Belfast Telegraph

Ronald Koeman calls key Everton players to start producing

Everton manager Ronald Koeman has called on his "key players" to start producing and believes there is no better time than against Premier League leaders Manchester City.

After an impressive start to the season, taking 13 points from a possible 15, the Toffees' form has dipped with a 2-0 EFL Cup exit to Championship side Norwich followed by defeat at Bournemouth and a home draw with Crystal Palace.

There has been a lot of focus on Ross Barkley's contribution to the side so far this season and, while Koeman did not specifically single him out, he made it clear there is a core group within his starting XI he expects to lead the rest of the side.

"We have some key players in the team and they need to bring productivity to the team and we can improve on that," said the Dutchman ahead of the trip to the Etihad Stadium.

"We know we can be better than we are at the moment.

"Of course, the last two or three results, including the cup game, were not what we expect but we know we are Everton and we don't win every game.

"We are in a good way but we know we can be better than we are at the moment.

"It is difficult because we did not have the players for training the last two weeks and it's always difficult to have that focus that you need to beat City.

"But we know we have to be at our best and not make mistakes and make a fight for the game on Saturday and then you get opportunities to score."

On the plus side, Everton have the second-best defence in the league and only once, in 1998/99, have they conceded as few as five goals in their opening seven Premier League games.

They will need that defence to be on top form against the league's joint top scorers managed by Pep Guardiola, a coach who demands his teams dominate opponents.

Koeman knows it will require a concerted all-round effort to keep City at bay.

"Normally, for every team, it's a big impact, how your defence is," he added.

"But it's not just the four defenders. Defence starts in front and we need to run and we need to press and that's the way we like to play football.

"It's not possible to do that for 95 minutes but we like to press our opponents and I think that teamwork together is also influential in not conceding a lot of goals."

Everton will come up against former defender John Stones on Saturday after his £47.5million summer move.

Koeman believes he is the ideal player for Guardiola.

"John Stones is part of the philosophy of the coach," he said.

"One of the good qualities of John Stones is that he is that player who can open the game and provide that passing they need from the back."


From Belfast Telegraph