Everton’s season has been so thoroughly disheartening that any hopes of securing European football for next season look to be shattered.
In fairness to the club’s board, they backed Ronald Koeman‘s vision moving forward after the Dutchman’s promising debut season at Goodison Park, pumping £135million into the team to bring in the likes of Gylfi Sigurðsson, Davy Klaassen and Jordan Pickford.
However, a string of insipid performances left Bill Kenwright, the Everton chairman, no choice but to sack Koeman, replacing him with Under-23 manager David Unsworth on an interim basis.
The 44-year-old, who spent six years at the Merseyside club as a player, has endured a rough start to life as a top-flight manager, losing his first three games in charge. However, his ability to stir the emotions of his players was given a ringing endorsement on Sunday when the Toffees came from two goals behind to beat Watford in a breathless comeback victory at Goodison Park.
Despite that, though, there remain major question marks over Unsworth’s suitability as a candidate to lead the club until the end of the season. The Toffees are still only two points clear of the relegation zone and the club’s main ambition now is to avoid the drop and rebuild next season.
Which explains why Sam Allardyce has emerged as the frontrunner to succeed Koeman. The 63-year-old former Crystal Palace, Sunderland and West Ham United boss has been installed as the favourite after being spotted at the club’s Finch Farm training ground on Monday morning, where he is believed to have held talks with Everton owner Farhad Moshiri regarding the vacant position.
Allardyce The Right Option
Although Allardyce may not be the most popular figure after his ill-advised comments on foreign coaches in the Premier League, in which he described British managers as being ‘second-class citizens,’ he is the strongest candidate to guide Everton to safety and provide a foundation from which they can look to improve next season.
Although Moshiri is also interested in Burnley‘s Sean Dyche and Marco Silva of Watford, it may be difficult prising them away from their current employers mid-season. In contrast, Allardyce is out of work and has admitted recently that he would be open to taking the job.
“Who knows? I’d have to consider that if that phone call happens. There’s no point in speculating at the moment. David Unsworth’s in the chair,” the former England manager said via The Times.
“I’ve been in this position a number of times at the last three clubs I’ve had, and I would just put the team back to basics, and show them exactly what it takes to get out of this position.
“And, of course, sometimes it’s not entertaining, particularly away from home. But it’s about the commitment, getting the result and how you do it.”
Allardyce’s home is just 35 miles away from Everton’s training ground, while Director of Football Steve Walsh, who was rumoured to have had a fractured working relationship with Koeman, is a known admirer of his management style.
The view of Allardyce is that he can improve the basic shape, structure and defensive organisation of the side. His brand of football is unlikely to get too many supporters on the edge of their seats, but that is no longer the main priority following a wretched run. Survival is most certainly taking precedence over stylistic innovation.
Track Record Impossible To Ignore
Crucially, Allardyce has a wealth of experience of being thrown into this exact scenario. Last season, Allardyce was appointed as Crystal Palace manager with the club languishing in 17th-place after a run of just one win in 11 games.
Like Everton, Palace had embarked on a brave new world of possibilities with their own touchline visionary, Alan Pardew. It ended disastrously, with American investors Josh Harris and David Blitzer admitting his attempts to introduce an expansive brand of football simply hadn’t worked.
In came relegation firefighter Allardyce, one of English football’s most enduring characters. Indeed, under him, Palace endured, as he rejuvenated Christian Benteke and got the best out of Yohan Cabaye, Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha to guide the Eagles to 14th, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Similarly, he took over at Sunderland and produced a remarkably similar turnaround. In October 2015, the Black Cats were second bottom and winless after eight games. They had been a directionless, withering collection of individuals before Allardyce took over. Allardyce ended up leading them to safety at the expense of the club’s bitter Tyne-Wear rivals Newcastle United.
Those recent accomplishments are the things that stand out most on Allardyce’s extensive CV. His ability to come into a failing side and transform their fortunes is what is attracting Everton to him. Regardless of how controversial or divisive he may be, Allardyce has always been an attractive option for club owners.
Beyond the populist perception of him as an aging relic committed to archaic, long-ball football, Allardyce is an astute tactician who, like Roy Hodgson, tirelessly grafts until his team’s shape is satisfactory before moving on to other matters. Everton could use such tactical nous considering the 22 goals they have conceded this season.
It may take time. It took Allardyce until his sixth game in charge at Selhurst Park to get a win, but that was followed up by four wins from their next six. He also beat Arsenal 3-0 and recorded historic wins at Chelsea and Liverpool. That’s how effective his methods can be, and that’s why he’s the most sensible option for Everton in the short term.
After appointing Allardyce as Sunderland boss, Ellis Short said he was the ‘obvious choice.’ It’s a different team but the same landscape at Everton and, once again Allardyce represents the obvious choice for a club trying to haul themselves out of the wreckage that’s been their season to this point.