Everton’s Koeman has no regrets over Oumar Niasse’s Europa League snub

Paul Wilson
Oumar Niasse has been left out of Everton’s Europa League squad. Photograph: Greenwood/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

Ronald Koeman insists he has no regrets about leaving Oumar Niasse out of his Europa League squad even though the ineligible striker turned around a lacklustre Everton performance on Saturday to almost single-handedly relieve the growing pressure on the manager.

Koeman says he wants to see more pace and aggression against Apollon Limassol following the limp 3-0 defeat against Atalanta a fortnight ago, but he is unable to select Niasse despite sending him on against Bournemouth, and Sunderland before that, to demonstrate those very qualities. “I can’t change the decision now so there is no point regretting it,” the manager said. “We sent in the squad a long time ago and Oumar’s situation then was not what it is now. We just have to make the best of it because in life you don’t get second chances. I still believe we have enough good players available.”

It will be interesting to see whether Niasse gets a start against Burnley in the league fixture on Sunday, for based on his two substitute appearances and his growing popularity with the crowd he certainly deserves one.

While Koeman claims to have been planning to use him all along the Europa League oversight suggests otherwise – the deadline for registering squads for the group stage came after the transfer window had closed, meaning Everton would have been aware by then that their attempts to bring in a new striker had been unsuccessful.

Wayne Rooney is fit to play after his eye injury against Bournemouth, and will possibly keep his place due to Niasse’s unavailability given Koeman is not that well off for striking options.

In terms of forwards Everton have Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Sandro Ramírez and Ademola Lookman, and all are short on experience. Even the Cypriot journalists at the pre-match press conference had noticed that Everton have not been creating many chances and have been playing without wingers – one was even cheeky enough to ask whether the manager’s new priority might be points against Burnley rather than European progress – before Koeman made it clear that he expects a big improvement against Apollon.

“We need to show a reaction because the performance we gave and the result we got in Italy was not the Everton that we like,” Koeman added. “Our plan is to win both of our next two games, and the one coming up is always the most important. This is not the moment for changing the team, we had a bad result against Atalanta and we want to make up for that, and we want to go on in Europe. The team which will start against Apollon will be the strongest one I can name from the players available.

“In the Europa League you get three games at home, and if you win all those you have a really good opportunity to go through to the next round. I believe our confidence is coming back now we have won a couple of games, we had a tough start to the season and our pre-season was interrupted by the need to play qualification games for Europe. I still believe in the quality of these players but when confidence falls we sometimes drop back too much then we need more pace. That was the reason I brought Oumar on against Bournemouth.”

Koeman also confirmed negotiations are under way with Idrissa Gane Gueye over a new contract. The former Aston Villa player was one of the manager’s first signings for the club and he is pleased with the progress he has made. “I am really happy with Gana,” he said. “I think his aggression in midfield had a big impact last season. We lost some of that at the start of the season but now he and Morgan [Schneiderlin] are coming back to their best and that is what the team needs.”


Koeman sounds warning for James McCarthy

Ronald Koeman is keeping an eye on James McCarthy’s call-up to the Republic of Ireland squad and has reminded his injured midfielder – yet to appear for his club this season – that he expects all his players to put Everton first if there is a question over fitness.

“What I expect from every Everton player is not to take risks when it is not necessary,” the Everton manager said. McCarthy is recovering from a knee injury and is just coming back to full training, so there was a degree of surprise at Martin O’Neill’s decision to bring him into the Irish squad for forthcoming internationals against Moldova and Wales.

“Every nation is free to call up any player, if they want to see James then he needs to go because that is a Fifa rule,” Koeman said. “But James has not played a game since July, and that is important. I hope that is taken into consideration and I know that the two medical staff, at this club and with Ireland, are talking to each other about the situation. As long as there is understanding and good communication that is all we can ask. You sometimes can make exceptions for play-off games or matches that come at the end of the season, but we pay all the players’ salaries and we expect them to put the club’s interests first.”

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