Everton host Arsenal in the Premier League on Tuesday having won one of their past 11 games in all competitions. Koeman conceded that sequence means he and his players are underperforming, with the 3-2 defeat at Watford last Saturday their fifth loss in six away games and increasing criticism of the manager lured from Southampton in the summer on a contract of £6m per annum. “I know most of the opinions,” he said. “If I am an Evertonian, and I am, I am also disappointed. We won’t win every game but one in 10 is underperforming by everybody, including me.”
Koeman was in feisty and confrontational form at his pre-match press conference on Monday, when he insisted Everton’s problems require an immediate solution and could not wait for the January transfer window. His frustration was apparent as he diagnosed the weaknesses in the Everton squad.
“The problem is now, we have to solve the problem now and we will see if we will fix it,” he said. “We need more balance in the team between individual qualities, football qualities and also physically and mentally. That is what we need to fix but that is not done in one day.
“What does it help if I talk about January or I talk about the summer? What helps the problem right now? That is trying to get the balance of the 11 that start. That is what I need to fix. If I don’t fix it, then you can criticise. No problem.”
Despite calling for more productivity from his forwards repeatedly this season, telling Ross Barkley he needs to improve “in all aspects” and questioning Romelu Lukaku’s adaptation to a pressing game, Koeman claimed: “I don’t criticise my team. I protect my players. We need all the players. What you think? That I am criticising all my players? I criticise them now when they need to start tomorrow?”
Koeman was asked whether he had inherited a mediocre squad from Roberto Martínez, one that finished 11th for the past two seasons, or was failing to get the most out of his players? “I don’t talk about the past. I don’t talk about the past. We need to deal with what the situation is now,” he replied.
Was his message not getting across in that case? “You don’t resolve a problem in two weeks,” he said. “You think they don’t listen to the manager?”
But it is one win in 10 Premier League games? “OK, I understand, but I don’t understand you,” Koeman added.
The Everton manager described in detail his team’s failings at Watford, where he believes a lack of physicality contributed to conceding two set-piece goals and another worrying defeat. “First of all, you must understand that, in the Premier League, physicality is an important factor,” he said.
“It doesn’t start with quality on the ball and these kind of teams are different to ours. Or course we can do more, we need to do more, we need more aggression, I agree, but we have different players to Watford or Burnley or others.
“Every team who doesn’t have that physicality will struggle. The best example I can give you is Manchester City. I don’t compare Everton to Manchester City but Everton is selected on the qualities of the players and not about the physicality of the players. That’s the way of football, that’s why we struggle against these kind of teams. It’s because if we have set plays we have [Ramiro] Funes Mori, we have [Ashley] Williams – two defensive headers. We had [Gareth] Barry and [Séamus] Coleman against two strong headers of our opponent [at Watford], so always we will have difficulties defending set plays.
“They got three goals and if you analyse them it’s not about football. The first is a long ball from the centre-back, a fight, a header, second ball, cross and goal. That’s difficult for us, that type of football. I understood the coach of Watford thought his team played like Barcelona on Saturday but I totally disagree. If you analyse the game, in my opinion, that’s why we struggle.
“Of course on the ball we need to be more comfortable, but that’s confidence. I have a Dutch goalkeeper [Maarten Stekelenburg] who has played virtually all his life in Holland and is used to playing it short but now he kicks every one away because maybe he is nervous. And there was a lot of space – that’s the difficulty at the moment. I agree we can do more as a team, more to win second balls, but that is not done in one week. We can talk about January and the summer but the problem is now and we need to solve it.”
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