Koeman is big on players' belief

Friday 14 October 2016  13 Comments  [Jump to last]

Ronald Koeman says that there is no reason why Everton can't go to the Etihad Stadium tomorrow and get a positive result, particularly if the players have the faith in their coaching and their ability to get the job done.

The Toffees make the short trip east to face Premier League leaders Manchester City in what is easily their toughest test of the season so far, but the manager says that this game, and others like it against Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool that loom between now and the end of December, can sometimes be easier if you have the right mentality.

“I enjoy every weekend,” Koeman smiled when asked in an interview for evertontv if he enjoys more testing parts of the fixture calendar, “[but] sometimes you play more comfortably against the big ones than you do against a team that is fighting not to be relegated. Sometimes you get more space than you normally would against a lower team at home, or even away.

“What we showed at Southampton was that if you have the belief, if you have the quality you can beat the big ones. We had wins against all the big teams in the Premier League because we had that belief and we had that quality in the team.

“That's why the Premier League is so unpredictable but you have to believe it. If you play [with the attitude] that it's difficult to win then you've already lost the game and it's all about the belief of the players.

The Dutchman was asked about the defensive improvements he has overseen at Goodison Park since he took over in June and he reiterated his preference for a high-energy pressing game and defending from the front as opposed to a “park the bus” approach.

“I think the best way to [build] confidence and to improve is to have clean sheets,” Koeman explained. “Getting clean sheets is never about playing defensively because that's not what I like.

“I like to dominate a game but my favourite way to win the game is also to press the opponent and that starts up front. That's the difference between the Everton this season and what it was last season.

“The strikers are working harder to press the opponent and that [brings] more confidence to the rest of the team — the defenders and the two holding midfielders — and that's maybe why now we don't concede a lot of goals.”


Reader Comments (13)

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Gerard Carey
1 Posted 14/10/2016 at 19:52:13
I wonder which strikers he means? Not Lukaku or Deulofeu for certain. Maybe Kev or Ross? Naw, I don't think so.

Still a bit to go on that count; hopefully it happens sooner rather than later. I would like to see Lukaku be the beast he should and can be.
John Daley
3 Posted 15/10/2016 at 02:25:30
"...press the opponent and that starts up front. That's the difference between the Everton this season and what it was last season."

Early days so far, but I do hope the extent of Koeman's plans for how he ultimately wants his Everton side to play doesn't start and stop at 'pressing and then pressing some more'.

It seems to be the one overriding message he's constantly preaching in press conferences and it almost comes across like, when he took over, someone had a word in his shell-like about where they thought it went wrong the last couple of seasons and why the atmosphere at Goodison was so often one of restless frustration.

As though someone has said, "Simple. Everton fans don't want any of that boring, patient, possession shite. They want to see the ball going forward as fast as it can and players running their cocks off to win it back when they lose it."

No, I just want to see us win. That we didn't do so enough under the last guy doesn't mean a passing game is now totally anathema to the paying punter at Goodison. It was leaking goals like a sieve, being a sitting duck at set-pieces and shooting yourself in the foot that was ultimately the problem, not a lack of sweat when leaving the pitch.

Stressing 'pressing' as being paramount is all well and good, but what happens when you come up against teams equally as adept at it, whose work rate at least matches, if not exceeds, your own? It's going to happen a hell of a lot, is it not?

Every promoted team who comes up hopes they can compensate somewhat for their lack of talent in comparison to their new peers by simply putting themselves about and running their arse off. It's basic stuff. It's having better players with the instinct, talent and ability to produce a moment of quality when needed that separates the successful sides from the sloggers.

Gerard (@1) mentions Mirallas, Lukaku, Barkley and Deulofeu. Players with the natural ability to turn a game (whether they do so regularly enough is another matter) and whose attacking threat is largely down to them suddenly being able to burst past a man. None of them are suited to haring about, harrying and harassing opposition players from the first minute to the last and, whilst you obviously want them to work hard, they would be better off expending their energy in areas they can be effective rather than steaming about under the simple instruction to 'get stuck in'.

If you want Lukaku to "be a beast", surely you want him to be one in or around the opposition box, using his physicality to overpower a defender in a dangerous position, not sprinting back to make an interception and then being out of puff and well behind play when a break is on? You want him running at defenders with the ball, going shoulder to shoulder, or moving into space and looking to pull away from his marker, not endlessly scurrying from side to side, trying to stick a foot in, like Peter fucking Stringfellow prowling the bar to see if any bird of potential is properly shitfaced enough yet.

I don't know. Maybe I'm completely wrong. Have Premier League games really devolved into a simple contest to see who can press the most? Is it just a matter of getting your players as fit as humanly possible and telling them to work hard to win the ball back? It can't be that fucking simple, surely? Flair, finesse and actual skill with a football must still have a say somewhere?

Darren Hind
4 Posted 15/10/2016 at 05:31:52
Indeed John.

In fairness to Koeman I think (I hope) this is just the start. Without the ball, we were quite possibly the worst team in the Premier League last season. Everyone seemed to find it very easy to get at our back four. He has gone back to basics.

This is nothing new, Bob Paisley had the likes of Rush and McDermot forcing opponents into errors over 30 years ago. They used to call "pressing" defending from the front. I'm not saying Paisley was the first, lots of managers have done it, even Moyes offered a poor man's version with Marcus Bent leading the charge.

An effective tactic when you are playing badly, an even more effective tactic when your players are confident and good enough to know what to do with the fucker when we have won it. Barcelona have proved that, time and again.

Given what he inherited, Koeman had very little option... but, as you rightly say, there has to be more.

"Pressing", "Defending from the front", "Squeezing the play" – call it what you want. Making life difficult for the opposition can never be a bad thing... but it's only part of the game; you have got to be able to play when you have the ball.

Jon Withey
5 Posted 15/10/2016 at 09:37:13
Yeah, my only lingering doubt on our new style is that the huff and puff hasn't always been matched by quality in possession.

I'd go as far to say that I miss a bit of the ball retention / possession we had under Martinez too.

Early days though and for the most part we have looked more competitive, especially at the back.

Dave Abrahams
6 Posted 15/10/2016 at 10:07:25
It's not just pressing and defending from the front, it's keeping hold of the ball when it comes up to the front, not meekly losing the ball and letting the opposition stroll away with it; you don't have to be running all over the place, just make it more difficult by simply closing down more, not making token tackles.

Darren, you hit on a good point with Marcus Bent – he was a bluff merchant for me, haring back, chasing balls he had no chance of catching, looked good to the crowd, he never really put a serious tackle in.

Same as Ross Barkley versus Crystal Palace – he chased 20 yards to try and get a ball, the defender simply passed the ball back to the goalie, Ross ran another 20 yards towards the keeper, no chance of him getting it, bluff, looked good to plenty in the crowd who applauded him.

I don't think Koeman is talking about that sort of defending. Sheedy wasn't a great tackler but he had a nuisance value, closed people down, and slowed them down, giving other players a chance to get back and regroup. Hopefully Koeman will get the players to understand what he is trying to get the players to play in a sensible way and try not just pay lip service to what he wants them to do.

Brian Harrison
7 Posted 15/10/2016 at 10:42:35
John (#3),

The reason Koeman stresses the need to play a high pressing game is because that's what all the very best teams adopt.

Guardiola has transformed the way City play, they now play a high pressing high tempo game. Last week, the Spurs versus City game was one of the best games I have seen in years, both teams played at a high tempo, both pressed high up the field. This game could have gone either way.

Klopp has the other lot playing exactly the same way, with great effect this year. So I am amazed that you find fault with Koeman wanting us to play this way.

I don't know how many games you get to see live but what I see from newly promoted teams is teams playing 10 men behind the ball, and hoping to get a nil-nil draw or even pinch a goal. This is not what Koeman is trying to achieve.

I think your suggestion that someone had a word with him saying Everton fans want the ball going forward as fast as you can and when they lose it running their socks off to win it back. You have described exactly how Barcelona play: move the ball at pace and win it back as quick as you can if you lose it.

Koeman is the most talented footballer we have ever had as a manager, he has played at the very top and understands what is needed to be a successful team. So cut him some slack and let him get on with it. No I don't want to go back to the Martinez style of slow slow build up and piss poor defending.

John Daley
8 Posted 15/10/2016 at 12:45:58

I'm hardly having a go at him or trying to 'find fault'. I just said I hoped 'more pressing' wasn't the sum extent of his game plan, as that seems to be the sole aspect of play he's been continually stressing in interviews up to this point.

Obviously, I realise a lot of managers in the Premier League are currently jumping on the bandwagon of fast paced pressing (with Klopp in particular having people queuing up to kiss his arse over it at the moment), but it's not something suited to every team or a style any player can simply pick up and pop on with like it's a piece of piss.

I just happened to point out that, in my opinion, the front players we currently possess aren't natural fits for constant closing down and defending from the front. They spent a lot of last season blowing chunks after sixty minutes of strolling about and some simply don't have the engine, physique or mentality required.

Second half against Crystal Palace for example, it was crying out for someone to put their foot on it, knock it about and switch things up, instead of both teams continuing to cancel each other out with the sort of panicked/energetic (take your pick) kick and rush that would have looked right at home in a shit strewn backstreet.

Dave Abrahams
9 Posted 15/10/2016 at 12:51:38
John (#8) your third paragraph makes a lot of sense and there is a lot of truth in it. However, it must be pointed out that all of them can do a lot better, in terms of effort, than they have been doing.
Patrick Murphy
10 Posted 15/10/2016 at 13:13:32
I have had this debate with match-going mates of mine, should a manager try and adapt his methods, tactics and beliefs to the players he has available? Or should the players alter the way they play to suit the manager's tactics?

It's always a tricky point, back in the day Kendall had his 4-4-2 tactics and it took quite some time before he found the ideal players to play in that system, despite it being used by most teams in the division.

As has been mentioned, many of our forward players are unsuited to a pressing game; however, exactly what system would suit them is a complete mystery to me. As John Daley said earlier, we want to see good football, passing, shooting, dribbling etc and not some hybrid of KITAPI which will bore the pants off us all.

Hard-work and the ability to look after the ball is probably 90% of the game; until all of our players are comfortable producing both of those aspects together, we will see fluctuations in both performances and results. It's early days but by the end of this season we will have a better idea of what it is the manager requires from his team.

Ray Said
11 Posted 15/10/2016 at 13:44:53
I have always thought the 4-2-3-1 formation doesn't suit the players we have. It means we have 7 (including the goalie) defending. Okay, Baines and Coeman do offer width and get forward but they are defenders first and foremost. Gana and Barry are both defence minded – although Gana seems to be able to operate further forward.

It gives little support to Lukaku and turns him into a target man with back to goal most of the time when he is much better facing goal and running and shooting.

Go 4-4-2 with Mirallas or Barkley as support to Lukaku. Bolasie on the left, Lennon or Deulofeu on the right.

Ian McDowell
12 Posted 15/10/2016 at 13:56:29
Patrick its a really good talking point. Should a manager try and adapt his methods/tactics/beliefs to the players he has available? or should the players alter the way they play to suit the managers tactics?

I don't think that there is necessarily a right or wrong answer. I believe that it always depends on the group of players and if they are able to adapt and what resources the manager has available. Like you say though ultimately football is about ability, working hard when you haven't got the ball and confidence. If you have a team with those characteristics then you will win a lot more than you lose.

Gerry Quinn
13 Posted 17/10/2016 at 18:02:22
Anyone remember when Ross Barkley was omitted from Neil Warnock's side during a loan spell – was it Sheff Utd? Maybe Ross couldn't afford to bribe him to get into his team...

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has been asked by an MPs' hearing into football governance to explain why allegations against Neil Warnock in 2014 were not followed up.

Allegations that Warnock, recently appointed as Cardiff manager, was "crooked" and was "ruining the game" were made by Crystal Palace midfielder Jason Puncheon on Twitter but quickly deleted.

The allegations were repeated at Westminster on Monday by Damian Collins, the chairman-elect of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Collins, the Conservative MP for Folkstone and Hythe, was questioning Clarke about the governing body's attempts to investigate possible wrongdoing in the game.

He cited Puncheon's outburst as an example of an allegation that had not been pursued – but the player was fined 㾻,000 by the FA for bringing the game into disrepute and warned about his conduct.

Using parliamentary privilege, which gives MPs and witnesses protection from libel laws, Collins said: "The tweets have been deleted but for the benefit of the committee they are still available online, although they're not on his Twitter account.

"He [Puncheon] said: 'What I won't accept is an opinion from a man who's crooked and ruining the game. Neil Warnock, the man who signs players, gives them extra wages and appearance bonuses to make sure that they pay him to get into the team or on the bench.'"

Puncheon was reacting to a comment Warnock, who has managed 15 different clubs in a 37-year career, made as a pundit when the Palace player missed a penalty at Spurs, claiming he lacked coolness.

Tony Hill
14 Posted 17/10/2016 at 18:38:49
Leeds it was, Gerry, with Ross. What a twat this man is – and I make no comment on these latest allegations. He's just a twat.

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