Four immediate challenges for Sam Allardyce to tackle at Everton
Sam Allardyce has become the Premier League’s go-to manager for clubs that find themselves lingering in the relegation zone and Everton became the latest team to place their faith in ‘Big Sam’s’ firefighting skills when they appointed him as Ronald Koeman’s replacement last week.
The 63-year-old’s arrival at Goodison Park has been met with a mixed reception from supporters, although there is a general feeling around the club that the former England manager is the right man to provide a solution to the Toffees’ immediate issues, and the apparent relegation battle that the team find themselves in is a far cry from the lofty expectations that were present at the start of the campaign after the investment of over £140 million on new players in the summer.
However, Allardyce is seen as a safe pair of hands and it is highly unlikely that Everton will still be marooned near to the bottom of the table when the season concludes – but there are still plenty of problems that ‘Big Sam’ has to tackle.
Here, The Boot Room highlight four of the key challenges that face Sam Allardyce at Everton.
Organise the defence
Sam Allardyce’s first challenge at Goodison Park will be to make Everton difficult to play against and hard to beat. Central to that theme will be his ability to organise a defensive unit that has resembled a leaky sieve for much of the season and has been conceding goals at an alarming rate.
Under the temporary stewardship of David Unsworth The Toffees conceded 21 goals in eight matches, letting in at least two goals per game, barring the final match against West Ham United. The lack of organisation, shape and confidence amongst the defenders was clear for all to see.
Everton are currently in the midst of a defensive crisis with injuries to key personal and an astonishing lack of consistency resulting in a back line that consists of aging stalwarts, new signings that are yet to gel and a contagious erosion of confidence.
Phil Jagielka (35) and Leighton Baines (32) have been loyal servants to the club but are undoubtedly entering the twilight of their careers, whilst Ashley Williams (33) has looked increasingly vulnerable, error-prone and off the pace. The long-term injury to Seamus Coleman has been a significant blow whilst Michael Keane’s confidence has been slowly eroded away by the chaos around him.
Allardyce has developed a reputation for being a manager capable of organising defensive units and making teams hard to beat – he will certainly need to live up to his reputation at Everton.
Purchase a central striker
Everton’s transfer policy over the summer may have initially generated excitement amongst supporters but it has quickly become apparent that much of the £140 million invested in new players was poorly spent.
Ronald Koeman’s biggest error was failing to purchase an out-and-out striker to replace Romelu Lukaku, despite knowing for the best part of two months that the Belgian was destined to depart Goodison Park, and the subsequent lack of goals this season has been a prominent issue.
Wayne Rooney and Sando Ramirez did arrive during the close-season but neither are particularly suited to leading the line or capable of acting as a focal point of The Toffees’ attack.
In addition to this, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Oumar Niasse, arguably the only two natural out-and-out strikers in the current squad, lack the experience and consistency respectively to shoulder the goal scoring responsibility that Lukaku previously carried.
Sam Allardyce’s first decision will be to decide who will lead his forward line over the Christmas period before purchasing a proven goal scoring in January who is capable of acting as the focal point of Everton’s attack.
Maximise the potential of Everton’s ‘number 10s’
Everton’s skewed transfer policy during the summer means that Sam Allardyce will inherit a squad that is drastically unbalanced. The Toffees may be lacking a natural out-and-out striker but they have an abundance of players that can play effectively as ‘number 10s’ or advanced central midfielders, to such an extent that it is impossible to include all of them in the match day squad.
Ronald Koeman made the error of attempting to shoe-horn as many of his attacking personnel into the starting line-up as possible regardless of whether that resulted in them playing in their natural positions of not.
For example, Gylfi Sigurdsson had been the key creative influence at Swansea City in recent seasons and yet Koeman opted to deploy him in a wide position despite it being widely known that the Icelandic international is most effective in central areas.
Sigurdsson, Wayne Rooney, Davy Klassen, Sandra Ramirez and Ross Barkley are just a fraction of the personnel capable of playing as a ‘number 10’, leaving Allardyce with a selection headache from day one.
He either needs to choose one player to place his faith in or develop of formation that allows him to use multiple ‘number 10s’ at the same time – either way the 63-year-old needs to find a way of balancing out his midfield, even if that means leaving some star names on the bench.
Kick-start Ross Barkley’s career
Does anyone remember Ross Barkley? The former England international who, at one point, was considered to be one of the most exciting young players in the country?
The midfielder has become Everton’s forgotten man and has yet to make an appearance for The Toffees this season despite their on-pitch woes. He was expected to move to Chelsea on transfer deadline day but pulled out of a deal at the last minute despite having arrived in London and completed a medical.
However, upon his return to Goodison Park Barkley was certainly not welcomed back with open arms by Ronald Koeman who instead opted to freeze the 24-year-old out of the first team picture entirely.
No one doubts that Barkley has an abundance of technical ability, creativity and talent but his career has stagnated over the previous eighteen months to such an extent that the football world appears to have completely forgotten about him. He was often criticised for his inconsistency and poor decision making and yet he is more than capable of evolving into one of England’s best central midfielders.
The appointment of Sam Allardyce may just provide Barkley with a fresh start and an opportunity to kick-start his career – possibly providing Everton with a rejuvenated and motivated midfield star.
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