It goes without saying that Sam Allardyce has worked wonders at Everton during his short spell in charge thus far. During the ten matches in all competitions for which he has occupied the hot-seat at Goodison Park, he has only suffered defeat in three of them (W4, D4).
This includes a seven match unbeaten run immediately after taking charge, with the Toffees defence which had conceded 46 goals in 24 games across all competitions prior to this, keeping five clean sheets in that spell.
Their good run of form has seen the Merseyside outfit surge up the Premier League table under the tutelage of ‘Big Sam’, putting real daylight between themselves and the bottom three and occupying a spot in the top ten.
It is a remarkable turnaround in particular for a defence that struggled under the guidance of previous manager Ronald Koeman and Caretaker Manager David Unsworth, difficulties that were much owed to lop-sided transfer policy back in the summer.
Aside from the acquisitions of Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane, the Everton rearguard lacked significant reinforcements, the ageing regular trio of Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams and Leighton Baines all unable to string together consistent performances.
That aside, the long-term absence of regular right-back Seamus Coleman following injury on international duty thrust youngster Jonjoe Kenny into the mantle, a bewildering start for any youth product having been forced to deliver in a struggling side.
Mason Holgate, another youngster forcibly thrown into the mix by Koeman to try to stem the tide of conceding goals, also found regular football in the Premier League difficult to adapt to.
Add the obvious lack of a prolific forward to replace the departed Romelu Lukaku to that formula, and it is clear to see where the problems lay. The return of Wayne Rooney, plus the heavy investment into recruiting Sandro Ramírez (Málaga), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), and record-signing Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), appeared a waste of resources.
The trio failed to produce in an Everton side that scored just seven times in the opening nine Premier League games of the season prior to Koeman’s dismissal, a lack of productivity that heaped pressure on another youngster at the club, England U-20 World Cup winning striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who struggled to produce.
Only the recall of Oumar Niasse to the side, a striker that Koeman had essentially left out in the cold, provided the Dutchman with a stay of execution, after the Senegalese struck twice to claim a key 2-1 win over Bournemouth in September. Nonetheless, this was a victory which only papered over the obvious cracks.
Since Allardyce has taken the helm, not only has he been able to tighten one of the Premier League’s leakiest defences, but he has started to coax some goalscoring form from the likes of Rooney, Calvert-Lewin, and Sigurdsson.
With Everton now having gone four games without a win, however, including three successive defeats in league and cup to Bournemouth, Manchester United, and local rivals Liverpool, Big Sam will know that he still cannot take the January transfer window lightly and must recruit wisely to continue the club’s remarkable revival.
Despite reinvigorating the club’s crop of forwards, a striker is still high on the list of priorities as it was prior to his arrival, with the club mainly winning games thanks to its ability to defend rather than profiting from a wealth of ot-and-out goalscorers. However, Allardyce has already gone some way toward remedying that need with the £27 million signing of Besiktas frontman Cenk Tosun.
Described by Turkish journalist Emre Saigul, on the Sky Transfer Talk Podcast, as a forward who is ‘physical, two-footed and works himself into the ground’, Allardyce appears to have addressed Everton’s lack of physicality up-front.
Since losing Lukaku, the Toffees have lacked a presence in opposition penalty areas, and Tosun offers that presence in abundance, as well as fitting in to Big Sam’s defensive philosophy by pressing the opposition on the ball and working hard to track back and help the team defend as a unit.
He is no stranger to finding the goal either, having netted 41 times in 96 appearances in the black and white of Besiktas, as well as scoring eight times in 25 appearances for Turkey.
The signing of Tosun equally demonstrates a more sensible use of the club’s funds, with Allardyce telling BBC Sport that the forward was the ‘best available’ at his price. The new manager is clearly keen to avoid the frittering way of resources on players that was visibly going on under Koeman’s management.
Yet that may not be all for Allardyce’s business in the market in terms of strengthening his hand going forward. Sandro Ramírez has struggled to settle in England since arriving from Málaga, Dominic Calvert-Lewin remains talented but rather raw, and Oumar Niasse despite chipping in with important goals has struggled to earn a consistent run in the team.
With a forward’s presence being of importance to Big Sam as well as his ratio of goals, one option Allardyce could do worse than turn to is that of his former colleague at Crystal Palace, Christian Benteke.
The Belgian forward has struggled to recapture the form that he enjoyed under Allardyce at Selhurst Park this season, but with the service he’d enjoy at a re-invigorated Everton, he may prove the final piece of the attacking puzzle at Goodison.
Not only is he a proven goalscorer in the Premier League, but he provides the perfect alternative to Sandro in terms of offering a physical presence, and much like Tosun and more notably Romelu Lukaku, is proficient in the air, an area where the Toffees have struggled to take full advantage this campaign.
The affiliation of the two from their days at Palace would also suggest that Allardyce already has an idea of how to best utilise the attributes of Benteke in his side.
Of course, Olivier Giroud, a transfer target for Everton back in August, may be back on the list of options, but given his impact from the bench for Arsenal this season coupled with Koeman’s failure to bring him to the club over the summer, renders Benteke the far more realistic venture.
In terms of the remainder of his squad, Allardyce appears to have established a balance in the Everton midfield.
Aided by the return to fitness of both Yannick Bolasie and James McCarthy, as well as the return to form of Morgan Schneiderlin, Idrissa Gueye and Gylfi Sigurdsson, Allardyce is getting the best out of his wealth of options, with Davy Klaassen, Ademola Lookman, Tom Davies, and Nikola Vlasic all options in reserve. It is highly likely, therefore, that any further additions would be in defence.
With Seamus Coleman building his fitness following injury and Jonjoe Kenny having excelled under Big Sam in his stead, the right-back position is already in safe hands. Cuco Martina has also been steady if unspectacular in the injury-enforced absence of Leighton Baines, so he may be tempted to stick rather than twist for the time being. The centre-back position, however, is notably vulnerable.
Michael Keane had enjoyed a run in the first-team under Koeman, but unable to adapt to playing out from the back at Everton, has found himself falling down the pecking order under Big Sam, and he was left out of the Everton squad for the FA Cup Merseyside Derby at Anfield.
Ramiro Funes-Mori remains a long-term absentee with a serious knee injury, and Ashley Williams has struggled for form compared to his exploits the previous season, leaving the inexperienced Mason Holgate the only other option to partner club captain Phil Jagielka in the heart of the defence, a player himself who is at the twilight of his career at the age of 35.
Holgate’s inexperience was harshly exposed during Everton’s most recent outing against Liverpool, the youngster giving away a needless spot-kick which handed the Reds the initiative, before being fortunate to escape a red card following a push on Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino.
With all of this in consideration, Allardyce could do worse than bring in one more centre-half to add some reliability to his options and there are several available options in the market that he could target in January.
Of the options that would command a fee, one may be Napoli’s French centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly. The 6ft 5in left-footed defender is known for his ability to play out from the back, and is accustomed to playing a possession-orientated style of football at Napoli.
Although Everton differ in the way they often dig-in against stronger opposition, Koulibaly’s coolness at the back would help Everton retain the ball rather than rush with panicked clearances, an attribute which could make the Toffees all the more deadly on the break.
Everton would have to invest to secure his services, but it is not as if they lack resources under Farhad Moshiri’s majority ownership, it simply begs the question as to whether Allardyce would be so forthcoming with the resources available.
Another centre-back in a similar mould Everton may turn to is Koulibaly’s compatriot at Athletic Bilbao, Aymeric Laporte.
He is another defender who provides an aerial presence but specialises in playing the ball out from the back, the only pitfall being that the Toffees may struggle to influence the player to move to Merseyside should any interest come from elsewhere in the Premier League or in Spain.
Yet, one realistic option should Allardyce turn to Europe, may be Bayer Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah.
The natural centre-half is able to double up as a left-back to help add more depth in that position, and is a defender that typifies what Allardyce defences are all about, with size and aggression in the challenge giving way to composure in possession, not only helping to win back the ball but then rebuild from the back.
The only pitfall in Tah’s case is that he has never played outside the Bundesliga, and it may be a gamble in terms of how he adapts to the added pace and intensity of the Premier League.
Should Big Sam wish to recruit a defender with such experience under his belt, one shrewd signing he’d do well to make would be that of Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson.
Billed as a future England prospect prior to Middlesbrough’s relegation from the Premier League last season, Gibson has subsequently slipped through the net for the Three Lions amidst call-ups for Harry Maguire, John Stones, and Everton’s own Michael Keane.
The Boro have found life back in the second-tier harder than anticipated, and following the sacking of Garry Monk and the appointment of Tony Pulis as manager, they find themselves eighth and in striking distance of the playoffs, with Gibson still an ever-present.
That elusive England cap may seem a way off, but he remains a perfect left-footed option in defence to slot-in alongside any options Everton currently have, and may be the perfect youthful centre-half to feature next to Phil Jagielka and challenge the struggling Keane.
With age on the side of both, it would represent a significant investment into the future of Everton’s defensive partnership, with Keane and Gibson having the potential to form a formidable duo in the long-term. Gibson’s price-tag compared to the options available on the continent, may also render him a realistic option for Big Sam to pursue.
What is for sure is that with only one signing through the door at Goodison so far this January, Allardyce’s transfer business is far from over.
It will almost certainly take until next season for his mark to really show on this Everton side, but in the short-term given Allardyce’s remarkable transformation of Koeman’s struggling squad, Toffees fans can have much to look forward to as the club remain on course for a top-ten finish and a chance of returning to the Europa League for 2018/19.
Sam Allardyce deserves credit for Cenk Tosun treatment
The Turkish international has four goals in his last three games.
Everton can now start building for next season, with the win v Stoke City this weekend. Despite their early season woes, Everton have survived, with the 2-1 win against the Potters Everton have moved to the traditionally safe 40 point mark. One man who is also finally finding his feet at Everton is Turkish striker Cenk Tosun. He scored both of Everton’s goals in the important win.
Signed from Besiktas in January the Turkish international was sidelined by Sam Allardyce early on at Goodison Park. Tosun, who according to Sky Sports cost £27 million, was often named among the substitutes with Oumar Niasse preferred up front. Allardyce explained he was easing Tosun into life in the Premier League, much to the annoyance of some Everton fans.
However, it appears to have worked. Speaking after the game yesterday Allardyce had this to say about his striker:
“The confidence he has gained now from us taking him out early doors [has helped], when everyone was saying ‘you’re not playing him’ – you know, the usual rubbish you get from outside the football club. But, of course, they don’t know. I do, they don’t. We wanted to get him fitter and more used to the players he was playing with.”
It has to be said, Allardyce might be right. Tosun has been brilliant in recent weeks. Adding to his two goals against Stoke the 26-year-old has scored in the recent defeat v Burnley and win against Brighton. Tosun, who scored eight times in 16 league games for Besiktas this season, is finally finding his feet.
Allardyce’s plan all along was to ensure Tosun did not have a struggle early on. If Tosun had been thrown into the first-team, which was playing poorly, with immediate effect it could have been detrimental.
One game without a goal becomes two, then three, then four and so on. Instead Everton ensured that Tosun was comfortable in the team set-up and fit for Premier League action.
Now they are reaping the benefits with Tosun in fine goalscoring form.
If he can keep up his current form it will not be a surprise if he manages to find his way to double figures for Everton this season. That would be a phenomenal feat and one which would certainly validate Big Sam’s often criticised decision.
Everton have found their Romelu Lukaku successor in Cenk Tosun
The Turkish international has now scored four goals in his last three matches.
Cenk Tosun arrived at Everton with a big reputation after performing well for Besiktas in the Champions League.
The striker scored four times and contributed two assists during the group stages of the competition. It was hoped that he could be the player to fill the Romelu Lukaku shaped hole at Goodison Park after he joined for £27 million.
The 26-year-old didn’t make an immediate impact in England, failing to score in his first four matches and found himself out of the starting eleven for a period.
Sam Allardyce remained committed to his big money signing in public, but said that he would remain on the bench until Everton were safe, as shown by this quote reported by the Liverpool Echo:
“He is struggling with the pace of the Premier League which happens to more players than it doesn’t to who come in in January,”
“There are more that struggle than actually succeed. As time goes on and the more we get closer to our safety the more we can release and see what he’s got.”
The manager was true to his word and as the club has moved closer to survival, he has given more minutes to his big-money striker.
It seemed fitting that it was Tosun that scored the goals to take the club to 40-points with a victory over Stoke City on Saturday. There was never any real threat of the Toffees getting relegated, but it will be a relief now they have got to that points mark.
Everton had a one-man advantage for the majority of the match against Stoke City after a first-half red card was given to Charlie Adam. Even after the dismissal, it was a hard-fought game and the visitors didn’t have it all their own way. They didn’t get their first goal until the second-half and it came as a result of a goalmouth scramble.
Tosun showed good anticipation and composure to give his side a lead. His first effort was saved and another shot came in from a team-mate before it fell at his feet to finish the move. It wasn’t the most beautiful goal, but it will be a pleasing one for the striker as he was in the right place at the right time.
It was his second that was a more technical goal as he diverted a diving header past Jack Butland to secure the three points for Everton. He wouldn’t have had the confidence to score it earlier in his Everton career, but it is clear that he is finding himself at Goodison Park and is now offering the threat that he did in Turkey.
The Turkish international has now scored four goals in his last three matches and he is ready to finish the season with a flourish.
Although Everton now have little to play for, it is important that Tosun does adjust to English football ahead of next season. If he didn’t, it would leave the club with a problem over the summer as they would need to decide whether to stick or twist with their striker.
Now, that doesn’t seem like it will be an issue. Everton supporters shouldn’t get too excited, but Tosun has shown during the last few weeks that he has the ability to be Romelu Lukaku’s replacement at the club. He has good awareness in the final third and a goal-scorer’s instinct that could see him score 15 or more Premier League goals every season.
Jack Wilshere’s Everton arrival would surely spell the end for Morgan Schneiderlin?
The Everton midfielder has been a source of frustration at Goodison Park.
The Times has reported this weekend that Everton could be willing to pay a fee of £8 million in order to secure the signature of Jack Wilshere in the summer. That would be in the form of a lucrative signing-on fee to convince him that he should leave his boyhood club.
Wilshere has been offered a new deal at the Emirates Stadium, but it involves a pay-cut. The 26-year-old is said to not be interested in such a deal and could leave Arsenal this summer.
Everton would be a perfect location for the England international but for one Toffees player, it would surely spell the end.
Morgan Schneiderlin has had a troubled time since joining Everton.
The January 2017 signing from Manchester United had an excellent start to life at Goodison Park. However, this season he has been poor and become extremely unpopular with club’s fans.
Considering Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh sanctioned a £22 million move, as reported by the BBC, for the French international, it has not been money well spent.
Wilshere’s signing would undoubtedly spell the end for the Frenchman. However, the reality is, regardless of Wilshere’s potential arrival, Everton should consider moving Schneiderlin on this summer.
His position at the club is looking increasingly untenable. Fans would rather see youngsters like Tom Davies, Callum Connolly, Beni Baningime or currently loaned out Mo Besic get a chance ahead of the 28-year-old.
If Everton can recoup the fee they spent on Schneiderlin it would be good business from the Toffees.
Wilshere’s arrival would be welcomed, but replacing Schneiderlin with any talented midfielder should be a priority for Everton if they are to improve on their performance from this season in 2018/19.
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