Whether or not Everton fans wholeheartedly approved of the appointment of Sam Allardyce as their manager last month, it was clear that the former England manager would satisfy one of the Toffees’ dire needs: defensive organisation.
When Allardyce was appointed – just before the home game with West Ham that he didn’t actually take charge of – Everton had the second-worst goal difference in the league and they had conceded the most goals. They were also two points above the relegation zone after a 4-1 defeat to Southampton. Just a few weeks later, they’ve clambered out of the relegation scrap, and most importantly, they’ve conceded just one goal in all competitions since the new manager’s arrival. Whatever you think about the approach, it’s been some turnaround.
The likes of Ashley Williams, so poor at times under Ronald Koeman and David Unsworth, seems to have found a natural home under Allardyce. And Wednesday night’s trip to Newcastle saw a similarly solid defensive performance.
But away from home in the Premier League, just having a good defence isn’t usually enough to take three points from the game. Last weekend at Anfield, the Toffees were lucky to come away with anything, especially since they conceded a goal in the first half and could barely attack all game. But this midweek, the Toffees showed signs that Allardyce’s side are beginning to find a way to link their defence with their attack.
The performance of Idrissa Gueye, in particular, was interesting.
Seen in the same sort of mould as N’Golo Kante, Gueye covered ground in the midfield and protected his defence, making an impressive five tackles – more than any other Everton player. But interestingly, it wasn’t just his defensive contribution that stood out. Not only did Gueye make the most tackles of any Everton player, he also made the most passes and had the highest pass accuracy of any player in Allardyce’s side against Newcastle, too, showing that his contribution is much more than just winning the ball back. He’s useful on it, too.
The first thing that Allardyce needed to do when he arrived was sort out the defence. After that, you then need to find a way to keep the defensive record solid whilst also providing a threat going the other way, and with a player like Gueye linking the defence with the attack, the new manager may have found a way to do that: and the Senegalese midfielder’s ability to get in on the attacking action by pitching in with a shot and a key pass show that he’s capable of playing that role.
The second phase of the Allardyce revolution at Goodison Park will be to add goals to the side on top of the defensive organisation he’s already installed. And it looks like Gueye will be crucial to that.
If you are putting together an accy for this weekend, hold fire until you’ve seen our recommended coupons! We’ve got a Premier League outright win treble that benefits from LeoVegas Enhanced Odds, plus a banker of an EFL fourfold with odds of nearly 10/1! Check out the latest Football FanCast Accy show and let us know who you’re backing this weekend.