On the Spot: Why Ronald Koeman might be in big, big trouble

It is never a nice thing when your owners make a statement saying they back you — chances are it means the clock is really ticking now. This is especially likely given the amount of money — close to $200 million on reinforcements all over — spent this summer. Soccer is a cruel game because when you spend that kind of money, you’re going to want some kind of return.

Unfortunately for Everton, they’ve had their worst start of the season since 2014–15 when they recorded just six points. For all the money spent on attacking talent this past summer — Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen and club-record-signing Gylfi Sigurdsson to name a few — Everton has scored just four league goals this season. They lost at home to a side (Burnley) that only won one away game all of last season. 

Defensively it’s not looking much better. They’re tied for third in the league for most goals conceded (12) after just seven games, and this is despite them playing with a back five and splashing over $65 million on goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and defender Michael Keane.

But arguably the biggest problem that beset the Merseyside club is that they simply haven’t replaced Romelu Lukaku. Now, I know I’ve made my fair criticism of Romelu Lukaku in the past few weeks, but his 25 league goals last season was the highest for Everton since Gary Lineker in 1985–86. Their most-recognized striker is Wayne Rooney. While he’s scored half of Everton’s league goals this season, there was a reason why Jose Mourinho was only all too happy to let Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer leave. Rooney simply is not the striker he once was, and neither Sandro Ramírez nor Dominic Calvert-Lewin are good enough to replace the strength and pace that Lukaku possessed.

The rest of the team isn’t stepping up either. While Lukaku led the team with 25 league goals last season, their next highest scorer was Ross Barkley with five — and he’s a player who wants out. He’s not the first; Ronald Koeman has fallen out with players such as Kevin Mirallas. While there’ve been a couple of bright spots — Calvert-Lewin and Tom Davies — Everton’s soccer this season has been miserable to watch to say the least. Koeman has said himself that the team is “scared to play football,” but the question is, if they’re scared to play under him, how much time does the Dutchman have left?

Probably the only saving grace for Koeman is this: The last time he started a season this badly was in 2015–16 at Southampton (3–3–2) and he managed to guide the team to its highest finish ever. He’s also seen the back of four title challengers (Manchester City, Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea) in this half of the season, so it might be safe to say the team’s got an easier schedule ahead. While he’s starting from slightly further behind this time (2–1–4), hopefully things will look better for Everton fans after the international break, starting at Brighton.

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