If you watch Everton on a week-to-week basis, you’ve probably heard the following conversation on television broadcasts so many times that you want to rip your hair out.
Commentator 1: “As you know, Everton managed by Sam Allardyce. Lots of questions still to be asked in terms of his future at the club. What do you think about the job Allardyce has done at Everton, Commentator 2?”
Commentator 2: “Well, we’ve definitely gotten the sense that the supporters are unhappy with him, but I think you need to look at the results. The Toffees were in 16th place when he joined on and looked like they might be in for a potential relegation battle — and Big Sam has come into the club and stabilized things. He’s focused on their defensive shape, made them much tougher to play against, and the results have followed.”
Listen, most of what some commentator says about Big Sam in literally every match Everton plays is at the very least technically true.
- The Toffees were in 16th place when he was hired (though the club was in 13th by the time he actually managed his first match, following the 4-0 thrashing of West Ham United in David Unsworth’s last game in charge).
- The defensive record under Allardyce has improved — Everton has conceded 27 goals in his 23 league matches in charge. Under Ronald Koeman and David Unsworth (14 league matches), Everton conceded 28 goals.
- Results have, for the most part, improved. The Toffees got off to a good start under Allardyce, and have recently found results again, but let’s not forget the period from the end of December into the beginning of March earned only two wins in 11 league matches and got bounced from the FA Cup.
But, if you watch this club every week, you know that those statements don’t tell the full story. Pundits don’t watch Everton in excruciating detail week after week like supporters do — and that’s obviously fair, it’s their job to cover 20 Premier League teams.
But I’m tired of this false narrative that Sam Allardyce has done a great job at Everton Football Club and his work is going unappreciated by the supporters. We watch this man manage every week, and we fully understand the manager that he is.
Most importantly, we understand that he was brought in to do a very specific job, and that he’s done that job (stabilizing results), even if we don’t like the way he’s done it. But we most certainly understand that he’s not capable of managing in an upwardly mobile way — and he proved it yet again against Southampton on Saturday.
Allow me to explain how this week’s Allardycian adventure is just par for the course — and another example of why he cannot be in charge of Everton next season.
The Toffees were without Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott on Saturday. That’s not Big Sam’s fault — injuries happen. But the injuries exposed just how regressive Allardyce’s management style is.
Let’s start with replacing Walcott. His absence meant an obvious start for Yannick Bolasie on one wing, but what about the other wing? In another time, he likely would have gone with Dominic Calvert-Lewin (not a winger) or Gylfi Sigurdsson (also not a winger), but both were hurt as well.
So, he was forced to go with Nikola Vlasic (you guessed it, not really a winger also) out wide.
Oh, did I mention that Everton-owned winger Ademola Lookman scored twice for RB Leipzig against Wolfsburg this weekend? And that if not for Allardyce’s bizarre beef with the youngster, perhaps the Toffees could have had that explosiveness on the wing instead of an out-of-position, barely used, 20-year-old creative midfielder?
Fittingly, Saturday also saw Burnley and Aaron Lennon clinch a spot in the Europa League next season — surely the Toffees could have used his pace against Southampton?
But no, Sam Allardyce seems to believe having two actual wingers and a handful of not-actually-wingers is a perfectly reasonable way to run a football club. Besides, who needs wingers if you never want to attack?
Not that it matters much — it’s hard to attack if you don’t have a central midfielder capable of playing a creative role either. Naturally, Everton didn’t have that on Saturday.
With Sigurdsson and Rooney both out injured, Allardyce had a choice to make. Use Tom Davies in an advanced midfield role, despite the fact that he has proven very clearly that he is not that type of player — or give Davy Klaassen, who occupied more advanced role at Ajax, a chance to start in a meaningless match.
As if there was ever any doubt as to which way that would play out.
I take nothing away from Davies, who as always was an extraordinarily hard worker and was rewarded for his compete level with a late, somewhat lucky goal. But he’s not a creative midfielder, and it showed in Everton’s complete inability to put any sort of coherent attack together for the majority of the match.
My point in all this is simple. Regardless of the situation, Sam Allardyce has proven time and time again that he’s only capable of managing one way — throw extensive numbers into defense, attacking ramifications be damned, and hope to stumble into a goal through an individual moment of brilliance or an opposing defender’s mistake.
He’s shown it in his treatment of Ademola Lookman, who brings the unpredictability and attack spark that Allardyce seems to hate. He’s shown it in his unwillingness to give chances to Nikola Vlasic in his natural position, or to Davy Klaassen at all. He’s shown it in his outrageously regressive tactics, even in home matches against relegation-threatened clubs like Southampton.
Everton’s goal since Farhad Moshiri brought much-needed money into the club has been pretty clear — break into the top six. Commentators and pundits can laud the work that Allardyce has done in stabilizing this club, but if you watch him manage week in and week out, there’s a painfully obvious truth.
Sam Allardyce isn’t a man capable of leading a team upward.