When you take a look at the home and away Premier League tables so far this season ahead of Everton’s trip to face Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, it is clear to see why the Toffees are currently in ninth position and six points behind seventh-place Burnley with eight matches of the season remaining.
The Merseyside outfit would have been aiming to compete for the top four spots before the campaign got underway considering the money they spent during the summer transfer window, and having comfortably secured a seventh-place finish under Ronald Koeman last term.
They currently have the seventh-best home record in the Premier League with 29 points from their 15 matches, and while it isn’t perfect, if they had come close to replicating that on the road then they would be above sixth-place Arsenal and in a similar position to fifth-place Chelsea.
However, they have instead taken just eight points on their travels and won just once in 15 fixtures, and that is one of the main reasons why their season has been so disappointing.
Koeman was fired at the end of October following a disastrous start to the 2017/18 campaign which had seen them on the brink of exiting the Champions League, as well as hovering above the relegation zone in the top flight with summer additions like Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez struggling to shine.
Fast forward to end of November when Sam Allardyce replaced caretaker manager David Unsworth and things instantly improved, with the Toffees looking stronger in defence and picking up 10 points from a possible 12 in the 63-year-old first four Premier League matches in charge at Goodison Park.
There was a marked improvement away from home too with draws against Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion and their maiden victory against Newcastle United at St James’ Park, but things went downhill from December 30 onwards.
Six straight away defeats in all competitions have followed, including 4-0 and 5-1 thrashings against Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal respectively.
It has been a completely different story at home however, with a 2-0 loss against Manchester United being followed by the Merseyside outfit once again taking 10 points from the last 12 available on their own patch.
That run has included relatively comfortable 2-1, 3-1 and 2-0 successes against Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion respectively, with the likes of Theo Walcott and Gylfi Sigurdsson impressing far more there than they have on the road.
So why have things been so different home and away for Everton under Allardyce in 2018?
Well, the former England boss believes it is a mental problem and he says his players have undergone psychological therapy in order to try and turn their fortunes around.
While this and a general lack of confidence may be partly to blame seeing as they have only one win in 15, at the end of the day it is just another pitch with two goals at either end and it can’t solely be blamed on mental issues.
The fact that they took the lead against Burnley before eventually losing 2-1 earlier this month would make an argument against this point, as the advantage should have given the players a big lift on the pitch.
Of course, them knowing how vulnerable they have been on the road would also have played on their minds, but Allardyce must take some of the blame for many of his decisions too.
Against Tottenham in January, he lined up with an attacking XI in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Yannick Bolasie, Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson supporting new boy Cenk Tosun on his full debut.
It was tactically naïve from the experienced Allardyce, who divided the opinions of the fans after the game, against an in-form Spurs side who ripped them to shreds, but most confusingly for the visitors was the fact that they failed to muster a single shot on target throughout the 90 minutes considering the line-up and individuals they had on the pitch.
It suggested that the players were confused at how the 63-year-old wanted them to play, and he perhaps should have put more bodies in the central midfield area so they weren’t open so defensively and had more control of the ball seeing as they made little impact in the final third.
It also probably wasn’t the best idea to give a player that was new to the Premier League his full debut in such a tough game.
The former England manager didn’t learn his lesson against Arsenal three weeks later though, beginning with a 3-4-3 formation with three centre-backs and just two players in the middle of the park, which saw them trail 4-0 after 37 minutes.
They were certainly better in the second half following a change of tactics, but it is something that Allardyce hasn’t quite got right on more than one occasion, and perhaps has shown up his limitations both as a manager and as the man that can lead Everton forward in the future.
Chopping and changing formations and personnel on the road doesn’t work in terms of consistency, and having been in charge since November he should have worked out the system that suits the individuals and the team best on their travels, but he has failed to do so.
That said, their decent home record may suggest to some that he deserves an opportunity to get things right on the road, and if he does the Merseyside outfit could be quite a force next term.
In conclusion, yes the mentality of the players is clearly an issue, but Allardyce must shoulder a fair chunk of the blame as well from a tactical and motivational point of view, and he will be hoping to put an end to the dire run against a struggling Stoke on Saturday.