Whatever you say about the Everton manager, you will be hard-pressed to find a manager in the Premier League who regularly flip-flops with as much alacrity as Sam Allardyce.
It was just about a month ago that he said this about his two main playmakers Gylfi Sigurðsson and Wayne Rooney and their places in the squad -
“... in midfield you have to be able to cover the ground. I think Rooney and Gylfi playing together are very shrewd, very clever and talented players but in actual terms of covering the ground it is difficult – it’s not their strength.
“So I have to make a big decision on who plays this one and who plays for next one. For me, Gylfi has been trudging away outside on the left side, so play him in the position he wants to play and see what he can do.”
That got the fans certainly very interested - after all, why did the Blues then go out and pursue the Iceland attacking midfielder for a club record transfer fee late in the summer transfer window after club talisman Rooney had already returned to the side?
With Everton under Sam Allardyce primarily using the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 when both players start, the Toffees’ record is 5 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss in the seven games that the pair have both started.
Here’s every Premier League game under Big Sam -
- vs Huddersfield Town - won 2-0, 4-1-4-1; Sigurdsson (LW) [Goal], Rooney (ILW) [Assist]
- at Liverpool - drew 1-1, 4-4-2 double-6; Sigurdsson (LW), Rooney (RW) [Goal (pen)]
- at Newcastle - won 1-0, 4-2-3-1; Sigurdsson (LW), Rooney (CAM) [Goal]
- vs Stoke City - won 3-1, 4-2-3-1; Sigurdsson (LW) [Goal], Rooney (CAM) [Goal, Assist]
- vs Chelsea - drew 0-0, 4-1-4-1; Sigurdsson (LW)
- at West Bromwich Albion - drew 0-0, 5-3-2, Sigurdsson (CAM)
- at AFC Bournemouth - lost 1-2, 4-3-3; Sigurdsson (LW), Rooney (CAM) - on at HT
- vs Manchester United - lost 0-2, 4-3-3; Rooney (LM)
- at Tottenham Hotspur - lost 0-4, 4-2-3-1; Sigurdsson (LW), Rooney (CAM)
- vs West Brom - drew 1-1, 4-2-3-1; Sigurdsson (CAM)
- vs Leicester City - won 2-1, 4-2-3-1, Sigurdsson (LW) Assist, Rooney (LDM)
- at Arsenal - lost 1-5, 5-4-1;
- vs Crystal Palace - won 3-1, 4-2-3-1; Sigurdsson (LW) Goal, Rooney (LDM)
And here is the team’s record when Sigurdsson and Rooney, separately and together -
- Sigurdsson starting - P11, W5, D4, L2 - 3 goals, 1 assist
- Rooney starting - P10, W5, D3, L2 - 3 goals, 2 assists
- Sigurdsson and Rooney both starting - P7, W5, D1, L1 - 6 goals, 3 assists
Everton’s biggest issue at the beginning of the season appeared to be the two #10s getting in each other’s way upfront. However, as the season has gone on, we’ve seen Sigurdsson settling into his role in the team and Rooney’s legs get more and more leaden.
Now it looks like that not only do the pair fail to score or assist when they are not playing together, they have gotten into a groove with Rooney playing a more recessed role in the midfield while Tom Davies has been the attack dog that chases the ball and harasses the opposition defenders when in possession.
For the Blues, using Sigurdsson as a left winger provides an interesting conundrum. The Icelander is not a mobile threat like Theo Walcott on the right, so as long as Gylfi is out there Everton will be lopsided to the right when attacking. Now if the Blues had an attacking threat at the left back position, things could get really interesting. However, there would also be a sever risk if that fullback got caught up high, then an opponent would have only Sigurdsson and possibly Rooney to beat before they could be in our box. Uh oh.
Our tactical analysis expert Adam has an interesting take on this - he proposes switching the ambidextrous Walcott over to the left where his work ethic will cover for the defensive frailties. Then, move Sigurdsson over to the right, where Coleman can make overlapping runs while Gylfi cuts inside, and since Davies predominantly is on the right too, he can help cover defensively.
Either way, to win football games you need to get your best players on the pitch, and for Everton this means Sigurdsson and Rooney need to play in every game remaining.