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Creaking defence damns Everton

Everton
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Bad signings, no style and no hope: Why Koeman had to leave Everton

Stewart Robson says Everton were right to part with Ronald Koeman after the team showed no signs of improvement.
After an excellent start by Everton that was capped off by a Wayne Rooney goal, Ronald Koeman's side completely capitulated in the second half to lose their fifth league game of the season.
While Everton sit in the relegation zone, Gab Marcotti explains why Ronald Koeman may still have time to save his job.

Ronald Koeman finally ran out of goodwill on Monday as Everton called time after a once-promising tenure nosedived and ended with his team limping from one crisis to the next, culminating in a 5-2 dismantling against Arsenal on Sunday.

Here is a look at five of the reasons leading to his departure.

1. Struggling summer signings

While director of football Steve Walsh has to share a portion of the blame for a lopsided summer spending spree, a significant reason for the current malaise is the transfer strategy Koeman oversaw in the transfer window. Aside from the acquisitions of Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane, the defence lacked necessary reinforcements, and an ageing and undermanned area of the team has visibly struggled to maintain any consistent level of performance. A lack of alternatives has put significant pressure on Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams, a defensive trio with a combined age of 100.

Elsewhere in the team, the signings of Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen and Gylfi Sigurdsson at considerable expense have proved to be a waste of resources, with their collective slowness and the lack of structure around them making the trio too similar to function effectively in the same team.

Failure to replace Romelu Lukaku also looms large over a team that has looked devoid of an attacking threat, scoring just seven times in the first nine league games. Yet the Lukaku-shaped hole in the final third is merely the tip of the iceberg after a confusing summer that failed to address many of the existing issues apparent in Koeman's first season.

2. No style of play

The problem with the style of play is that there was no style of play. For a manager who spent so much of his time as a player at Barcelona under the guidance of the late, great Johan Cruyff, Koeman displayed a startling lack of ability and awareness when it came to formulating a serviceable attacking unit.

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had the most touches (52) and attempted passes (35) in Sunday's defeat vs. Arsenal. It was the second time this season Pickford had attempted the most passes in a match. Numerous other matches ended with defenders topping the passing charts; what little passing football there was took place in areas offering no threat to the opposition. Even basic ball retention became an exercise in patience as nonexistent movement off the ball and a lack of balance and width turned a simple pass between teammates into a dangerous undertaking.

Koeman has gradually turned Everton into the dullest team in the league.

3. Wrong players in the wrong places

Koeman's apparent lack of passion played out on the pitch as Everton floundered and had no choice but to move on.

Tom Davies replacing Ashley Williams against Arsenal marked the ninth time in 17 games this season that Koeman altered his starting XI with a half-time substitution. Koeman would then inexplicably abandon those changes at the start of the next match and repeat the process. This confounding stubbornness was at the heart of recent struggles as Koeman continued to repeat the same mistakes and misfiring tactics while somehow expecting different results. Any slight positives were temporary as this shift toward a more proactive approach was only ever temporary, an act born out of desperation.

Players have been constantly out of position to accommodate big-money signings, which has become the hallmark of this team in this opening quarter of the season, even though the younger or less-heralded players have generally provided the scant positives noticeable to this point.

4. Bad results, of course

Football will always be a results business, and ultimately that is what cost Koeman his job. While results this season told their own sorry tale, away form has been an issue throughout his time on Merseyside.

Koeman departs having won just four of 23 away league games, with Everton winning one Premier League away game since Boxing Day in 2016. Current form shows no win on the road in the last 12 away league games, with the 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in January standing as the only away success in 2017. As for this season, defeat to Arsenal marked a fifth successive game without a win in all competitions. Koeman won just two of his last 13 matches and saw his team lose seven of the last 11 in all competitions. Everton have already lost more matches at Goodison Park than they did the whole of last season.

This is Everton's worst start to a Premier League season in over a decade. The damning statistics speak for themselves.

5. Dreaming of managing somewhere else?

While Koeman breezed into Goodison Park with his honest and forthright approach during a no-nonsense debut season, those qualities had evaporated by the end as paper-thin excuses surfaced to justify this alarming slump. At a time when supporters needed some of those blunt qualities evident in his first season, the sudden splurge of empty explanations saw the fans rapidly lose faith as Koeman seemingly pinned the poor start on everything bar his own failings.

It points to a wider sense that Koeman never really viewed Everton as anything more than a steppingstone, a means toward his barely disguised dream of returning to manage Barcelona. This self-made barrier and apparent lack of affinity toward the club may not be the primary reason for his departure, but when pressure began to mount, it certainly did not help his cause.

Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.

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