While Yannick Bolasie, Ashley Williams and Idrissa Gana Gueye are the posterboys of the Koeman revolution, one man has slipped under the radar.
With all the hype and hyperbole surrounding Pep Guardiola’s tactical evolution, the trials and tribulations of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, one of 2016’s more understated managerial appointments has slipped under the radar.
It feels a long time ago that Maarten Stekelenburg was viewed as one of the finest goalkeepers in the European game, heavily tipped to slip into the gloves at Manchester United following Edwin Van Der Sar’s retirement in 2011.
The 34-year-old has rather fallen off the radar in the intervening years, finding first-team football hard to come by at Fulham, Monaco and Southampton.
The doubters, therefore, had an easy target. Especially when Koeman refused to entertain any possibility of offering Joe Hart an escape route from his Manchester City hell.
However, the former Dutch international, who started the 2010 World Cup final against Spain, is slowly restoring his reputation under countryman Koeman, the man who gave him his professional debut at Ajax in 2002.
A superb individual performance on his debut against Tottenham Hotspur set the tone for a series of reliable displays epitomised more by safe parries than show-stopping wondersaves.
A reliable, no-frills shot-stopper, Stekelenburg is something of an old-school antithesis to the modern ‘sweeper keeper’, offering dependability and consistency that predecessor Joel Robles and the waning Tim Howard (below) simply couldn’t match.
“He’s calm, he commands his area well and his presence is very good,” former Everton ‘keeper Thomas Myhre told the club’s official website on Friday.
“You can see that in the way his defenders show trust in him - and that’s very important. I don’t think he has any weaknesses and he’s now coming into the prime of his career.”
Conceding just 5 goals in 7 games, only Spurs can boast a finer defensive record than Everton this season. One fifth of those goals featured a rampaging Spanish forward headbutting Stekelenburg's arm and sending the ball spinning into the goal (below). No foul, no matter. Everton won regardless. They've been doing that a lot lately.
Comparisons with the porous, haphazard ‘unit’ surrendering leads and gifting goals under Roberto Martinez are both inevitable and pertinent. Koeman is dragging the Blues in the right direction, with his reliable footsoldier in tow.
Welcome back to the big time, Maarten Stekelenburg.
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