What a difference four months make.
That’s one of the more obvious thoughts that come to mind when analysing the contrast between the Everton that trooped off the field at the Stadium of Light just six Premier League games ago having been soundly beaten and the one that romped in the second half this evening to a handsome 3-0 victory.
The scoreline was, of course, completely reversed in Sunderland’s favour at the end of 90 minutes on the last occasion this fixture was played back in May but it’s less the time in between than what the Everton hierarchy did with it that has been so remarkable.
Roberto Martinez was summarily dismissed the day after that chastening evening on Weariside, within weeks Ronald Koeman was installed as his successor and the Dutchman has since set about strengthening — both in terms of numbers and physique — what had become a weak outfit — psychologically and also in terms of fitness — under the Catalan. The transformation has been impressive, with respect to both personnel and the decisiveness from the dugout.
The signs were there from the early minutes of the opening day draw against Tottenham, but in Idrissa Gueye, Everton may well have pulled off the steal of the summer in landing him from Aston Villa for just £7.2m. The Senegalese international might not have been at his disruptive best this evening but he morphed into an altogether more rounded midfield general — part enforcer, part water-carrier, part play-maker and, for the opening goal, the provider of a quite wonderful assist.
In Yannick Bolasie, the Blues now possess a player perhaps equally as unpredictable as Gerard Deulofeu, but with more power and pace to burn past his marker from a standing-start than the Spaniard. He, too, laid on a goal with a terrific delivery into the box after serving up the only clear-cut chance of the first half with a similarly impressive cross, that time from the right flank.
Deulofeu himself, meanwhile, came off the bench to provide the movement and direct running that proved to be the difference between a patchy and often staid performance before half time and a wholly more energetic one in the second half, thereby underscoring the depth in Koeman's squad when it comes to potential difference-makers.
Then there was Romelu Lukaku who was a virtual spectator on his last appearance at the Stadium of Light but who came to life this evening as his team-mates found another gear and an extra dimension in the second half to provide him the ammunition to fire his first Everton goals for six months.
Amid last season’s turmoil, his personal goal drought, the protracted speculation of his future and the fuel he himself has thrown on that particular fire, Lukaku has come in for plenty of criticism this year. He proved once again, however, that when he is fit, mentally on song and the team plays to his strengths he remains a naturally potent goalscorer.
It was he who was on the end of a pin-point Bolasie cross in the first half that might well have handed Everton a 13th-minute lead were it not for an excellent reflex save by Jordan Pickford in the Sunderland goal. That chance, together with an earlier one where the returning Seamus Coleman’s centre almost fell into his path and another where he managed to get off a shot at the keeper despite the smothering attentions of Lamine Koné, offered portents of what was to come after the interval.
Yet the paucity of clear openings for the Blues in that first half made for frustrating viewing for supporters and manager alike. Everton had by the midway point in the first 45 minutes, established themselves as the dominant side and would restrict their hosts to just two moments of danger — a Jermaine Defoe chance where a deflected shot found him behind the Blues’ back line with just Maarten Stekelenburg to beat but he sliced over the goal, and Lynden Gooch’s curling cross-cum-shot that the Dutchman had to palm over his bar for a corner. But Koeman’s charges were giving the ball away too cheaply, resorting to ineffective direct balls forward that were meat and drink to Kone and Papy Djilobodji, and generally struggling to get anything meaningful going in the final third.
Sadly, in a week where his absence from the England squad and his club manager’s assertion that he needs to now produce for Everton, Ross Barkley was the chief culprit. Profligate in possession, weak in the tackle and slow in both deed and speed of thought, he was the antithesis of what Koeman expects from a player in such an important role and it was no surprise that he was hooked at half time for the second time in succession in this fixture, this time in favour of Deulofeu.
The change in Everton’s play and their penetration was noticeable almost immediately and while the Black Cats would hold out for another quarter of an hour before their goal was finally breached, Everton were already probing for weaknesses.
Bolasie, whose unpredictability had been as much a hindrance to his own team than a weapon against the opposition, was threatening down the left flank and it was his whipped shot that Pickford almost turned into Deulofeu’s path in front of goal in the 48th minute.
Three minutes after that, the same pairing combined when the Spaniard latched onto the Congolese international’s ball over the top. Initially taken wide by a heavy first touch, Deulofeu eventually twisted his way back inside into the box, saw a deflected shot fall to Gueye who quickly laid on to Coleman. The Irishman’s drilled shot missed the target but was almost turned it at the far post by Lukaku.
The long-awaited breakthrough came with an hour gone from a counter-attack following a Sunderland corner at the other end. Everything David Moyes’s men would throw at the Blues’ defence would be repelled in the second half, often by Ashley Williams, but on this occasion it was Lukaku who cleared the set-piece to set Deulofeu on his way. The winger’s fleet feet helped him evade one tackle and then carried him into Black Cats territory where a poor pass looking for Kevin Mirallas was cut out only as far as Gueye who drove forward, used Deulofeu as a decoy and then chipped a delightful ball to the six-yard line where Lukaku had made up the ground to nod a downward header past Pickford.
Sunderland’s most intense spell followed as they searched for a quick equaliser but they were becoming increasingly ragged at the back, where Koné, a summer target for Koeman who very nearly signed for Everton, went from tower of strength to Keystone Cop alongside the increasingly hapless Djilobodji.
Lukaku rolled his marker and hammered a shot off the crossbar that would have doubled his tally had it been just a few inches lower but he would get his second in the 68th minute thanks to Bolasie’s turn of pace down the flank. The winger burned Javier Manquillo for speed to the byline and arced a left-footed cross to the back post where Lukaku had all the time in the world to bury another header.
2-0 became 3-0 three minutes later as Lukaku wrapped up his hat-trick when Mirallas exchanged passes with Deulofeu in the centre-circle before dissecting the Sunderland defence with a perfect through-ball that allowed his compatriot to spring the offside trap and slide the ball past the ‘keeper with unerring confidence. 11 games without a Premier League goal partially atoned for in the space of as many minutes.
Sunderland were a fully vanquished side by this point and Moyes cut a dejected figure in the home dugout as Everton spurned further chances to twist the knife in their former boss. Pickford beat away Bolasie’s powerful drive, Lukaku blazed over with Mirallas perhaps better placed to his left, his late replacement Arouna Koné also had a low shot saved while Deulofeu would almost certainly have scored in stoppage time when he was put completely in the clear by another wonderful ball over the top but his first touch again let him down.
Koeman made made mention of those missed opportunities after the game and he voiced his displeasure at the first 45 minutes but he couldn’t hide his delight at a terrific second-half display. The result lifts Everton into 3rd place and while it’s still early days, Evertonians are daring to dream of a European challenge again on the basis of a five-match unbeaten run in all competitions under the new manager.
Most important is the evidence so far of the success of Koeman’s ethos, his methods and his summer transfer business which has visibly beefed the team up, shored up the defence and injected the kind of attacking options that can turn matches just when it looks like they are shaping up to be a hard slog towards frustration.
It’s a squad that won’t be fully tested until early October when they travel to the Etihad Stadium to face impressive early leaders Manchester City but the key in the interim was always going to be to pick up points, achieve full fitness and gel the new-look team into the sum of its parts that it once promised it could be under Martinez. Confidence will beget performances and the points will take care of themselves. In that respect, this has been a very positive beginning to the Koeman era.
Reader Comments (51)
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1 Posted 13/09/2016 at 08:32:46
At times some of the possession made me start to think of Martinez but then at that moment suddenly a moment of decisiveness or a direct ball and we were in.
Once again, how nice to see decisiveness from the dugout and a substitution before the 60 minute mark while Dithering Dour Dave does what he does best...dither. Sunderland fans better get used to toothless performances like that, there's going to be plenty more!
2 Posted 13/09/2016 at 10:34:56
Once we got the first they folded and became ragged in their search to get more offensive. Excellent 2nd half display.
3 Posted 13/09/2016 at 10:34:58
As much as Lukaku can piss many of us off, we are lucky as a club to have a striker that can do what he does. Goalscoring strikers are a rarity in the PL hence the massive rumoured transfer fees. I've no doubt he'll hit upwards of 20 again this season (injuries permitting), because we are playing in a way that suits him.
Our full backs are primarily defenders now and along with the rock that Williams is proving to be our defence really should be providing the foundation to allow us to win games without having to score 3 and 4 like last season. Would still like to see Funes Mori partnering Williams rather than Jags but for now it's working OK.
I've commented many times on this site before that counter attacking football is the way to get the best out of our current crop. First goal last night started as a Sunderland corner. It was the number one downfall of Martinez, the stubbornness of trying to get players playing his style and changing the entire club ethos for years to come, rather than suiting the team and the players in the squad.
4 Posted 13/09/2016 at 11:00:00
It's very rare for me to feel sorry for anyone, when it comes to football, and looking into Moyes's eyes, the shite he's talked since leaving Everton, have made him just as big a bluff as Martinez, in my eyes.
He's got a very big job, on his hands right now, and I hope Sunderland, give "The Deluded One" the time he needs to turn it round! I love the way the score is going up against "The Phoney One" that's 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, now, and hopefully now the chickens have come home to roost, for the stupid way in which he disrespected Everton, the minute he got to Old Trafford.
7 Posted 13/09/2016 at 12:26:01
Ross and Kevin need to be looking over their shoulders; Ron will be looking to improve on those 2 if they continue to misfire. How good does it feel to have a proper manager at the helm??
8 Posted 13/09/2016 at 12:32:02
We must start the next game with Bolasie and Deulofeu allowed to run riot. We will be unstoppable.
9 Posted 13/09/2016 at 12:32:54
The only disappointment for me was Ross failing to respond to positive criticism.
I think the lad needs a spell on the bench and an arm around the shoulder before being exposed again.
Tom Davis and Gueye showed him the way forward with simple control and pass movement.
We haven't yet come up against the big guns but at least that gives us time to gain confidence and organisation.
Happier than I have been for a long time.
10 Posted 13/09/2016 at 12:38:29
And no side to him, no arrogance. Model professional so far.
I've not been a great fan of Mirallas in the past but this season, bit by bit, he's winning me around. Full effort throughout the game.
11 Posted 13/09/2016 at 12:42:23
In the first half, they looked good until the final third when many passes were sloppy and Ross was correctly subbed being the main culprit. The lad is like waiting to morph but not quite believing it will happen. Maybe a hypnotist can help... but seriously, what a waste of talent at the moment.
Gueye and Bolassie were tremendous giving Everton so many different looks going forward and Rom looking fitter than ever. Bring on the next victim.
12 Posted 13/09/2016 at 12:45:12
13 Posted 13/09/2016 at 12:55:22
14 Posted 13/09/2016 at 13:14:58
A lot of positives from last night. Koeman exudes class. He isn't going to accept mediocrity and that is what this club has been crying out for for decades. As others have said, his two predecessors would have been content to get a 0-0 from last night at half-time.
Gueye has been a revelation so far. Hope he continues giving performances of that calibre.
Williams has steadied the back four and offers leadership. I didn't have my heart in my mouth once last night.
Stekelenburg looks assured and seems far better than Robles or Howard.
Bolasie was guilty of showboating a bit too much in the first half but he gets us out of our seats and he offers us pace, which we've been lacking.
Still think we need backup for Rom up front though. I have a mate who is a West Ham fan and he doesn't rate Valencia at all. He says he is lightweight, constantly gets offside and lazy. Hopefully Koeman can get something out of him.
I did laugh at Phil Neville's expert punditry last night. Waxing lyrical about Barkley at the start then praising Moyes's defensive organisation at half-time. Genius.
15 Posted 13/09/2016 at 13:56:54
I hope McCarthy comes back stronger, but Gana is properly a notch above at this point.
Bolasie put in a few great crosses too.
Ross might need a break and just be subbed in for a while, he can't carry the team and he doesn't need to.
16 Posted 13/09/2016 at 13:57:24
If you listen to Koeman afterwards, what comes across is total honesty. Not for the first time this season, he says it exactly like he sees it. He is decisive, not a spin-master, and this honesty is getting through to all at the club.
The players will continually respond to this as no favoritism will prevail. Bigger tests ahead but we are in a good place.
17 Posted 13/09/2016 at 14:06:07
Stand up, Yannick Bolasie!!!
18 Posted 13/09/2016 at 14:11:14
So â€“ a tough guy, who's been there, seen it, done it, who knows what decisions to make and isn't afraid of making them. Just what we need, the good times are coming. This time surelyâ€¦
19 Posted 13/09/2016 at 14:18:39
20 Posted 13/09/2016 at 15:17:54
On that note, we have a real concern with Barkley; based on that performance last night, he was awful and I fear for his future at Everton. It looks to me that his confidence is shot to bits and this has probably been caused by a poor season under Martinez and going into a shite England setup in the Euros. It won't help either that he didn't get a shout from big Sam, although that now looks justified, for the time being.
We all agree that Gueye has been a revelation and we've had some decent responses from players like Lukaku, Mirallas and Gerard. One player that does need a mention is the brilliant Gareth Barry who goes about his business like a total professional.
21 Posted 13/09/2016 at 16:15:45
I was a bit worried Sunderland were going to sneak a goal early on but the defence settled down and took control under the experienced Jagielka, Williams and Baines plus the speedy Seamus. Big K (Koeman) is showing his worth over Little K (Klopp) so far. Keep it up, Ron!
22 Posted 13/09/2016 at 16:51:57
I've excused him for his lack of tackles and poor closing down but look at the work that Gareth Barry does in comparison, Ross just seems clueless in the heat of battle and I don't think he's going to make it. I could be wrong but I think his Everton career is now over.
23 Posted 13/09/2016 at 17:03:29
Clearly the last three years haven't helped him progress. It was interesting looking at the assistant coaching staff last night as Lukaku came off; they looked self-assured and confident in their ability and their position. Let them work with Ross and change him as much as they can in a short period.
After that, if he cannot change, he may not ever be the player we all hope/still hope he will be.
24 Posted 13/09/2016 at 17:56:33
He has the talent, he just needs the awareness to go with it.
25 Posted 13/09/2016 at 18:02:48
If he believes he's the best, then that will happen. The boy is far too talented to be cast aside and I reckon Koeman sees this and is giving him tough love. It will be a matter of time before it sinks in.
26 Posted 13/09/2016 at 18:16:39
27 Posted 13/09/2016 at 18:24:00
If it was any other player, we wouldn't be too fussed but because we have seen what he is capable of, it's so frustrating to watch him floundering around not really doing that much to help himself or his team.
Come on Ross show us the real Barkley not the shadow player that's been on show for far too long now.
28 Posted 13/09/2016 at 19:08:56
Just saying, like.
29 Posted 13/09/2016 at 19:19:20
It's early days yet and we have had a relatively kind start, fixture-wise, plus we have the next 4 games which look very winnable. Roberto was Mr Wonderful in his first season, don't forget!
I've given up on Ross, I'm sorry to say, as a midfielder. As Anthony (#24) says, I too think he hasn't enough up top. Not a nice thing to say about a likeable lad but I think that's the trouble, I hope I'm wrong. Would he not make a Number 10? It might be worth a try.
Let's hope Lukaku's got his mojo back, I've always thought he would be very hard to handle if good high crosses were made for him to head, he's built like some of the big centre-forwards of old.
30 Posted 13/09/2016 at 21:09:43
Welcome back, Rom now keep it going. 30-plus goals should be your target this season to prove you are as good as you think you are.
I for one have never doubted your ability to score goals it's your PR that's crap.
31 Posted 13/09/2016 at 21:29:06
By which I mean, he's good at receiving and shielding a ball, and in turning past that first marker. Perhaps his focus for now should be on the things he's really good at just receiving, shielding, turning past his man (and maybe not even the latter) and looking for the first lay-off to another player, not a killer pass. Build his confidence through doing the simple things.
32 Posted 13/09/2016 at 21:50:47
Mirallas's work ethic has gone off the scale under Koeman and he deserves a run in the No 10 position. Gerry still looked goosed after 30 mins of the 2nd half.
Normal service resumed for Lukaku, he will bag more this season if Bolasie and Gerry play consistently.
Looking forward to Saturday now. Did their Kone look any beter than the CBs that we already have? May well prove to be another expensive bullet dodged similar to Sissoko.
33 Posted 13/09/2016 at 22:26:48
34 Posted 13/09/2016 at 22:35:43
35 Posted 13/09/2016 at 22:38:33
Personally I would start Deulofeu in the next game ahead of Kev. The good thing is that Everton seem to have adequate options these days and the competition for places is a big plus.
36 Posted 13/09/2016 at 22:44:08
I have always defended Ross on these pages, sometimes in the face of absurd claims and criticism.
That said, I can't agree with your claim he wasn't as bad as some are saying. He was. He has had a solid start to the season, scoring and assisting with a number of goals already, but he was woeful last night and it was a mercy substitution as much as anything, so badly was he playing.
Does me saying that bracket me as a Ross hater too?
37 Posted 13/09/2016 at 22:55:03
For whatever reason, he is not playing well at the moment and I think his confidence is gone. It may well be a good thing that he will probably be on the bench and have to fight for his place.
I'm very sure he will be a great player. Different players mature at different rates.
38 Posted 13/09/2016 at 23:14:48
I agree with the second part of the statement (that it was a toss-up who should come off between Barkley and Mirallas) but only because they were both equally poor in that first half.
I was slightly surprised he opted to remove Barkley rather than Mirallas, as I thought his recent exclusion from the England squad and Koeman's own comments in the press about the player might factor into the thinking, but the manager clearly took the step he thought most likely to mix things up in the second half. No malice. No ulterior motive. Just a match winning reshuffle as it turned out.
39 Posted 13/09/2016 at 23:19:01
He was poor last night and to say that is not to scapegoat him.
40 Posted 13/09/2016 at 23:23:28
41 Posted 13/09/2016 at 23:27:36
42 Posted 13/09/2016 at 23:33:19
43 Posted 14/09/2016 at 07:22:55
Trouble is, like most geniuses he is thankfully human with traits and there is the challenge. I believe RK is the man who will explore all the alternatives and then either unlock his potential, or sadly allow him to move on.
I think Sam's dropping him from the England squad was the perfect opportunity for RK to get back to the basics. Don't ask me how he will go about affecting the change or if he will be successful. Also wouldn't surprise me if Ross is shuffled around a bit and competition for his place either comes in from Finch Farm or elsewhere, because that will be necessary part of the process. If he feels that hey, I don't need to be Roy of the Rovers all the time there are other guys here who can do that stuff to, then he might just start to play for his own enjoyment's sake.
RK will not risk the well-being of the Club waiting around for Ross to get his shit together nor should he. But as supporters we should be as patient as we can. The result, if he can turn it around, is the difference between trophies or not. I believe he really can be, as he has been on more than one occasion, that good. A truly sublimely gifted player.
When I was a kiddie I was the best player in my school, by some distance. A badly broken ankle playing footy in the school yard and a year plus of not playing made a massive difference to my game. Very probably a sign of mental weakness I don't know, probably guilty, but don't overlook the challenges Ross is facing. After the triple leg break, the Martinez farce, as well as the stress that goes with territory, I trust RK, or someone very much like him, will provide the best opportunity for his potential to emerge.
Meanwhile, as I said above, gradually upgrading the team in tandem will put the whole Ross thing in perspective so we stop looking at him as a team savior, but more like another jewel in the crown.
44 Posted 14/09/2016 at 10:34:38
He's now playing in an organised team, with more strength, fitness and pace, which should give him more space to look forwards more often. I suspect he'll be getting simpler instructions from a manager with real authority.
So, it's all set up for Ross, isn't it? No more excuses, he needs to deliver.
45 Posted 14/09/2016 at 18:19:54
Big moment for Ross's career; we will really see what he is made of now and hopefully it will be the making of him.
46 Posted 14/09/2016 at 19:32:15
Bainesey in the interview looked like he'd been on the bench rather than working hard for 90 mins, so Koeman's fitness regime is paying dividends. The only casualty looks to be Ross and as others have said, he probably needs a rest from the first team and plenty of work at Finch Farm.
47 Posted 14/09/2016 at 23:44:32
Clever use of the word "ROMPED" in the context of the hat-trick by Rom (one with his foot, also!) Ha! Ha! I reckon you slipped this in just to see if any of us are awake. :)
48 Posted 15/09/2016 at 10:24:44
The really great players of the past have all consistently proved their worth, at both club and international level, at Barkley's age. Considering the fee we received for Stones, the players we signed and our performances so far this season, my opinions have been vindicated, especially so, considering Barkley's recent form. Sell him now, before his price tag decreases further.
My burning desire would be for Manchester United to come in for him in a swap deal with Rooney. That would complete the jigsaw that Mr Koeman is so competently assessing.
49 Posted 15/09/2016 at 10:36:45
I've said it on here on several occasions, he is bog standard average. Koeman will realise this sooner or later.
50 Posted 15/09/2016 at 11:45:53
51 Posted 15/09/2016 at 11:57:11
I'm here to help anytime RK needs my valued opinion.
52 Posted 15/09/2016 at 12:33:57
Ross was allowed to play well below his capabilities under RM and his game regressed. I hope with astute coaching from RK he will become the player we hope he becomes. But only hard work on the training ground will put this right.
So he has been left out of the England squad and hauled off at half time; I would hope the penny drops for Ross. There is no doubt he has talent, but I thought it was interesting that, within days of taking over, Koeman said we had to stop talking about Barkley as a young player. He said he is an England international and as such, Koeman said he was looking for international performances on a weekly basis.
So the warning signs were there for Ross, and now he needs to make sure he forces his way back into the team and performs, otherwise I could well see a parting of the ways come the summer.
53 Posted 15/09/2016 at 00:11:37
However, I maintain my belief that Stones was weak in the air and cost us far too many goals and Barkley has an awful long way to go before he convinces that he is the real deal. It's wrong I know, to make comparisons, but he really isn't in the same league as say, a young Alan Ball... mind you, who is??!!!
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