Ronald Koeman

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PL Sunday preview: Spurs take on bogey Reds; Everton vs. Arsenal

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Every club in the world has a bogey team (or teams) that no matter what they try, no matter the circumstances, it always seems to go sideways when they meet — a side that everyone associated with the club dreads when they see their name on the upcoming schedule.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man United shocked by Huddersfield; City, Chelsea win ]

For Tottenham Hotspur, the thorn currently in their side is Liverpool, who they’ll host at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, following Arsenal’s seasonal trip to Goodison Park to take on Everton.

Everton vs. Arsenal — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

After starting the 2017-18 Premier League season with just two wins from eight games, every game could very well be Ronald Koeman‘s last game in charge of Everton, thus a visit from top-four-chasing Arsenal is anything but well-timed for the distressed Dutchman. What’s worse, the Toffees are also without a win in their last four games (all competitions) and on the verge of crashing out of the Europa League group stage.

“The performance was under level in the first half,” Koeman said following Thursday’s home defeat to Lyon. “We made a lot of mistakes, and the team played with a lot of doubts and little confidence. It’s very difficult (to reach the next stage). Most of the time you get your points at home but we have only got one out of the two we have had at Goodison. Nothing is impossible, but to gain more points — and I think we need six or seven — we need to improve the level and that is more important.”

Sounds similar to their league performances, strangely enough — Everton currently sit 16th in the PL table, mere months after spending in excess of $200 million during the summer transfer window.

European competition has treated Arsenal far better this season, as Arsene Wenger‘s side is three-for-three in the Europa League following Thursday’s win away to Red Star Belgrade. A number of key figures — Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny, to name a few — were left in London, as a reserve- and youth-heavy side got the job done courtesy of an Olivier Giroud goal five minutes before full-time.

Still, the Gunners are in desperate need of a quick rebound following last weekend’s late defeat to Watford, after which Watford captain Troy Deeney publicly characterized the Arsenal players as mentally weak and said they lack the necessary “cojones” to compete at this level. On the bright side, Deeney’s 71st-minute equalizer (from the penalty spot) was the first goal Arsenal had conceded in 444 minutes in the PL, a streak they’ll look to start anew and build off Thursday’s win in Serbia.

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Ross Barkley (back), Morgan Schneiderlin (knock), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Seamus Coleman (leg), James McCarthy (fitness), Yannick Bolasie (knee) | Arsenal — OUT: Danny Welbeck (hamstring), Shkodran Mustafi (thigh), Calum Chambers (hip), Santi Cazorla (achilles)

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Mauricio Pochettino has never beaten Liverpool in six tries as Tottenham manager (two triumphs in his 18 months at Southampton); in fact, Spurs themselves haven’t beaten Liverpool in the PL since Nov. 28, 2012 (three draws and six defeats in nine tries) — the north London side’s truest bogey club this decade. Having already fallen eight points behind leaders Manchester City, Pochettino’s side will have to clear that mental hurdle on Saturday if they’re to go on and challenge for the PL title for a third straight season. On the other hand, they’re unbeaten in 10 games (seven wins) across all competitions.

Fortunately for Spurs, the Wembley monkey is off their back after narrowly edging past Bournemouth their last time out at home. Harry Kane is without goal in his last 241 minutes for club (two for England during the last international break), which is practically an eternity after scoring seven goals in the previous 188 minutes.

As for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp‘s side enters Sunday’s clash mired in a month-long slump, having won just one of their last four league games, and just two of their last nine in all competitions. A major part of the problem is more of the poor defending that dogged the Reds last season, but perhaps they’ve been a bit unfortunate as well.

“We had bad luck in the last three or four games,” summer signing Mohamed Salah said this week. “Everyone was confident a good result was coming.”

The tough stretch has seen Klopp somewhat recalibrate his expectations in the direction of reality, dubbing his side the “challenger” when they take on Tottenham.

“(Spurs) are in a really good moment as a club and we are the challenger when we go there, that’s how it is,” he said this week. “But they know it will not be an easy game, so good, let’s play and let’s see what happens.”

INJURIES: Tottenham — OUT: Mousa Dembele (foot), Victor Wanyama (knee), Danny Rose (fitness), Erik Lamela (hip) | Liverpool — OUT: Sadio Mane (hamstring), Adam Lallana (thigh), Nathaniel Clyne (hamstring)

As Everton struggles continue, Koeman jests: “Maybe I’m in the crisis”

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Ronald Koeman may be joking, but Everton’s table position does not appear to be humorous.

The Dutch boss, under fire for the Toffees poor start to the season that sees them in 16th through the first eight matches of the season, has done little to endear himself to Everton fans. His latest stunt won’t help his cause.

Koeman, hoping to make light of his dire situation, joked at Everton’s pre-match press conference ahead of their Europa League match against Lyon on Thursday. When asked if he is four matches away from a crisis, Koeman answered, “Maybe I’m in the crisis.”

The comment came with a wry smile and a chuckle, clearly making light of the situation. However, the words were far more ominous. The question made reference to comments former Leicester City boss Craig Shakespeare made just a day before his recent sacking, saying “It’s the reality, we all understand that you can draw four games on the trot and the spin becomes that you haven’t won for four games.” He was fired the next day.

Koeman was pressed on his job status further, and he responded with a more level-headed answer. “Everybody knows in football the manager’s job is a really difficult job because things change really fast,” Koeman said Wednesday. “Most of the time, the manager doesn’t get time to improve the team.”

The Dutchman confirmed he met with Everton majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri on Friday while his boss was in town, and that he received their backing verbally. “We spoke about football,” Koeman said. “There was not really a message but the feeling is that they (the board) are behind the team, they are behind the manager. Everybody knows in football that’s a nice thing but in football always, finally, it’s all about results. Until now it’s full, total support from the board, yes.”

Not only does Everton rest just two points above the relegation zone, but they also sit bottom of their Europa League group with a single point through two matches.

Ronald Koeman’s Everton future heading one way

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BRIGHTON — Like a bug knocking into a light bulb on the porch on a summers night time and time again, we know what the outcome will be. We are still watching.

Even though the bug will soon succumb to failure, they are the only ones who don’t realize it. That’s what it feels like watching Everton and Ronald Koeman at the moment.

And Sunday was a damning indictment on the team Everton have become under Ronald Koeman, even though Wayne Rooney scored an 88th minute penalty kick to grab a point after Anthony Knockaert‘s looked likely to give Brighton and Hove Albion a deserved victory.

“Sacked in the morning, you’re getting sacked in the morning!” sang the Brighton fans after they went 1-0 up.

Rooney’s late goal will save Koeman that embarrassment but he is the bookies favorite to be the next Premier League manager fired and if he doesn’t get positive results against Lyon in the Europa League and Arsenal in the PL next weekend, next Monday morning could mark the end.

The Toffees were totally devoid of any confidence throughout their trip to Brighton and Everton’s fans had little to cheer. They broke into full voice on no more than two occasions as their team of expensive individuals played like, well, a team of expensive individuals.

Much has been made of Koeman’s big summer of spending with $193 million spent on new talent, but the lack of planning with that spending is what will ultimately cost him his job as no replacement for Romelu Lukaku points to a toothless, sluggish attack.

Everton have now scored just seven goals in their last 13 matches in the Premier League, failing to score on seven occasions. They’ve had just 21 shots on target in eight games so far this season.

Like the bug, Koeman’s time is running out.

“My whole football life is pressure, if I don’t get pressure from outside I put pressure on myself,” Koeman told Sky Sports after the game.

Unshaven, and dare I say looking slightly disheveled, Koeman’s demeanor told the story on Sunday at Brighton.

Two hours before kick off and with the stadium empty, Koeman stood tentatively on the sidelines as a handful of his players surveyed the playing surface. His brother and assistant coach, Erwin, sat on the bench. They looked at each other with a glum expressions on their face. Koeman then turned and walked down the tunnel without looking up.

During the game he trudged back and forth to his seat on the bench from the technical area with, like his team, little vigor.

Toothless in attack once again, Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin rarely threatened with 20-year-old deadline day buy Nikola Vlasic the only bright spark in attack.

Koeman was handed the dreaded vote of confidence from chairman and majority owner Farhad Moshiri following the 1-0 defeat to Burnley at Goodison Park before the break.

Sunday’s performance did little to suggest that vote of confidence was well placed and, like the bug, Koeman’s time at Everton isn’t too far away from the ultimate failure.

Brighton 1-1 Everton: Rooney PK saves point

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  • Knockaert scores late
  • Rooney equalizes from spot
  • Teams among six on 8 points

Another moribund display from Everton was slightly redeemed by a late Wayne Rooney penalty at the Amex Stadium on Sunday.

Brighton and Hove Albion took a deserved and late lead from Anthony Knockaert, only to draw Everton 1-1.

Both teams move to eight points, with the Gulls 13th and Everton 16th.

Mathew Ryan and Jordan Pickford both made huge saves for their sides in the draw, with Ryan stopping a pair in stoppage time.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The match found some life in the 19th minute, when Nikola Vlasic laid off for Idrissa Gana Gueye. His hard shot led to an unsuccessful corner.

It returned to sleep, however, until Everton blocked a pair of troubling attempts from Brighton in the 31st minute and then dealt with a corner kick.

Gueye had another shot from distance in the 34th, bending his effort wide of the far post.

 

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

To the second half, which held very little promise until Vlasic slipped in attempting a rip at goal in the 57th.

And hope? At the other end, Pascal Gross cued up Solly March for a left-footed shot collected by Jordan Pickford. That wasn’t the end of Pickford’s day by any stretch of the imagination, and Brighton really amped up its attack in the final 20 minutes.

Everton should have been given a penalty when Gylfi Sigurdsson was tugged back in the 80th minute.

Fiery all game, it was Knockaert who put Brighton ahead, celebrating emotionally after bagging an 82nd minute goal.

Bruno started the charge, and a moment’s hesitation from Morgan Schneiderlin inside his own 18 helped Knockaert get his shot.

But Bruno turned Everton ally with an elbow to Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the 88th minute, and Rooney converted his PK.

Ronald Koeman gets support from Everton’s owner

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Ah. The old dreaded vote of confidence.

[ MORE: Burnley beat Everton ]

Reports about Ronald Koeman‘s future at Everton have been plentiful in recent weeks as the defeats racked up and after the Toffees’ home loss to Burnley on Sunday suggestions he could be fired intensified.

However, one man is backing Koeman to turn it around and, quite crucially, it’s his boss.

Speaking to talkSPORT radio in the UK, Everton’s billionaire owner Farhad Moshiri has said Koeman has his “total support” despite the Toffees sitting in 16th place in the Premier League table after a summer which saw them spend over $190 million on new players.

“We are in a bad moment. But we have played the four title contenders, three away. Today was an unexpected loss,” Moshiri said following the defeat to Burnley. “The four pre-qualifying UEFA games and two group games on Thursdays haven’t helped. There is mental and physical fatigue and seven injuries. These are early days and Koeman has my total support. We have great fans and they deserve better. We know the honest and objective expectations of our supporters and will not let them down.”

Moshiri is right to point out Everton’s tough start to the season.

They had games at Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United and then a home game against Tottenham all in their opening five matches. But the manner in which they were beaten by Chelsea, United and Spurs was the most concerning for Everton’s supporters.

Add in a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League, and also drawing at home against Cypriot minnows Apollon Limassol in the group stages, and the pressure is mounting.

The main problem for Everton has been scoring goals as Romelu Lukaku was not replaced and the No.10s brought in to chip in with goals have yet to flourish with Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen failing to hit their best form with just four goals scored by Everton in their opening seven games of the season.

Rooney was not only dropped to the bench against Burnley but also charged with DUI after an incident in September and many are already questioning Koeman’s faith in the Manchester United and England legend.

With Oumar Niasse brought in from the cold to score important goals in their win against Bournemouth last weekend, some of Koeman’s decisions to ostracize players from his squad have been questioned by fans and pundits. Ross Barkley has been criticized heavily by the Dutchman and so has Kevin Mirallas. There’s a feeling that Koeman is creating his own problems at Goodison.

Koeman led Everton to a seventh-place finish last season, his first in charge of the club, but after making sweeping changes over the summer it appears the expensive rebuild has not only added more pressure on his shoulders with increased expectations but it has also seen his team regress.

Up next for Everton are two very winnable Premier League games in the month of October against Brighton and Leicester City, as well as a clash with Arsenal. Failure to get anything less than four points from those three games will surely pile even more pressure on Koeman, not matter what his boss says.

Especially when Carlo Ancelotti and others are waiting in the wings.