Everton have the joint second-worst away record in the Premier League, tied with the side they visit this weekend Stoke City. Of the eight points the Blues have picked up away from home this season, three came from the solitary road win at Newcastle.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the game, manager Sam Allardyce spoke about the measures being taken to overcome the Toffees poor form when not at the comfortable confines of Goodison Park (where they are seventh best in the League this season).
“I think it’s fear away from home. I think the fear kicks in, which is why I thought we’d get a result against Burnley. Getting the first goal I thought would be the release.
“You have to find a balance between complacency and fear. You lie in the middle, which is anxiety. You have to be anxious before the game, but not too fearful. Too fearful and you freeze. Too complacent, it’s just as bad as being too fearful. Fear can do many things to a player on the field of play, where it looks like he has frozen and can’t deliver what he can.”
Interestingly, no mention of his exceedingly negative squad selection and tactics when away, even when playing teams mired in the bottom half of the table.
He went on to add that the players are getting psychological assistance from his staff.
“They are getting some help. We have used our in-house sports psychologist who has been here for quite some time and slowly he is integrating himself with some of the sessions with the players.
“I hope it will have an affect on how we achieve a result. I think everything in the world of football today revolves around coping with the pressure. The way you cope with the pressure is being able to focus, and if the sports psychologist allows them to focus on the positives rather than the negatives around them, then it gives them a better chance of delivering a performance.
“We have tried a number of things – change of system, change of personnel, I think the change of mentality is the big one, we have been using a bit more working on the mind in the analysis room, Who we are, what do we want to get, what do we want to achieve. The main aim is visualising your performance and visualising the performance that you give at the top level. Thinking about that to yourself in a positive frame of mind before you run out on a Saturday. All the preparation tactically and technically is fine, but if the player spends a little more time thinking about his best performance and putting himself in the right frame of mind then that best performance will have a better chance of being delivered.”
It’s been over three full months since Allardyce started at the Blues and we’re yet to see a turnaround in away fortunes. Away at a freezing cold Stoke on Saturday that will desperately scrabbling for points sitting in 19th place will be a good test to see if the psychological therapy is working or not.