Head-To-Head: Ronald Koeman vs Eddie Howe

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 22 September 2017, 13:24

Ronald Koeman must be feeling the pressure ahead of this weekend’s fixture at home to Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth. A 3-0 midweek victory over Sunderland in the Carabao Cup will do little to erase the memory of comprehensive domestic losses to Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham, as well as to Atalanta in the Europa League.

Whilst the fixture list was unkind to the Toffees in the Premier League, the latter defeat showed up a clear lack of research from the Coach, his side completely unprepared for the well-documented passion and energy shown by the young Italian side.

Criticism has been levelled at the Dutchman from all directions, largely because the tactician failed to adequately replace the departing Romelu Lukaku. With £140 million spent during the summer, all that the Merseyside outfit have to show in the striker department is an ageing Wayne Rooney, a man who has brought controversy to the club with his recent drink-driving conviction.

Jose Mourinho weighed into the debate, insisting that Everton should be looking to finish in the top four with the level of investment provided by major shareholder Farhad Moshiri, but the Blues boss did not concur. “Let’s be realistic,” Koeman replied in response to his Portuguese counterpart. But Moshiri did not invest at that level in order to see his team simply tread water.

This weekend sees a chance for the Coach to redeem himself a little, Bournemouth sitting second from bottom of the table having earned just three points from their opening five matches. Everton are not faring much better mind, the Toffees scoring just four points so far albeit with a tougher fixture list. Honours are even between the two bosses with two wins apiece, and Koeman has a lot of respect for his young and forward-thinking counterpart.

“From the outside, I'm always looking to managers about the philosophy of the team, and he has created a way to play attractive football, with good, technical players,” Koeman said of Howe to Sky Sports in early 2016 whilst still boss of Southampton. “And that's what I like. It's brave and it's also in my opinion the most difficult way.”

Whilst results have been poor so far for Howe, dedication to his playing system and style is a trait that must be applauded and surely will start to pay dividends as the campaign progresses. European eyes have been firmly focussed on the slick and classy possession-based football of Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli, yet Howe was following the Coach long before the bandwagon took off. (You can read more about former bank manager Sarri in this previous post.)

It was when the Tuscan was at Empoli that young Howe paid him a visit, eager to learn from the drone technology that Sarri used to monitor the positions of his players in training. “I learned a great deal from that trip,” Howe said to the Daily Echo before the two sides faced each other in a pre-season friendly this summer. “So it will be nice to see him again. It’s no surprise for me to see him go on to such big club like Napoli and do so well.”

“I think it’s important to go and broaden your horizons, meet new people and see different ways of working,” Howe continued. “Although it wasn’t the biggest club in the world at the time, I was really impressed by the work that was done at Empoli.”

If Bournemouth start off on the front foot at Goodison this Saturday, an Everton side lacking confidence may find themselves in trouble. Howe has mainly deployed a 4-4-1-1 formation this season, meaning that the wide players should - just as Manchester United did - find themselves with plenty of freedom should Koeman go with the 3-4-2-1 that we saw at Old Trafford.

The underdogs won’t be expected to pull off a result away from home, therefore Howe has everything to gain, in contrast to an under-pressure Koeman who has it all to throw away this weekend.

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Phil Parkinson
Phil Parkinson
(Bolton Wanderers)
21st August
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