Sam Allardyce saw his seven-match unbeaten streak end yesterday after Everton slipped to a 2-1 defeat away at AFC Bournemouth, in the process giving up as many goals as the Blues had in four wins and three draws previously.
Speaking to evertontv ahead of the New Year’s Day clash at Goodison Park against Manchester United, the manager sounded worried about balancing squad rotation with putting out enough quality to take on the Red Devils.
“It is a big ask. There is a lot of fatigue in the team. Everybody will be suffering at the moment.
“I can change the team an awful lot but the players I might put in, I would not know how well they would or would not play because I have not been here long enough.
“And a lot of the rest of the squad have not got a lot of Premier League experience, so we will have to try to calculate the right team for Monday and hope it goes and performs to its best, because they will need to against Manchester United.
“I am still learning about the players. Some of the players have received [new ideas from Allardyce] quite well. Some are not getting anywhere near the squad or subs bench. They have got to stay fit and capable of stepping in because there is another game in 48 hours.
“The bottom line is... we have to be a very good defensive side because our squad is not blessed with goals. In our team at the moment, we do not have two very good goalscorers.
“We will always have to be defensively sound between now and the end of the season because we are not going to be a free-scoring side. We might create the chances but we do not have the goalscorers you need to convert those chances and that is what we are missing at the moment.”
Doesn’t sound like Big Sam is confident that any midfielders and forwards we bring in during the January transfer window will necessarily make a difference, which is an odd statement to make.
Allardyce added that he saw some improvement in the offensive outlook of the side, but bemoaned that it came at the expense of the defensive rigidity that he has preached from his first day at the club.
“Yes [there was an improvement in the passing against Bournemouth], but it cannot be in the shape of losing your defensive responsibility. If you open yourself up and make as many sloppy passes as we did, you create more of a threat on your own players and leave more spaces for the opposition, which is exactly what happened for Bournemouth’s second goal.
“The passing did get better but it was not as good as I would expect with the quality of these players. I would have expected them to have moved the ball and kept it better – and created more, which we did in the second half but not really in the first.
“It was a disappointing day, not just the result – I would have expected us to have done better in terms of creating and getting opportunities to score."
The manager also added that he would continue to be cautious with using players returning from long layoffs due to injury.
“Oumar did improve us. Our service to him and attacking play could have been better but what he did get caused Bournemouth more of a threat, which was good to see.
“You must not forget, these players [McCarthy and Bolasie] are not match fit. We are juggling the balls in the air. James played for 60 minutes at Chelsea and felt his hamstring, which was the only reason I gave him 45 minutes.
“He could have gone on longer but, if he came off after 60 minutes last time, I was not going to take that risk again. We have been waiting a long time to get him back.
“Yannick Bolasie has been out for more than 12 months and is very rusty indeed. We are juggling around players who cannot last 90 minutes, as well as players who are fatigued, so it is a difficult job we have at this moment in time.
“We have made a miraculous recovery, let’s not forget, from the position I started in – and we have to overcome this defeat and get back to being both resilient when we have not got the ball and creative when we do have it.”
It’s only fair that we give Allardyce at least the January transfer window to make the improvements he sees fit before we pillory the choices he’s made tactically, but it does appear that the honeymoon period is over for the new manager and the bitter realities have set in with the winter.