Everton manager Sam Allardyce wasn’t the popular choice among the fans when he succeeded Ronald Koeman in November, following a disastrous start to the campaign under the Dutchman, and then caretaker boss David Unsworth.
The former England boss arrived at Goodison Park renowned for playing a direct style of football that looks to get the ball forward as quick as possible, which can often lead to long balls up to the attackers from the back.
At the time of his appointment, the Merseyside outfit were in 16th position and just two points above the bottom three having conceded 28 goals in 13 Premier League matches.
While the large majority of the Goodison faithful wouldn’t have been happy with the 63-year-old’s appointment, they also knew that he had never suffered relegation from the top flight as a manager and was ultimately a safe pair of hands.
They hosted fellow strugglers West Ham United at the end of November having suffered consecutive 5-1 and 4-1 defeats against Atalanta in the Europa League and Southampton in the top flight respectively, and while confidence was low Allardyce’s presence in the stands saw them cruise to a brilliant – and much-needed – 4-0 win.
Everton took eight points from their next five matches – conceding just two goals – as their new boss got them organised at the back, with their strong defensive performances allowing them to pick up points that they wouldn’t have earlier in the campaign.
Allardyce knew that he needed to find a balance between being solid and also bringing a goal threat too however, but the four straight defeats in all competitions since Boxing Day haven’t exactly been great.
The 2-0 reverse at home to Manchester United was disappointing, but the 4-0 loss against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley last weekend was worse.
While they were weak defensively and struggled to cope with the movement with both teams’ impressive frontlines, Everton also failed to muster a shot on target in either match – something that wasn’t usually an issue under Koeman.
In fact, in Allardyce’s nine Premier League matches in charge so far, his team have managed 36 fewer shots at goal than in the nine games at the start of this season before his Dutch predecessor was given the boot.
All of these statistics would make Toffees fans believe that they need to be more effective in the final third given that they understandably wanted to be treated to entertaining football, but Allardyce believes otherwise.
Following the defeat to Spurs he claimed that perhaps his team need to be “more boring” in the future in order to make sure they aren’t on the end of more results like the one in the capital.
While the Everton supporters wouldn’t have been happy to hear those comments, the 63-year-old does have a point.
The Merseyside outfit currently like 12 points behind Arsenal and the last remaining European qualification spot in the Premier League, while they are seven points above the relegation zone and on a poor run of form right now.
While the Gunners aren’t at their best this season, it would be a huge shock if they surrendered a 12-point advantage to the Toffees in the final 15 top flight matches this season.
Their bid to avoid being sucked back into a relegation battle is more pressing right now, and considering the campaign looks to be a write-off from the point of view of qualifying for Europe, they still need points to ensure they survive.
The visit of West Bromwich Albion to Goodison Park on Saturday is a fine example.
The Baggies picked up their first Premier League win since August against Brighton and Hove Albion to move to within two points of safety, and they will want to follow it up with another three points on Merseyside.
It is the type of match that Everton could easily slip up in if they are set up to be too gung-ho, and Allardyce would much prefer a 1-0 win.
It may not be what the supporters want to see, but preserving the club’s top flight status has to be the principal target in the present moment.
If they pick up the points they need to ensure survival in the next couple of months then they can perhaps take a few risks in the remaining weeks of the campaign, but until that point Toffees supporters need to accept their manager’s tactics and trust him.
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