Speaking ahead of the Blues’ second game in four days, Everton manager Sam Allardyce looked back at a strong defensive effort against Chelsea on Saturday.
“It was a terrific effort from the players against Chelsea. I am looking for more quality in possession, but there was some really good effort and organisation and determination.
“We changed the shape of the team at half-time to get two front men on but did not get enough quality into those front men to get into the game a bit more.
“It is time now to work on the talent of the side in possession and get that better. I thought we were really good against Swansea in the second half. It will always be a bit of a struggle against Chelsea but I still think we should have done more in possession.”
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been ploughing a lonely furrow upfront lately, and Allardyce sympathizes.
“I have to give some credit to Dominic up front, who is dead on his feet now, the young man has been playing week-in, week-out.
“He was battling away up there to try to get something [against Chelsea]. The whole team – subs included – have done a great job to get us a valuable point and it keeps spirits up.
“We will move them around a little bit [for the game against West Brom]. Gana is a problem We cannot afford any more injuries. The slightest of injuries now is 10 days-two weeks to recover. In that period of time we have four games. At this time of year, the last thing you want is injuries. People with even small injuries miss four very important football matches. In February or March they only miss two or three in an entire month.”
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Allardyce revealed how he has achieved the remarkable turnaround in defensive fortunes, with a British television gameshow to credit.
“It’s a Phil Schofield – you’ve watched The Cube, haven’t you? It’s to simplify. It’s as simple as that. Why risk trying that when it may fail?
“When you confidence is low don’t risk it, play safe and play the right ball at the right time, do the right thing at the right time, think about what you are doing.
“Have I got space? Bring it down and play it. Can I play it in midfield? Then play it there. If not play it off the front two or in behind.
“Simplify your game in that way, give yourself a bit more time. In other words, if you were five yards further back you would have more time on the ball than you would if you were five yards further forward.“So you will have longer time to make the right decision.“It could be five yards or two yards it could be as little as a side on or square on that makes all the difference in the game to your game when you play.”
Specifically for Keane, Allardyce has used a different method.
“I’ve talked to Michael, it’s not videos. I didn’t want to show Michael what he was doing wrong, I wanted to talk about what he’s got to do to put it right. In group sessions, I put the whole defence under pressure from crosses and balls down the middle.
“I spoke to Michael a couple of times. Being a central defender myself and playing for so many years and having so much information from other coaches and managers over many, many years and knowing what’s the right thing to do and what’s the wrong thing to do, I’m now the coach and the manager to pass that experience on to a Michael Keane and to a Mason Holgate and still remind an Ashley Williams and a Phil Jagielka because we all need a little bit of reminding.”