When your team only has one shot on target in three matches yet the manager says they need to be MORE boring, you know you’re in trouble.
Sam Allardyce left plenty of Evertonians scratching their heads with his comments in the wake of last weekend’s 4-0 thrashing against Tottenham.
Allardyce suggested his team were too open, too attacking, and a back-to-basics defensive approach was needed against West Brom this weekend.
This raised all sorts of questions for me. Firstly, if you’re going to play open expensive football, I’d advise against doing so against one of the best attacking teams in the country containing one of the most in-form strikers in Europe.
Secondly, if that was an open expansive display, how come the team once again failed to have a shot on target and struggled to get out of their own half?
Thirdly, why choose to open up against a team like Tottenham yet play three defensive midfielders against Bournemouth, who hadn’t won in their previous nine matches?
Allardyce is already facing an uphill task convincing supporters of his long-term value given the initial opposition to his appointment, so comments like that are not going to help his cause.
What will ease the pressure though is results. An eight-game unbeaten run in the wake of Allardyce’s arrival helped, but four straight defeats - three in the league - have dragged Everton back into trouble.
Somehow, they remain ninth. But defeat on Saturday coupled with other results going against them could see the Toffees tumble back into the bottom half.
In one sense, this miserable season is already a write-off, with all hopes of a trophy gone and chances of a top six finish eviscerated.
But the team can’t afford to sleep walk back into a relegation battle. Get to 40 points as soon as possible and the planning for next season can begin.
Planning that should try to ensure the mistakes of this year are never repeated.
When West Brom sacked Tony Pulis in November they will have hoped the ‘new manager bump’ would have eased some of the pressure enveloping the Hawthorns.
That’s exactly what happened at Everton for example, while Roy Hodgson quickly got Crystal Palace up and running.
But when the Baggies turned to another one of the old guard, Alan Pardew, it didn’t quite work out that way.
Pardew failed to win any of his first 10 games in charge (though in slight mitigation he only lost four), with his first victory coming at Exeter in the FA Cup before last weekend’s defeat of Brighton.
That 2-0 victory was their first Premier League win since August and moved the club to within two points of safety.
This is the Baggies’ best run in the top division since the late seventies/early eighties. But if they are to secure an eight successive season in the top flight, much improvement is needed in the second half of the season.
Pardew has yet to make a signing this month, though any transfer business may be resting on Jonny Evans’ potential departure.
The Northern Ireland defender has been linked with a move to Man City, though any funds are likely to be diverted towards bolstering a forward line that has scored just 18 goals this season - the third lowest in the division.
With trips to Chelsea and Man City to come in the next few weeks, as well as an FA Cup game at Anfield next Satuday, it’s not getting any easier for the Black Country side.
The relegation scrap is well and truly on, meaning Everton will be facing an opposition fighting for their lives.
Sam Allardyce has confirmed Michael Keane is available again after recovering from a foot injury.
The Toffees boss remained tight-lipped though when asked whether Theo Walcott would be named in the starting line-up.
After making his debut last week it’s likely Cenk Tosun will retain his place and make his Goodison bow.
Seamus Coleman is back in training after his broken leg but isn’t quite ready to return.
Predicted starting XI
Pickford, Kenny, Holgate, Jagielka, Martina, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Bolasie, Walcott, Sigurdsson, Tosun.
Although I did despair at Allardyce’s “boring” comments, it at least shows some awareness as to the importance of this match.
After letting things slide over the past few weeks, Everton find themselves almost back where they started when Allardyce took over.
This is a game they simply have to win and, looking at the two teams, they should.
That would lift Everton on to 30 points, a significant milestone in the grim footrace towards safety.
I admit I will take a ‘boring’ performance if it means we will win.
But, like much of this season, would should be aiming for much higher than that.