LONDON • Wayne Rooney is set to be recalled by Everton as Ronald Koeman turns back to experience, in an attempt to halt his team's nosedive and safeguard his own future.
The Everton manager, who on Friday ruled himself out of the running to take charge of the Dutch national team, is under increasing pressure after an underwhelming start to the season that has punctured the widespread optimism fuelled by a £140 million (S$251 million) summer spending spree.
Rooney was dropped for Everton's most recent match, the 0-1 defeat by Burnley, but is in line to return against Brighton at the Amex Stadium today when Koeman knows that victory is crucial.
Everton are also likely to tweak their formation again as they search for a convincing formula.
"He's always in my thoughts to start," Koeman said about Rooney.
"The Burnley game was a different system to play. We had two strikers in front and you need to make hard decisions in other positions behind the two strikers.
"Of course it's the time for all the experienced players. I saw the reactions of the players when Burnley scored the goal. Mentally it's difficult when out of one chance, the other team score a goal."
He's always in my thoughts to start... Of course it's the time for all the experienced players. I saw the reactions of the players when Burnley scored the goal. Mentally it's difficult when out of one chance, the other team score a goal.
RONALD KOEMAN, Everton manager, on why Wayne Rooney could revitalise his team, who have won only two league games.
Everton have conceded the first goal in eight of their past nine matches and Koeman admitted that Ashley Williams, who was at fault as Wales' World Cup aspirations ended against Ireland last Monday, is one of the players struggling for confidence.
"He is one who is finding it difficult at the moment," the Dutchman said.
"Maybe they have punished him with goals when he's made a mistake. He's trying to find his confidence. If you have doubts in football, it makes it more difficult.
"But he's an older player, an experienced player, and like everybody you have good times and bad times, and we need to help him. That's what we try to do with players in a difficult period."
Everton, who finished seventh last season, have won just two of their opening seven league games.
Their dismal form has invited criticism from one of their former players in Peter Reid.
Reid, who made over 220 appearances for the club from 1982 to 1989, said Koeman's side appear to lack the stomach for a fight.
"I played in an Everton side not all that long ago which was lacking in confidence," Reid said.
"The team I was in could scrap. I am not sure this team can. They look scared to put in a shift.
"I wouldn't say they are not trying (to win, but at the moment) they look like they cannot move."
Winger Aaron Lennon is injured or he would have been in contention to start the match on the south coast, while midfielder James McCarthy still needs to build up his fitness.
Chris Hughton, the Brighton manager, hopes that Shane Duffy, the 25-year-old former Everton central defender, will improve even faster after helping Ireland to reach the World Cup play-offs.
"The fact he is now playing regularly at international level will only improve him more as a player," Hughton said.
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS
BRIGHTON V EVERTON
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