This is an exciting time to be an Everton fan: they have fresh investment, a revered new director of football tasked with ensuring those funds are spent wisely and a coach who achieved successive top-seven finishes with an inexpensively assembled Southampton side unfamiliar with such heights.
Few would dispute that Ronald Koeman is an upgrade on Roberto Martinez, who twice led the Toffees below halfway after eight straight top-half placements at the same time the Dutchman was busy guiding the Saints to new highs.
Koeman has coached in four countries, won three titles and two cups and is producing his best work this decade. Before moving to England’s south coast, he did a revival job at Feyenoord similar to the one required at Everton, picking them up in the bottom half and delivering a trio of podium finishes.
The transfer window perhaps wasn’t as uplifting as fans anticipated: there were no Jamie Vardy or N’Golo Kante-esque left-field signings from Steve Walsh, who instead only recruited from within the Premier League, but the uplift in league output has been instant: seven points from three games.
Of course every manager has their shortcomings and one of Koeman’s less noticeable ones is that, based on his Southampton experiences, he struggles to get his squad into a cohesive rhythm straight after an international break.
Last term, the sixth-placed Saints collected just two points from their four fixtures immediately following such interludes, losing the final two despite his team generally improving as the campaign developed.
They were the sole club in the top 10 not to claim a single win in those scenarios – indeed everyone else besides Liverpool won at least two – and pocketed three points less than the next worst side.
Those failings weren’t isolated to 2015/16 either as they took one point from their final two post-break outings in 2014/15, drawing with Aston Villa and being beaten by Everton, so Koeman is winless in six.
By contrast, this was actually one area where Martinez was pretty effective, celebrating victories in six of his past eight encounters of that nature regardless of underperforming for the majority of the seasons in question.
Sunderland, who took four points from their last two post-international matches, will attempt to profit at the Stadium of Light on Monday night, and are 14/5 to triumph.
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