Is Allardyce the right man for Everton?
The 2017/18 season wasn’t supposed to go like this. With Ronald Koeman at the helm, a £133 million summer spending spree and 14 new players, this was going to be the campaign that saw the club make a serious push to break into the top six. If you’d told Everton fans back in August that they’d flirt with relegation and end up with Sam Allardyce in charge, they would have looked at you with horror – but that’s where we are.
In terms of league position, Allardyce has done what he was appointed to do and steadied the ship. When he took over on 23rd October, the team were 18th, but by the time they beat Brighton on 10th March, they were up to tenth. It’s also fair to point out that Allardyce is a more complicated and sophisticated manager than he’s given credit for; indeed, he couldn’t have remained a top-flight manager for so long if he was a simple long-ball man.
However, this time around, a cosy mid-table position feels like a failure. Given the massive investment in the club, Everton fans expect better. Although the squad is unbalanced – for which Koeman must take some of the blame – there is enough talent there to make relegation an unlikely prospect, even in the dark days of early October. When you consider that Koeman had to face both Manchester clubs, Tottenham and Chelsea in his first five games, it was always likely that 18th was a false league position for Everton.
What has Allardyce brought to the club? It took him a month or so to get to grips with the team, but they gradually began to look more solid, and in a run of seven games between the end of November and Boxing Day, they conceded just two goals. That form was enough to guide them to mid-table, and Big Sam had pretty much achieved what he was appointed for.
Unfortunately, since then the team has looked less certain. They’ve lost six of their last ten, conceding 19 goals in the process, and fans have become increasingly restless with the style of play. A safety-first approach is fine when relegation threatens, but as that danger has receded, the cautious Allardyce style has seemed a little redundant. Everton have had 280 shots on goal this season, the second worst record in the Premier League.
His attempts to produce a more attacking style have been unconvincing, and strange tactical decisions and failed team selection experiments have characterised the team in 2018. This reinforces the suspicion that Allardyce, while skilled at helping clubs to avoid relegation, is less adept at creating teams capable of challenging for a top six spot.
While Allardyce has his strong points, he doesn’t feel like the right fit for the club at this point. Next season, fans will want to club to be pushing the Big Six hard and maybe also targeting one of the two domestic cup competitions. For those who like to bet on an outsider to win the FA Cup or Carabao Cup, Everton should be a tempting option.
Given the money that has been invested and the club’s stated ambitions, fans are not likely to be satisfied with another safety-first mid-table finish next season. For that reason, Everton should be looking for a new manager this summer.