections and game management all indicate a manager who is far from figuring out any plan at all, leave alone Plan A or Plan B. Nor does Koeman have the charm and sparkle that often gives embattled managers that additional few months worth of life support until their results turn.

Koeman and Everton have made lots of mistakes, yes.

But also spare a thought for the man’s wretched luck. Almost everything Koeman has done this season seems to have failed. Every single gamble has backfired. It is a perfect storm of bad form, bad choice and bad luck. Morgan Schneiderlin’s form has cratered. Gylfi Sigurdsson, the club’s top transfer target coming into the season, has had such a poor start that one wonders if Swansea sold Everton a lookalike. Two other new arrivals in Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez have both started poorly. Ashley Williams exudes all the composure of a paper aeroplane sailing through a waterfall.

And even when a Koeman gamble pays off, somehow it only helps to highlight his failings. Oumar Niasse’s goals this season have only made people wonder why Koeman seems to have such little time for the striker (even Niasse seems to have no clue).

Everton spent a lot of money this season: almost £150 million (around Rs1,287 crore). Infusing a team with so many new players is never going to be a matter of one or two chaotic matches. But to Everton’s great misfortune, their first nine fixtures this season included matches against Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Spurs and Arsenal. Those are not the teams you want to face if you are trying to figure out how to organize a new, expensive squad. And in those five matches, Everton conceded 15 goals and scored three. What has not helped is the fact that the team is still without a legitimate striker since Romelu Lukaku’s departure.

Such a dreadful run means that the team, management and fans have all had the enthusiasm sapped out of them. Thus further undermining their performances, crushing their confidence and making them prone to the kind of death spiral than can end in only one way: a managerial exit.

What happens next? Given Koeman’s exit, and football’s general capacity for irony, some predictions may be made. A new manager will come in; David Unsworth is taking temporary charge.

Who knows? Everton could go back to Moyes. Who will shuffle the team, dabble with formations and meddle with tactics, all to justify his appointment. Suddenly somebody will find form: perhaps Sigurdsson. Suddenly a young squad player will come off the bench and have a blinder of a season as central striker. A number of Koeman’s gambles will pay off months after they should have. Klaassen or Ashley Williams will suddenly rediscover football. Everton will zoom up the table. And end the season in seventh place as they tend to.

Poor Ronald Koeman will sit and watch as a new manager reaps the winnings on his bets.

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