The arrival of Sam Allardyce at Everton has been a resounding success, in the short term at least. Not only has the team grown a backbone and shown some resolve on the pitch, the results have markedly improved and most interestingly, more and more players are coming out and complimenting the new manager for helping them get better.
We heard some horror stories after Ronald Koeman was sacked about the Dutchman being an absolute martinet at Finch Farm with players waiting to eat at the cafeteria. David Unsworth after him was very popular with the players, but it appeared he had a hard time getting across tactical instructions to players.
Under Allardyce, some rigour was brought back into the players’ routine and the team’s future immediately got rosier. And now on an almost daily basis we’re hearing players complimenting the manager and his style, and crediting Big Sam for their personal resurgence.
Cuco Martina, a signing widely panned by fans and pundits alike, has stepped up a level or two in Leighton Baines’ injury-enforced absence and has done well recently.
“He has come here with a game plan and he is really clear on that. We understand each other much better, we know that we need to win and keep a clean sheet. Defensively we are strong and we don’t concede quick goals.
“He is a really good coach and is clear and explains everything really well. We understand each other much better, defensively and in the forwards. You can see that many players are scoring, and we are stronger defensively.
“My confidence has grown more, I need to learn more, but I think I am in the right way now.”
Aaron Lennon, another forgotten member of the Blues squad, has become an attacking force on the right, creating chances and goals alike.
“He [Allardyce] has been great and so have all the staff who have come in. They’ve been showing me clips on how to improve and the spaces to get in and where to run and so on. They’ve really helped me since they came in.
“I think my fitness is getting up there now. I feel sharper, I feel stronger in the games, personally I just feel a lot better in the games, and I think I’m playing well again.”
Ashley Williams was looking like he belonged at the bottom of the scrap heap during the last days of Koeman’s tenure, but Allardyce’s defensive structure has him looking halfway decent again.
“We have had a good run and we want to maintain that. We are not going to be saying that ‘we want to get to here, or do this’.
“It is about shortening the season into smaller blocks and then going even shorter than that, looking at the next game and focusing on that to keep the momentum going.”
Gylfi Sigurdsson has finally started looking like the player Everton were hoping to have when they shelled out a club record transfer fee for the Iceland international in summer.
“We were lacking confidence and results, and things were not going our way. There was just something missing. But as a team, and personally as well, things are better at the moment.
“If we continue what we have been doing on the training field and in matches for the past couple of weeks, we will hopefully have a good Christmas period – and take that form into January.
“We have more confidence and organisation. And we all know what the manager wants from us defensively – and offensively as well."
So what has his secret been? Apparently he’s already said it a few days ago and we missed it while it was visible in plain sight - Allardyce’s supporting cast.
“It’s not rocket science, it’s simplifying and making things easier for players to make decisions to win back confidence, get results and take us forward.
“Then there’s those other things about finding space, making space, closing down the opposition and showing players how it’s done.
“Not just on the field of play today but visually through the technology I use and the amount of work the analysts use.
“They’ve been on overtime since I’ve been here. I don’t think they’ve had much sleep but they’ve delivered a fantastic amount of information for the players to look at and take that on to the pitch. We haven’t been able to spend too much time on the training ground because we’ve got so many games at the moment so the analysts are delivering visuals on a constant basis and that’s been working.”
While critics continue to give Allardyce stick for playing long-ball, Route 1 football, when Everton play such it’s not an accident. The manager has a plan and feels that might be the best way to expose their opponents on the day, and manages to execute it with a dose of humour as well.
Many Blues, including yours truly here, owe Big Sam an apology for jumping to hasty conclusions about his style of play. It appears he has come in with a solid strategy and knows exactly what he is doing with this talented yet disjointed squad, which is more than can be said about an Everton manager for the last few years.