Pep Guardiola’s men recorded their first competitive loss under the Spaniard before the international break and they will want to bounce back against Ronald Koeman’s Toffee’s. It’s not going to be an easy ride that’s for sure and key players may or may not feature, but this Everton side won’t roll over easily.
Hi Si, thanks for joining us. First of all, what have you made of Everton’s start to the season, and has it altered your targets for the year ahead?
The start has been a bit Jeckyll and Hyde to be honest! After three games it seemed like a lot of fans thought we were going to win the league and then were brought crashing down to earth again. In reality though this season was always going to be one of adjustment and re-assessing things. We had been left in such a state by Roberto Martinez that no matter how much money we throw at things the manager has still only had just over four months in the office to change things around. Changing things takes time but perhaps as football fans (as a collective) we’ve forgotten that. We should be aiming to Europa League qualification either through league place or an FA Cup win.
Ronald Koeman seems to have taken the job in his stride. What have you been most impressed with since he took over the reigns from Roberto Martinez?
It’s early days but the signs are good so far. He has shored up the defence pretty quickly which was perhaps the biggest task to get on with and bringing in another club’s captain speaks volumes about the ambition and influence he has. He is very business-like and matchday routines have changed enormously since Roberto Martinez’s days of turning up whenever you wanted and dressed how you like. Now, the players have a strict dress code and timetable which you would imagine goes deeper than just match day but it’s that type of attention to detail and strict management style that gets results.
Everton’s signing of Idrissa Gueye has been lauded after an impressive start at Goodison Park. What did you make of Everton’s transfer business during the summer window?
Besides settling the defence then the next big job was sign a striker in case Lukaku goes on a ten game goal-less streak or gets injured. We failed to do that. We were made to look stupid on deadline day but then again our new billionaire didn’t help himself by texting Jim White. It’s a learning curve though so in January he should know better! Idrissa Gueye is a great signing though and he has settled in very, very quickly. As I mentioned above as well, mind, Ashley Williams’ impact can’t be underestimated either, and Yannick Bolasie is a big purchase too. Maybe not worth the fee we paid, but when you’re signing another club’s best player, you pay the price don’t you?
Is there an area of the Everton squad which you believe to be particularly strong or weak?
We have two main weak points – striker and goalkeeper. Lukaku isn’t going to be pushed for his place by Enner Valencia any time soon – he couldn’t even push Andy Carroll for a place so he’s probably best spending his time evading capture in a South American jungle somewhere or climbing up the Main Stand dressed as Spiderman in some kind of bizarre Fathers for Justice protest. Stekelenberg did well in the first few games in goal but was criticised quite a bit recently and he’s not going to be a long-term first choice keeper. You would hope.
On to Manchester City now. Many would point out the deeply contrasting aspects of how both clubs are run, with Everton’s traditional approach (prior to their recent takeover) very different to how City have operated since 2008. What are your perceptions of City as a club, both past and present?
I think City faced the same problems as Everton did this summer when they first became billionaires to be honest. No European football meant that true World Class players wouldn’t come so you ended up spending silly money on players like Jo and Roque Santa Cruz. We – so far – have avoided that kind of outlay just for the sake of it, but Sissoko was a close call! Any affinity I had with City fans went out the window a couple of seasons ago though I’m afraid. I sit right by the away fans and you were chasing the title and when you scored your second someone ran over and shouted “We’ve got all the money” as if it was something worth bragging about. It was just a bit sad really. I like the Etihad though, and I like the way your club does things with the fans like when Pep took over and gave that kid a lift in a taxi, or when Vincent Kompany delivered a pre-match team-talk sent in by a fan as part of his team-talk.
In terms of Saturday’s game, where do you think the tie will be won and lost?
There’s plenty of space in behind your defence and if we can ruffle John Stones into one of his trademark mistakes then we’ll be laughing. Our defenders need to keep switched on though otherwise you lot will pass your way through and score before we’ve even woken up. If we keep it tight at the back and Gueye is on his usual game then we can stifle you and then get one of the wingers in behind and open you up.
And finally, please could we have your Everton team prediction, and your prediction for the final score?
Team prediction is easy really……Stekelenberg, Baines, Jagielka, Williams, Coleman, Gueye, Barry, Bolasie, Deulofeu, Barkley, Lukaku. Reckon there’s goals in the game though so going for 2-2.
A big thank you to Si for taking his time to answer our questions, you can learn more about NSNO here.