Everton were comprehensively beaten away from home in their UEFA Europa League group stage fixture against Serie A side Atalanta. Their performance has prompted questions of both the players and effectiveness of Ronald Koeman, but what did we learn from the spectacle itself?
Everton squad quality not good enough
If you look closely at Everton’s squad, you will notice a lack of quality in depth. This is an issue that they’ve tried to solve this summer with a number of acquisitions, though it’s easy to forget they also sold plenty of unwanted first-team players too.
For a deep run in the Europa League, they need to have quality across all areas of the pitch – especially options to come off the bench and provide impetus either defensively or in attack, depending on the situation.
Their most talented substitute on this occasion was Davy Klaassen, who arguably should’ve started ahead of Nikola Vlasic in the number ten role. It was a real surprise to see the omission of both Tom Davies and Ademola Lookman from the matchday squad altogether, as the pair have combined well in recent months: prompting hope for Everton’s future talents long-term.
An underwhelming bench which featured the likes of Kevin Mirallas – whose attempts to secure an Olympiacos move on deadline day were unsuccessful – as well as Cuco Martina, who has failed to impresssince recently joining on a free from Southampton.
Koeman has work to do, but will he be granted patience?
It’s clear that after their summer spending, the new recruits need time to settle in. It would be naive to suggest otherwise, though five of their eight new senior players already have Premier League experience.
Koeman has continued to switch his starting eleven up during the early weeks of the campaign and though it’s understandable, this is equally worrying too. It seems as though he’s still not yet convinced about a preferred eleven or formation which works on a consistent basis.
Apart from first-choice goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who didn’t feature yesterday, and perhaps the backline, there is uncertainty over who starts where and you can tell the players seek stability.
Despite an encouraging start to his tenure at Goodison, there are plenty of examples which show just how quickly things can spiral out of control. Koeman signed a three-year deal last summer and many heralded his appointment, though twelve months on expectations are higher and pressure continues to build. If you look on forums and comment sections already, some disgruntled supporters are calling for drastic change – which starts with the manager.
He knows that there is definitely plenty of improvement to be made, and it’s admirable that he’s eager not to criticise the players, instead looking at what he can do to rectify their situation.
It shows the type of manager he is but it doesn’t get any easier for the Toffees either, they travel to Manchester with Jose Mourinho’s United side waiting for them on Sunday.
This quote is particularly telling:
“We saw the clips of Gomez beforehand. That’s the individual quality of one player but the whole team was better prepared than we were.”
Will he be afforded the patience and time by his superiors to turn this around?
Gomez reaching his peak at the perfect time
Alejandro Gomez just continues to improve and has regularly shown why he’s Atalanta’s most important asset.
Having played in Italy for three seasons with Calcio Catania prior to joining two years later, his efficiency in the final third was questioned. The 29-year-old struggled to score goals and create assists on a consistent basis, up until last season.
The tricky Argentine excelled, creating 91 clear-cut opportunities in just over 3,100 Serie A minutes. He netted 16 and created 12 more for team-mates as they recorded their best ever finish in fourth last term.
Gomez has already created 16 chances (two assists) this season, despite only being three games into the new campaign. After a performance like the one against Everton, it’s not hard to see why. His intelligent movement mean he’s an easy player for team-mates to trust with possession, though he usually makes good use of it too in return.
It was a fantastic strike on the edge of the area to double Atalanta’s lead before the interval, which occurred minutes before Bryan Cristante sealed their quick-fire double.
His shot was sweetly-struck and important to note because as the captain, Gomez has developed a habit of stepping up when required to help the cause. Four key passes, six successful crosses and four accurate long balls are all statistics which prove he was too much for Everton’s backline to contend with throughout.
If he continues to perform like this, it’ll be hard to imagine him remaining an Atalanta player for much longer.
Stats’ source: Squawka and WhoScored
Writer’s note: Piece also featured here.