Phil Kirkbride, Liverpool Echo
What have you made of Everton’s transition from Roberto Martinez to Ronald Koeman over the summer?
Phil: “From what we’ve seen so far, it’s going to take time for the new manager to get his message across. There will be marked differences. Roberto was very methodical, possession-orientated and it was very steady build up from the back and through the lines whereas Ronald is more direct. He wants to play with a bit more tempo and he’s already stressed that Everton will be more aggressive and pressing will be a big part of that, especially at home. They are looking to get on the front foot in that respect. There will be changes but it will take time because the bulk of the squad are players he inherited and they will have get used to his way of playing.”
How have Everton performed in friendlies?
Phil: “They were a little disappointing against Espanyol at Goodison on Sunday (a 1-0 defeat). A few old problems reared their head again. There wasn’t enough support around Romelu Lukaku and that’s something the manager will look to address. The problem for Everton is when Romelu isn’t on it - and he was for most of last season - the team can look a little flat. They started pre-season quite encouragingly, went out to Dresden for a couple of games but as the international players have been drip-fed back in, it hasn’t quite clicked.”
Before this week's arrival of Ashley Williams from Swansea, the main signing of the summer was Idrissa Gueye, who impressed despite Villa’s problems last season. How has he started at Everton?
Phil: “We’ve only seen him for an hour against Espanyol and he was Everton’s best player. On the surface, it looks like he’s come in as direct competition for James McCarthy, a player who was a mainstay under Martinez. From first view, Gueye is more intense in his pressing - something we were speaking about before - and has a desire to play forward quickly. He keeps it simple and the big sell for Everton was that he was either better or just behind N'Golo Kante (key midfielder in Leicester's title win, now at Chelsea) in key stats last season. He’s very much in that mould. He’s not going to score 15 goals from midfield but he may well prevent 15 over the course of the season.”
You cover Everton for the Liverpool Echo - what is the opinion of Spurs on Merseyside going into the new season?
Phil: “There was huge admiration for the Spurs team last season, especially in the way Mauricio Pochettino had the team playing and the type of players he favoured. I wrote at the weekend that you always felt - and will feel on Saturday - that Spurs have a presence about them, not just in physique, but in terms of the way you play. The way you built that title bid was very impressive. Pochettino has to rank as one of the best managers in the Premier League. It was the midfield more than anything, that dynamism, people really like the look of Spurs.”
Below: Ronald Koeman
Finally, matches between Everton and Spurs are notoriously close encounters, how do you see it going this time around?
Phil: “Spurs will go in as favourites as Everton are very much in a transitional period. For Everton, they’ve lost John Stones, added Ashley Williams, but essentially it’s the same team. You’ve added Janssen and Wanyama, so you look like you’ve strengthened. Everton know they are in for a tough game and any positive result - and that includes taking a point - would probably be seen as a decent start. Everton have a decent run of matches after Spurs before they face the other big boys, so if they come through unscathed, I think Ronald will be fairly satisfied.”
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