Boss Wants Blues To Go Direct

by Paul McNamara

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Ronald Koeman is urging Everton to adopt a more “direct” approach in their bid to overcome in-form Burnley on Sunday.

Koeman lamented the Blues’ sluggish start to Thursday night’s Europa League contest with Apollon Limassol and subsequently admitted his players needed to rediscover their confidence.

He nevertheless detected a significant improvement in Everton’s play after half-time against the Cypriots and has spoken to his team about sustaining that effort in the clash with Burnley.

Koeman also accepts it is essential he picks a team equipped to carry out his instructions against Sean Dyche’s side – and is not ruling out the prospect of selecting Nikola Vlasic, who came on from the bench to score the Blues’ second goal in the 2-2 draw with Limassol, before laying on a chance for Dominic Calvert-Lewin at the death.

“First of all, we must support the players, pick the best team to start the game and give the players different options to play forwards,” Koeman told evertontv.

“We started aggressively (against Limassol) but we did not start well on the ball. That lowered the confidence in the team and gave our opponents the boost to play comfortably in the first half.

“The second half was much better… different from the first half.

“And that is what we spoke about this morning: how we can make the team more aggressive, play more direct balls, do not play too short, do not take risks in the build-up, play simple balls and keep the ball.

“Then the confidence can grow in the team – and that is what you need to play football.”

Burnley have enjoyed a terrific start to the campaign under redoubtable manager Dyche.

They beat defending champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the opening day and have since drawn away at Tottenham and Liverpool.

The Lancashire club are ninth in the embryonic Premier League table and have conceded only five goals in six games.

“We know Burnley is a tough game,” said Koeman. “We have that experience. They are a defensive-minded team. They have had good results away from home against the big teams this season. But we know they play direct football.

“It is all about being concentrated on second balls – but also in our ball possession we need to be more direct.

“It is important to pick a team that can play that type of football.”

Vlasic’s effervescent 45-minute display against Limassol added to lively outings against Atalanta and Sunderland in the past fortnight.

Koeman insisted the Croat’s poise on the ball had come as no surprise to him – but did acknowledge he had been slightly taken aback by the 19-year-old’s swift adaptation to life at Everton.

"On one side (he has surprised me) yes, because he is still a really young player,” said Koeman. “He is 19 and has come from Croatia. I thought he would need a bit more time to adapt to the team but he is playing like he has already had two long seasons at Everton.

“That has surprised me.

"On the other side, we knew about his quality on the ball, because that was the reason to sign him from Hajduk.

“He is always in my thinking for the team. He showed yesterday, what he showed against Atalanta away.

"He was strong on the ball. You need those kinds of players with confidence on the ball, because that breaks teams down.

“He scored a great second goal, even Dominic’s last, big chance was from Nikola’s cross and he had a really positive impact on the game.”

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