Merseyslide #2: Everton

Football: Slump after big spree vexes Goodison

Everton's Wayne Rooney and Dominic Calvert-Lewin appealing in vain for a penalty during the home loss to Burnley. The Toffees are in 16th place, two points above the drop zone.
Everton's Wayne Rooney and Dominic Calvert-Lewin appealing in vain for a penalty during the home loss to Burnley. The Toffees are in 16th place, two points above the drop zone.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Goodison Park was finally treated to the sort of slick passing move, skill and trickery that had been expected back in those summer months when unbridled optimism filled these parts.

The downside for Ronald Koeman on Sunday was that it was Burnley who strung together 24 passes in claiming the winning goal, and in doing so, making their best start to a top-flight season in 44 years.

Everton's campaign, in stark contrast, has flat-lined and manager Koeman's tenure will be an increasing cause of concern for the club's board even if he insists he is not worried.

The defeat by Burnley was the team's fifth in eight matches in all competitions and left a club that spent almost £140 million (S$254 million) in the summer languishing two points above the Premier League relegation zone.

Asked after the match whether he was still the right man for the Everton job, Koeman replied: "I don't answer this type of question. That is not the business at this moment.

"Of course we have to improve in winning games. It is not in my hands, but I try to get the best out of the players. If there is no commitment and no aggression, then that is maybe a reason to think about my future, but I thank the players for their commitment today.

"We will continue and I will try to do the best for my job."

What will nag Everton fans is that Koeman opted for a radical shake-up and still it elicited little overall improvement.

Defeat came with Wayne Rooney demoted to the substitutes' bench, placed behind Oumar Niasse and Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the pecking order, and overlooked in favour of £45 million Gylfi Sigurdsson and 19-year-old Nikola Vlasic.

Yet, by the time Rooney bounded on in the 63rd minute at the tip of a midfield diamond, he found his team-mates floundering with Koeman's reshuffle unable to remedy familiar failings.

Everton were not scared or fearful as their manager claimed they had been in Thursday's 2-2 draw at home with Apollon Limassol in the Europa League, but they lacked the nous to make the most of their possession notwithstanding Burnley's organised excellence.

Koeman again struggled to find a solution to the lack of pace, threat and balance in the ranks.

But he continued to have Everton major shareholder Farhad Moshiri's support.

"We are in a bad moment," said Moshiri. "But we have played the four title contenders, three away. Today was an unexpected loss. These are early days and Koeman has my total support."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2017, with the headline 'Slump after big spree vexes Goodison'. Print Edition | Subscribe