Premier League

Trust The Kids: Allardyce Can’t Repeat Lookman Mistake

 • by Ryan Baldi
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Picking the ball up 40 yards from goal in the 89th minute, the score tied at 0-0, skilfully slaloming beyond multiple challenges before breaking into the penalty area and firing a late winner hard and low into the far corner.

It was one of the best goals scored by an Everton player this season. But Ademola Lookman was making his debut for RB Leipzig at the time, securing three Bundesliga points for his temporary employers against Borussia Mönchengladbach.

When quizzed about the reasoning behind his decision to ship Lookman out on loan to the German top flight, Everton manager Sam Allardyce said: “I’ve got Yannick Bolasie who cost 30 million quid and Theo Walcott who cost 20 million quid and both have a lot more experience than Lookman.”

Just hours after the 20-year-old English winger netted in spectacular fashion for his new club, the Toffees were trounced by Arsenal, losing 5-1 at the Emirates and putting in one of the worst team performances of the season, cut to shreds by the Gunners’ new-look frontline and offering little resistance.

This isn’t to suggest that Lookman’s presence in North London would have prevented Everton being beaten, nor even that he could have helped stem the tide of the one-sided drubbing; the Merseysiders were outclassed and there is little any individual, no matter how talented, could have done to change that – “If you had put [Lookman] out there he wouldn’t have done any better than the rest because the whole team played crap,” Allardyce said post-match.

Arsenal enjoyed a 58.4 per cent of possession, hit the target seven times to Everton’s two and made 162 more accurate passes than their visitors.

However, 4-0 down at half-time, Everton managed to recover somewhat in the second period, which, with the game already effectively over, could be put down to Arsenal taking their foot off the pedal. But the introduction of Tom Davies at the break added a renewed verve to the Toffees’ midfield.

The 19-year-old Englishman was omitted from the starting line-up in favour of the more-experienced Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gueye in central midfield – evidence, perhaps, of Alladyce’s innate caution in such games – and Bolasie and former Gunner Walcott in the wide positions he can also occupy.

Davies, on in place of centre-back Michael Keane as the former Crystal Palace and England manager shuffled his pack at the interval, showed a fearlessness his colleague’s had desperately lacked, taking the game to Arsenal and refusing to go down without a fight.

Despite only being on the pitch for 45 minutes, Davies led his team in key passes (two) and dribbles (four), while also proving trustworthy in possession, completing 88.2 per cent of his passes.

At the Emirates, Liverpool-born Davies showed an ability to perform against top-level opposition, exhibiting a greater desire and drive than many of his team-mates, as well as the technical attributes that make him a standout prospect.

But the teenager has only started five Premier League games since Allardyce took charge at Goodison Park in late November – and in one of those appearances, December’s Merseyside derby at Anfield, he was substituted at half-time. Given his positional versatility, it’s reasonable to expect the youngster might have been involved a lot more.

It’s a similar story with another of Everton’s most promising young players, Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The England Under-21 star was a regular starter in the initial weeks of Allardyce’s reign, but hasn’t started a Premier League game since the turn of the year.

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His introduction against Arsenal, replacing Cuco Martina in the 64th minute, added speed and directness to the Toffees’ attack, and it was Calvert-Lewin who grabbed a consolation goal for Allardyce’s men.

Allardyce has admitted that this season has been far from a vintage year for Everton, with consolidation now his only aim as he looks ahead to next term.

“We’ve got to write this season off as quick as we can by staying in the Premier League and then sorting out for the start of next season,” he said.

“There are things I can try if we can get safe quick and start performing like we did on Wednesday and try and finish in the top half and not put any more pressure on ourselves by starting slipping down the table.”

It is perhaps a fear of being dragged back into a relegation battle that is preventing Allardyce from letting his young guns loose. But, in tenth place, seven points clear of the drop zone, there are several sides whose straights are more dire than Everton’s, and the likes of Davies and Calvert-Lewin have shown they can be trusted.

Right-back Jonjoe Kenny, 20, is the exception, playing a full 90 minutes in ten of the 12 league games Allardyce has overseen. But Lookman, Davies and Calvert-Lewin deserve more.