Everton v Crystal Palace. The Everton Forum preview feat. a rant about Allardyce, a plea to Allardyce, a few other bits and something about Palace injuries
This week, following another in a lengthening line of disgraceful results, Toffees manager Sam Allardyce conceded that Everton, a team who just about everybody expected to finish 7th this season, simply cannot compete with the league’s 6th best team, Arsenal.
A few days later he mentioned that the blues ‘need to win’ the game I’m about to preview against Crystal Palace to ‘stave off the threat of relegation’ and also produced another cracker earlier in the week when he went public in stating that Everton’s season, in the first week of February, with 12 games to play is ‘a write off’.
In a strange way, when you hear or you read some the daft stuff that he says, you wonder how Allardyce hasn’t talked his way into trouble before in his managerial career…
Anyway, I’d love to know what Everton’s majority shareholder Farhard Moshiri, already hundreds of millions deep into his Everton ‘project’ really thinks of Allardyce’s ‘ambitious’ comments, but all I know is the reaction from blues on social media said enough – the man simply doesn’t get it, he is too small-time for Everton and the quicker he’s gone, the better.
Of course, Sam Allardyce may well keep this Everton team in the Premier League, but let’s have it right, is that really an achievement? Is it even worth talking about?
I know there’s barely a single spine among our squad and I do wonder how much they really care about Everton, but they’re not a terrible crop of footballers who scream relegation at me – no matter how desperate Allardyce seems for a relegation battle.
Going into this weekend’s fixtures, having already played 10 of our 12 matches against the mini-league that is the top 6 (with the remaining 2 matches versus the top 6 at home) we’re 5 points away from 7th. Yet, the fact this manager chooses instead to focus on the relegation places 7 points below us in his pre-match press conference comments says it all about him.
Anyway, my apologies for the ranty intro (it’s been one of those weeks), so let’s get onto this week’s match…
Our 14th-placed guests for Saturday’s 3pm kick off arrive at L4 for a Saturday 3pm kick off having had an unfortunate week to supplement a few weeks of bad luck on the injury-front.
Wilfried Zaha, undoubtedly Crystal Palace’s most effective attacking player, has been sidelined with a knee problem which he picked up (and perhaps foolishly played through) last weekend against Newcastle.
Initially, there were fears that the Ivorian could be looking at a prolonged spell of 2-3 months on the sidelines, but fortunately for him and for Palace, it looks like the winger will be back in action within 4-6 weeks.
Still, when you consider Palace haven’t won a game without Zaha since September 2016, it’s most definitely going to be a testing period for an already injury-plagued Palace squad. A period when, in addition to the game with us on Saturday, Palace face 4 of the top 6 as well as a ‘6 pointer’ against Huddersfield.
Whilst the absence of Zaha will get the headlines going into this game, it could be said that he’s just the tip of the iceberg as Palace boss Roy Hodgson will also be unable to call on 8 others; Martin Kelly, Julian Speroni, Jeffrey Schlupp, Scott Dann, Jason Puncheon, Bakary Sako, Rueben Loftus-Cheek and Connor Wickham.
Never the less, they’re a still capable Premier League unit, guided by a very experienced manager in Roy Hodgson, who won’t let them wallow in self-pity as the season enters it’s all-important final third.
In the absence of his best attacking player, most would suggest that Hodgson will primarily be looking to his powerful Belgian centre forward, Christian Benteke to provide the biggest threat for his side.
It hasn’t been the best of seasons so far for Benteke, but he’s the kind of streaky player who can be totally anonymous for months and then suddenly go on a goalscoring spree. Every man and his dog know his strengths; powerful, strong in the air, brings others into play and occupies defenders. But, the thing that’s been lacking too often when I’ve seen him this campaign has been his work rate and his ability to finish.
I know plenty have said Everton should go and get Benteke and I agree that, on top form, he’s just the sort of striker we need however, it’s just that lack of consistency and the too-frequent tinge of ‘I can’t be bothered’ about him which put me off.
Still, he seems to enjoy playing Everton, so I definitely won’t be writing him off ahead of this one because he can be boss, when he wants to.
With Zaha, Sako and Loftus-Cheek unavailable, the job of supplying bullets to the powerful Belgian is likely to fall to Andros Townsend, Yohan Cabaye and Palace’s athletic wing backs; Patrick Van Aanholt and Tim Fosu-Mensah.
In terms of who takes Zaha’s berth in the Palace starting 11, I think it’s most likely we’ll see Hodgson select the South Korean squad player, Lee Chung-Yong, who’ll be eager to impress ahead of the World Cup and may also be boosted by a sense of national pride after the 2018 Winter Olympics kicked off in his homeland on Friday.
However, if the South Korean is overlooked, Hodgson does have other options…
– He could change to a back 3, bringing his wing backs into the offensive third more
– He could put one of those attacking wing backs into an offensive wing position
– He could try one of his new untried Scandinavian January signings; Alexander Sorloth or Erdal Rakip.
But if I were to have a guess, I think we’ll see Palace line up with; Hennessey in goal, a flat back four of Fosu-Mensah, Tomkins, Sakho and Van Aanholt, a combative midfield trio of Cabaye, Milivojevic and McArthur, with Chung-Yong, Benteke and Townsend in the advanced positions.
It’s one of those teams that doesn’t look like much without Zaha but Palace definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly. They always seem to come to Merseyside and do alright, both against us and them lot from over the way.
Aside from the physical and aerial threat that Benteke offers, the blues will need to be watchful of long range shooting from the likes of Andros Townsend (don’t let him come back onto his left foot), Yohan Cabaye plus Luka Milivojevic and in the Scot, James McArthur, Palace have a player capable of arriving into the penalty area from deep to get on the end of things.
I think we can expect a determined, dogged performance from Palace, who will, as usual be backed by one of the more vocal groups of supporters.
I must admit, Palace are one of the teams I don’t mind too much, even if that ‘derby’ against Brighton is a farce (50 odd miles? Behave) however, their fans vilification of Oumar Niasse following Everton’s penalty incident at Selhurst Park does leave a bit of a sour taste with me. Not least of all when arguably the league’s biggest exponent of the dive usually pulls on their Red and Blue.
Anyway, before I move onto the blues, I couldn’t help but notice a little feud between the two former England managers, Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce because the latter publicly referred to Hodgson as ‘Woy’ and still hasn’t apologised (now, what did I say about Allardyce and opening his mouth?).
Wouldn’t it just be better for everyone if we stuck a boxing ring in the centre circle and watched the two former England managers go at it? Winner gets the permanent and undying affection of Sammy Lee?
Sounds a plan to me, like.
Aside from Sam Allardyce not having a clue about the expectations of this club and this squad of players barely seeming to be bothered about getting battered for what seems like the umpteenth time, what did we learn from the Arsenal debacle?
Well, the one thing that I walked away from the Emirates thinking was, why didn’t he just start as close to the team that won against Leicester as possible?
I know the game was miles gone second half, but we actually looked alright once the back 5 rubbish was put to bed and actually could’ve even scored 2 or 3 to add a false shine to a turd of a first half performance.
The main word in my mind the following day when I tried to make head or tail of this season was, consistency. Whether it be in results, selections, performances, managers or coaches, all season long, we’ve struggled for consistency – and I suppose that is natural when we’re in February and on our third manager…
First we had to balance Europa League, League Cup and Premier League football. Then, when the fixture list did a number on us, Ronald Koeman started trying different things, desperate for something to click to change our fortunes. It didn’t and for whatever reason (I suspect it was more than just the results) Koeman was fired.
Then in came David Unsworth on a temporary basis. Was it just for a tricky fortnight, or was it for longer? Nobody knew, and consequently during his month or so at the helm, the selections, results and performances all felt a bit too random.
Typically, once it was too late, Unsworth finally found something against West Ham. We pulled off a huge and convincing win and then Sam Allardyce took over.
Initially it was okay, Allardyce continued to ride the wave of the West Ham win. More or less picking the same settled team until Christmas when big ol’ Sam broke his surfboard and decided to check into the hotel called rotation.
It backfired, we lost the momentum when playing two poor teams in West Brom and Bournemouth and since then, thanks in-part to another unkind run of fixtures, we just haven’t been able to grasp it back. Just like Koeman and Unsworth before him, Allardyce has played around, desperate for something to click and guess what – it hasn’t.
Leicester at home could’ve been the Eureka moment for him, but then he tried to be clever at Arsenal. He changed it up and bang, we suffered a 5-1 demolition, with the impact on squad morale yet to be discovered (not that the manager cares about that, with some of the ridiculous comments he makes).
So here we are again, approaching another home game with the feeling we must win it. Win it, or worry that another major slump lurks just around the corner.
So now we’ve tried all the chopping and changing, I think we’ve reached the point when it’s time for simple consistency.
So I’d like to ask him; Please, Sam…
Pick a functioning starting 11.
Stick with that starting 11.
Train with that starting 11.
Drill that starting 11.
Make sure everybody that starting 11 knows their role and their exact responsibilities.
We don’t need to be worrying about fixture congestion anymore.
We don’t need to be worrying about anyone else and stopping them. All the aways versus the top 6 are done for us. There needs to be no more manning the barricade seeking a 0-0.
Let’s find things we’re good at.
Home and away, let’s play our starting 11 and have teams worry about us. We have players that teams should be worried about, but they need to be used properly and it’s as simple as that.
If he wants to make changes, he should make 1 or, a maximum of 2 changes to a starting line up, if possible. Keep the identity of the team. Build relationships on the pitch. Let them blossom and reap the rewards!
So for me, this is the 11, I want to see start against Palace:
Tom Davies, as critical as I’ve been of him, needs to be in there as the heartbeat of the side. He’s going to make mistakes and so is Rooney, but in different ways, they can be important players for us in the middle of the park, whilst Gana sets the tone with his energy and can mop up.
At the back, Phil Jagielka might be getting on but he is still our best defender. Now it’s a game a week, just use him and whoever else – probably Mangala as he’s left footed. I know we could do with making Michael Keane work for the outlay, but he just doesn’t convince for more than a game at a time.
Left back is not ideal with Martina but there’s no point even asking for change anymore, until Baines returns Martina is playing there and that’s that. At least on the other side, Coleman’s return is huge for us. He’s hopefully another 10 days along and from here on in, should be the first name on the teamsheet. I gave him the love in last week so I won’t go on and on, but he’s just boss.
Up front, despite Niasse playing well in the reverse fixture to get us a point, I think we need to give Cenk Tosun a chance to settle in to the rigors of the Premier League, so he’s starting the next 6 games for me and then maybe then we’ll reassess.
Out wide, Walcott as already shown he is a quality option from the right, who can hopefully work with Coleman and Sigurdsson, whilst not being a natural left winger does a job (Sam, the stats prove him and Rooney do play well together).
It’s not an 11 that will win us 12 games in a row but I think it can get us to 7th and from here that has to be the aim. Not 17th, for the love of god, Samuel.
As far as what Allardyce is thinking is concerned, who knows… Vlasic must be due his mystery start from absolutely nowhere and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him go with Keane and Niasse, but whatever, I just want to see him pick a team and stick with it.
Anyway, Palace always seems to be a tricky one for us.
I remember in ‘THE Martinez season’ (people always forget the 2 awful ones that followed) we had a game in hand over Arsenal with 4 games to go. The game in hand was newly-promoted Palace at home on a Wednesday night and it would’ve given us a 2 point advantage in 4th place. Needless to say, Martinez, rotated the team and we found ourselves losing 3-2.
The following season, 3 days after we thumped Wolfsburg 4-1 in the Europa League, Crystal Palace again came to Goodison and won 3-2, this time after we’d taken a 1-0 lead through Lukaku.
They haven’t beaten us at Goodison since, but we haven’t beaten them either. Last season we played them on a Friday night and despite taking a 1-0 lead, a fine Benteke header levelled things up, with Palace finishing the stronger.
This time around, we’re much closer to our visitors, with an away win putting them a single point behind us with a better goal difference. Yet, my feelings towards a match like Crystal Palace at home haven’t changed.
This is simply a match Everton should be winning and that’s before we even consider their injury list. So please Everton, just get the job done and then how’s about sticking with the same side at Watford, momentum and all that, eh?
Referee for this one is Jon Moss. What can you say about him? He’s absolutely awful, but credit to him for his excellent display last weekend. Tip-top work that, Jon.
Would you like to discuss the match? Get yourself to The Everton Forum using that link. It’s easy, friendly, you can say what you like and if you can’t even stomach Everton, there’s plenty of other forums there to discuss any stuff! Get yourself on there!
Feel free to follow my personal twitter @gigHaWatt for plenty of Everton ramblings and other rubbish to do with my life on there.