It was a ‘will they? won’t they?’ that ended in former-England boss Sam Allardyce not getting the managerial position at Everton some weeks ago. However, following a massive change of heart, the Toffees are now under the stewardship of Allardyce, and they got the right man.
Of course, Allardyce isn’t a manager in the same ilk as Pep Guardiola or Mauricio Pochettino, indeed there are very few that are. While the people at the top may have wanted Watford’s Marco Silva, they have not been given a bad hand with the former-England manager a superb coach.
It has been claimed by some that the group of players at Goodison Park are the best he has ever worked with. The struggles of the England national team in recent decades would agree with this, but the pool of available players to Allardyce when he took one of the biggest jobs in management was massive, with the potential enormous, albeit one that has not been utilised properly for years.
Despite this, the former-Sunderland manager is now working with the best group of club players he has ever been given, and he needs to make it count. Many thought that his time with England would define him, and it did in a way, with the manager losing his job after just one game due to matters off the pitch. His redemption lies somewhere very close to the one the players and club are currently looking for this season.
The demise of Ronald Koeman was one that Allardyce will have studied extensively, with the tactician best known for his survival exploits. He was quoted in The Guardian as saying: “It is a big club. No disrespect to Swansea, you are playing on a bigger stage so you have to have a greater mentality to come out and produce because the demand is higher to play for Everton. All fans want entertaining but they want to see a level of ability, too. It is big pressure”.
His words centred on the struggles of Everton’s record-signing Gylfi Sigurdsson, but he must have been admitting something to himself, with the manager until now not ever really taking charge of a ‘big club’. Perhaps his words on demand being higher revealed that he, like Sigurdsson, will have to up his game.
As is rarely the case with a new manager, Allardyce came in and got off to a perfect start. A 2-0 win over Huddersfield saw the Goodison Park faithful immediately warm to their new manager, while Sigurdsson was able to poke home another goal, with his upturn in form a huge positive of late.
Suddenly, Everton are in 10th place with 18 points, just seven behind a Tottenham side that, until recent weeks, were in superb form. After two wins on the bounce, Everton seem a long way from the relegation zone, and they are back in the hunt for a Europa League spot.
With Allardyce getting a first win out of the way immediately, we take a look at what the new manager must do for Everton.
What must Allardyce do to make Everton a force again
Get a striker. It is as simple as that. Romelu Lukaku was allowed to leave and for some reason, he was not replaced by a player of similar talent or goal scoring ability. In football terms, it was a self-destruction of the highest order. Wayne Rooney was brought in and has shone in recent weeks, but he cannot be relied upon to score 25 or more goals a season. His ageing legs may have achieved that a few years ago, but now he is a very different, although still very capable player.
Allardyce and his staff should be scouring the planet for a striker that they can bring in to fill that gap. In fact, if the club can drag themselves into a respectable position come January, then they will be seen as a viable club for a talented striker to come in and put himself on the biggest stage. After all, the new recruit would be largely unchallenged, giving them the time and space to propel both themselves and the club forward.
Second, matters on the pitch must be remedied. This season, Everton have somehow managed to concede 28 goals. Even though Jordan Pickford has at times been at his heroic best, even he has struggled to stem the flow of goals. Perhaps this is where Allardyce’s best work will show.
Will Everton’s defence improve?
The former-England man will be able to work out a system that sees Everton stop leaking goals, which is half the battle. If the Toffees can find a way to keep a clean-sheet more often than not, then they will be picking up points where their defence would not allow them earlier in the season.
Allardyce decided to continue without Michael Keane at the back for their game against Huddersfield, with Mason Holgate partnering Ashley Williams and the two looked solid. Unfortunately for the manager, injuries to Leighton Baines and the continued long-term absence of Seamus Coleman have hit the side hard. However, he will know that when the two return they will take the back-four to another level. Therefore, patience is key with the backline.
In the midfield, Allardyce gave his team more of an ability to keep ahold of the ball and use it than they were able to under Koeman. The 4-1-4-1 formation saw Idrissa Gueye sitting deeper as he acted as a barrier for his defence. The fact that Tom Davies and Wayne Rooney were both used as central-midfielders allowed Everton to keep hold of the ball, with their ball retention a massive problem in recent weeks.
Finally, Allardyce needs to make Goodison Park the fortress it once was. Even the top sides would fear playing Everton on their own patch, with the Toffees able to beat anyone on their day. The vociferous atmosphere that the fans create drives their team on to another level, but they have been given little to work with by the players, who have fallen flat all too often this season.
Importantly, Allardyce needs to get his team earning points on the road. All five of Everton’s wins have come at home this season, with only three of their points coming on the road via three draws. Playing away from home is very tough in the Premier League, but a team that wants to be battling nearer to the top must be winning the majority of their games both home and away.
Allardyce was able to come in and solve many problems with the likes of Crystal Palace, Sunderland, West Ham, Blackburn and Newcastle, but he has not ever been able to go from a survival specialist to a manager of a team in the top six. Of course, he did not have the resources at the aforementioned clubs, but he does now.
The challenge at hand for Allardyce is huge. However, he is the man to get them out of their slump, but are Everton the team to take him from a good manager to a great one?