New season, new manager! Ronald Koeman seemed an excellent appointment for Everton and results have mirrored expectation. So I guess everything is pretty rosy in the blue half of Merseyside right now?
I think most fans have been absolutely delighted with the hiring of Ronald Koeman. Personally, I haven't heard or read one negative Evertonian comment about the guy. I'm sure if we go on a run of poor performances that will change though. But for now everything's new and shiny and we're all happy. Koeman seems like a guy who's destined for bigger things, like coaching one of the world's largest clubs. He has to build up his resume first and taking a mid-table club like Everton to the top of the League and regular competition in Europe is the way to do that. At least that's what all of the Blues are hoping for.
Along with Koeman we picked up Steve Walsh as Director of Football. Walsh is widely credited with building the Leicester City squad that won the Premier League last season. Everton reportedly paid a pretty penny to bring Walsh in so here's hoping that he can work his magic over the next couple of transfer windows.
Are you happy with your summer business and how did you feel about the whole Lamine Kone saga?
I think I'm with the majority of Evertonians who are happy with the players that we brought in but there's a bit of lingering disappointment over who we did not get. With a new majority shareholder in Farhad Moshiri, new manager in Ronald Koeman and new Director of Football in Steve Walsh came statements that raised the expectations of the fan base. The Toffees were left at the alter by more than one player in this window and seem to have gotten played by most of them; Sissoko obviously being the worst.
The Kone deal was annoying in that he's a player that Everton could definitely use. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy with Ashley Williams but the back line needs all of the reinforcements they can get. Kone sure would have gotten his fair share of play this year. The obvious question is, was David Moyes just trying to avoid selling to his old club? He certainly did not have a problem trying to poach players from Everton when he was in charge at Old Trafford but maybe he doesn't feel the same way when the boot is on the other foot.
We have to talk David Moyes as well. He's not had the easiest time of it, given that he had to take over during pre-season and we've had umpteen injuries. There's been flashes of competence on the pitch though and most fans are optimistic that he'll do well on Wearside, citing the work he did at Everton as evidence that he can build a club up from struggling to top six. Is he the right man to get Sunderland away from endless relegation battles and could he do a similar job to what he did at Everton?
Moyes cerainly has the ability to take a struggling club and make them into a competitor towards the top of the table. However one has to wonder if he still has that magic/mindset after the past couple of years. When he left Preston North End to join Everton, he was taking that giant step up but he had to get things in order. He worked hard, brought in new players and took the Toffees to stability. When United came calling, he seemed to have gotten out of his depth. Was he treated right while in Manchester? No. But he never seemed to grasp the club or the stage that he was on. I still don't understand the move to Real Sociedad but I guess he needed something to do aside from counting all of his United cash.
I just hope he's given time to turn things around at Sunderland. He took over late in the summer, has dealt with injuries and had to put together and execute a transfer plan in a short amount of time with what was likely a strict budget. Regardless of what happens this season, Moyes should be allowed to stick around and mold the Black Cats into a competitive club. There are worse teams in the Premier League this season so relegation could be on the table but maybe the new boss can steer the club to a mid-lower table finish in his first season.
Moyes is getting the old band back together by signing Victor Anichebe and Steven Pienaar. Pienaar has looked decent on his early showings, so it's Anichebe that us fans are more curious about. He'll mainly be used as back up for Defoe and a free transfer until the end of the season represents little risk. What can we expect from him?
Anichebe is a quality player and I believe many others were sad to see him leave in 2013. He had a bit of a down year last season with the Baggies, only getting ten matches in without any goals but at 28 (it seems like he should be 40 by now since he's been around so long), he's still got a lot of football left in him. His best years were under Moyes so maybe the boss will know how to get the best out of the Nigerian. Like you said, he just came in on a free transfer and it's only for the season so he should be heavily motivated to get into shape and contribute as much as possible.
Ross Barkley has started the season well and strikers who are yet to hit form always seem to break their duck against Sunderland, so Lukaku has me even more worried than usual. Anyone else you think we should be worried about heading into the match?
Barkley has definitely been on point. My concern with him is that he has a tendency to tail off after a string of good performances. It's past time for Lukaku to get in gear this season. He's coming off a decent international break with Belgium and hopefully that good form carries into league competition. Lukaku has committed to the club for another year so if he's holding out for a big transfer next summer, he better get to work.
Another player that I'd keep an eye on is Idrissa Gueye. He's been a total hit since joining the Toffees; plus he has been around for a few weeks now so he should be fully integrated with the group. If Lukaku nets in this match, don't be surprised if he has gotten the ball from Gueye.
On that note, anyone that worries you in the Sunderland side? (Feel free to say Defoe and no one else)
I'll take your lead and roll with Defoe. Quality player with still tons to give nearly 34. He's had a great start to the campaign and I'm concerned about our back line keeping him in check. I'll say that he is probably good for one this weekend. Defensively, I'm thinking that Lamine Kone shows up for some reason. Not exactly sure why but maybe it has something to do with this past transfer window's saga.
Any past memories of past visits to the Stadium of Light/Roker Park?
As an American, I haven't had the pleasure of visiting the North East so I asked the staff at Royal Blue Mersey and our followers on Twitter. Here are the responses I've received:
Darren from RBM: Not so much funny, but the quarter final replay up there midweek was pretty special. We had every seat sold out, corner to corner behind the goal. We out sung the home crowd and made it like a home match for the players. It was unbelievable.
What was funny was Magaye Gueye had his best game for us. And had Royston Drenthe not been late for a meeting Gueye wouldn't have played in the semi final against Liverpool.
I also remember invading the bowling alley by the train station and then the pub with the tent outside for a few scoops.
It's not my best away trip, but it's far from being the worst
Twitter Response 1: Beating them 2-0 in the FA Cup Quarter Final 2012, with 7,000+ fans in attendance.
Twitter Response 2: Losing there 3-0 last season, saving them from relegation and guaranteeing Martinez' exit.
What's going to be your likely line up and how will Koeman approach the game?
If I had to guess, I'd go with the 4-2-3-1 - Stekelenburg, Baines, Jagielka, Williams, Coleman, Gueye, Barry, Bolasie, Barkley, Deulofeu, Lukaku.
I'd also expect to see Valencia make his Everton debut as a substitute. It's possible that Kevin Mirallas will start instead of Gerard Deulofeu, as Mirallas has had somewhat of a resurgence under Koeman.
Stick your neck out and give us a prediction
Everton have been in good form recently and I'd hope for more of the same. Lukaku should be good to go and his new attacking partners should help move the ball forward. I'm going to be bullish and say 1-3 for Everton.