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Toffees Mailbag: The Unsworth, Rooney & Allardyce episode

Answering all of your relevant, and irreverent, Everton questions.

What an odd feeling.

Waking up Thursday morning after a DECISIVE Toffees victory was surreal after the last two months of losses (with the occasional emotionally draining victory sprinkled in).

Since Ronald Koeman was fired, or better yet since the weeks BEFORE Koeman was shown the door, there has been a seemingly unending flood of reasons to feel negatively about the direction of the club both on and off the pitch.

The search for the manager went from one full of hope and ambition (Tuchel and Silva) to one full of embarrassment and mismanagement, devolving into a scramble to name ANYONE who had some semblance of salience, much less fit the profile of a desirable manager.

Indecision and silence marked the Toffees pursuit of a new man to steer the ship, and all the while the on the field performance began to erode.

By the time it was confirmed Wednesday that Big Sam Allardyce was to be Everton’s next manager, the Toffees were preparing for a MONUMENTAL match against fellow under performers West Ham, being led by none other than former long-term Everton manager David Moyes.

Win, and Everton could put a more comfortable, albeit small, amount of space between themselves and the bottom of the table.

Lose, however, and Sam Allardyce would inherit a team where the only thing in shorter supply than confidence would be points.

The mood before kickoff could be described as a mix of fear, intrigue and hope.

What Everton team would show up to see off their caretaker manager and welcome their new boss, who would be watching from the stands?

The one that that drew Manchester City?

Or the one that lost 4-1 to Southampton?

Thankfully, it was the former and not the latter.

Everton showed up to play, particularly Wayne Rooney (more on that later), and sent off David Unsworth in a manner befitting a man of his immense class.

And let me tell you, Rhino enjoyed every second of it, just as he should have.

Fans can complain about his tactics, bemoan his team selection and berate his substitution patterns, but what they CAN’T argue with is his record..

In 9 matches in charge this season Ronal Koeman amassed a putrid 8 points out a possible 27 (including 5 out of the last 24).

In 5 matches in charge, David Unsworth amassed 7 points.

Does this mean we should have named Unsworth manager for the year?

Absolutely not.

What it DOES mean is that under the most dire of circumstances, with players, oweners and fans alike frustrated to no end, Unsworth found a way to squeeze SOMETHING out of the players, keeping Everton safely in mid-table until Big Sam’s ultimate appointment.

When you consider just how low Everton fans felt over the course of the last two months, his efforts deserve a standing ovation.

Which he got:

Of course, in true Unsworth fashion, he put the focus right back on the squad.

I just have one more thing to say to David Unsworth:

To your questions!!

I would venture to guess that you are not the only Everton fan having that thought today as the realization that the team sit a mere two points out of ninth begins to settle in.

Let me start off by saying that I have never been excited about the idea of Big Sam taking over at Everton. His approach to the game does not bring enthusiasm, and simply appointing him manager was a sign to some that the Moshiri regime may not be as ambitious as first thought.

The appointment of Big Sam COULD be seen as an abject failure leading to an imminently larger downturn......


It’s OBVIOUSLY a big butt

Everton v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

(Sorry...back on track....)

The situation could work itself out beautifully.

Big Sam, motivated by the chance to take over such a talented team in his first foray back into coaching since his England debacle, works harder than ever before and instills in the team the backbone it needs to endure the season.

The team certainly won’t sparkle in the attack, but assuming the aforementioned backbone is built, the team should have no trouble finding the results necesarry to finish comfortably mid-table.

These events and ultimate finish, while far the from preseason visions of European glory and an assault on the Top 6 (go get ‘em Burnley), would be a welcome calm respite from the roller-coaster of emotions the team has put fans through this season.

Following a mid-table finish, and credited with bringing stability to Everton after a rocky start, Allardyce’s stock would be at it’s highest and Everton could part ways to let him find a club more suited to his presence for the long-term while Moshiri and Co. close the deal with Marco Silva, Paulo Fonseca or another young coach looking to build a long-term legacy.

Sure, the above story sounds too good to be true, but after everything this season has already put me though you will excuse me for thinking karma may just be coming back around the Toffees way!

So, in conclusion, I would suggest compartmentalizing those thoughts of buyers remorse into the far reaches of your subconscious and getting behind the new manager, forever long he may be here.

Just remember.....

That may be the million dollar question.

The basic thought coming into the season was that Wayne Rooney woudl operate mostly as a #10, or as a second striker, with the occasional foray as a out-and-out stiker, or #9.

With Gylfi Sigurdsson, the teams best #10, struggling to make the impact out wide in order to get Rooney into the team, fans began clamoring for Rooney to be benched.

Which Unsworth had done the last two matches, including last weekend’s embarrassing 4-1 thumping at Southampton when Rooney didn’t even get off the bench.

After a fast start to the season, Rooney first ran into legal trouble, then an apparent loss of form.

That all changed Wednesday, however, when the life-long Evertonian scored one hell of an impressive hat trick, well, outside of the first goal when he put in his own poorly take PK that is.

For his second goal, Rooney made an impressive run from his midfield position to get into a spot to tuck home his brace.

That is just the type of midfield scoring the Toffees have been crying out this season.

After halftime, Rooney expanded his area of cover even more, popping up everywhere from between the center backs to the forward position.

Mostly though he seemed to be operating as almost a #8, guiding the play from midfield.

Which is exactly where Rooney was when former England #1 Joe Hart’s clearance came to him just on his half on the field.

Without taking a touch to settle, Rooney hit one of the sweetest goals you will ever see.

I would love to set aside that goal as some aberration, but when considering how to deploy Rooney’s unique skill set we have to factor in EVERYTHING.

Like his fairly impressive Minutes Per Goal Stats. He’s no Oumar (who is, right?) but he is scoring once every two games. A good return on the minimal investment we had to make for him.

Oh....or you can put it this way....

Ultimately though, I think Big Sam will roll out a simple lineup with Gylfi and Aaron Lennon out wide and some mix of Idrissa Gueye, Tom Davies and Morgan Schneiderlin pairing up in the middle.

I could be wrong but in this instance Rooney would be playing with the kind of freedom he enjoys (though the team always doesn’t as it stresses the shape) underneath either Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Oumar Niasse.

My hope, however, is that once the Toffees get their collective swagger back the team WILL be able to absorb Rooney in a depper role in certain games, taking advantage of him passing range and well-timed runs much like against West Ham.

Your guess is as good as mine, but right now I would bet Sam is asking Wayne to pair up with Oumar and go dig out some goals while he gets the defense sorted out.

Judging by their production thus far, ther is no reason to think they won’t get it done.

Ok, that’s a lie, there are plenty of reasons, but I am going to stay optimistic on this one!

When news broke of Big Sam’s imminent arrival, one of my biggest interests was in the length of contract he would be signing. The length would be a direct tell as to Moshiri’s view of the direness of the situation at hand and how he thougth Allardyce’s tenure would pan out:

4 years: I have no idea what’s happening, save me Sam

3 years: It’s expensive, but I can fire him in 18 months and it won’t be out of the ordinary

2 years: I am going to give this guy a real chance to prove himself

18 months: Thanks for signing on to keep the team firmly mid-table for the rest of this season while we all you to rebuild your brand. We will be buying your contract out at the end of 18 months (see the first question.)

I genuinely do think that this is the plan Moshiri had in mind and Big Sam is only coming in because Unsworth was unable to prove himself able to steady the ship until the end of the season.