In a managerial career spanning over 26 years, Big Sam will return this weekend to manage his 7th Premier League club. Early success in the lower leagues – including an Irish league title as player manager of Limerick – led Allardyce back to where it all began, Bolton Wanderers.
His time with Bolton began in their youth ranks, before eventually playing 184 times for the senior team. Allardyce’s return to the then Reebok Stadium as manager, saw them promoted to the top flight as well as a surprise foray into European football.Embed from Getty Images
Upon leaving Bolton in 2007, short stints at Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers were followed by another promotion charge, this time with West Ham United. Eventual discontent with the style of football on display, saw Big Sam return to the North-East.
After successfully steering Sunderland as well as Crystal Palace away from relegation in consecutive seasons – with an infamous one game spell as England manager sandwiched between – Big Sam became known as a perennial fire fighter.
Everton’s poor start to the season saw Ronald Koeman lose his job, with Everton under 23s manager David Unsworth taking temporary charge. Over a 5 week period, the Everton hierarchy began to look for the Dutchman’s successor. After the unsuccessful courting of Watford manager Marco Silva, the board finally settled on their man.Embed from Getty Images
Despite distancing himself for the job previously – stating that he felt unwanted by some of the board – Big Sam was announced as the new Everton manager before their match with West Ham United.
“Such a long time without a decision (meant) I had to make one myself. The decision was it was probably better it wasn’t me, and I’d move on to something else. It would have been a fabulous job, but it didn’t feel right.” – Sam Allardyce on his Everton interview
Allardyce watched from the stands, as Wayne Rooney’s hat trick helped Everton to claim all three points for only the second time under Unsworth. With only two days training before Saturday’s game against Huddersfield, how will the team react to the new manager’s methods?
We can we expect from an Allardyce side?
Allardyce’s belief is that you can only avoid relegation by building an organised defence. Though this idea may seem simple, it is something many managers fail to do.
Though Big Sam has experimented with a back 5 in the past, he has a tendency to stick with a 4 at the back – usually a 4-3-3/4-5-1 hybrid.
The back line tends to consist of players who excel in the basics of defending, including actions such as tackles, interceptions, clearances and successful aerial duels. The simplicity of the idea allows the team to feel confident when defending and in turn improves team morale.
The three in midfield tend to consist of a holder, an all rounder and a creator, all of which require high endurance and work rate. Whilst defending, this acts as the first blockade, providing an adequate screen for the back four. This gives the defence more time to track the opposition’s attackers and offers less space in between the two banks of players (defence and midfield).
Without the ball, there is a reliance on both wingers to drop into a deeper wide midfield position. This gives added protection to both full backs and almost creates a back 6. When transitioning into attack, both wide men are expected to bomb forward in support of the lone attacker.Embed from Getty Images
There has been a variety of players to perform the solitary striker role in a Sam Allardyce system, ranging from Andy Carroll to Jermaine Defoe. The forward’s role is to hold possession and relieve pressure , allowing his team mates to push forward and support. Despite Big Sam’s propensity for direct football, the aerial ability of the forward is not always the key attribute.
How will Everton shape up this weekend vs. Huddersfield Town?
After their 4-0 victory over West Ham on Wednesday, Everton go into the weekend with confidence. Due to the short time period between the two fixtures, Big Sam may be forced to hold off on any major changes.
However in his search for defensive stability, the Englishman may opt for some more robust/experienced choices. The merseyside club have conceded 28 goals in 14 league games, 12 more than the opening third of last season. It would seem the more youthful inclusions under Unsworth may take a back seat, whilst Allardyce tackles the deficiencies in defence. With the 63 year old’s preference for traditional wingers, Unsworth’s use of summer signing Gylfi Sigurdsson as a wide midfield may also come to a close.
Injuries to both Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines forces Allardyce to make some tough decisions at full back. There is a possibility that Mason Holgate will move out to right back to accommodate the return of Michael Keane in the heart of defence, whilst the right footed Cuco Martina may be required to continue on the left.
The options at Allardyce’s disposal in forward areas are limited to say the least. The duties have previously been shared between Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Oumar Niasse – with the former starting in the previous fixture. Oumar Niasse’s return from suspension, after being the first player to receive a retrospective ban for diving, would allow the former England manager at least one alternative up front.
How will Big Sam improve the side in January?
Despite the January transfer window seeming like a burden to some clubs, Allardyce has been known to utilise the window to bolster the spine of his squad. It is a key time for relegation candidates, as it allows the manager to bring a change of momentum, as well as morale. Names such as; Mamadou Sakho, Luka Milivojevic, Lemina Kone and Jan Kirchoff, were all purchased during the winter window.Embed from Getty Images
Everton’s weaknesses are well documented. A lack of striking options as well as a dearth of full backs, are just two of the issues Allardyce must rectify. It has also been suggested that the form of some Everton’s defenders, could force the new boss to invest in central areas.
“We’re certainly short of defenders and I think we’re short of full-backs.” – Sam Allardyce during his first press conference as Everton manager
A second reunion with left back Patrick Van Aanholt, as well as a possible bid for out of favour Leicester City striker Islam Slimani, have been rumoured since Big Sam’s arrival. Though these signings may prove to add balance to the team, there is yet to be any suggestion of how the man from Dudley may go about improving the centre of defence.Embed from Getty Images
A wildcard choice, could be that of Alfie Mawson. Though Swansea City have struggled so far this season, the defence has been surprisingly strong. Only 6 teams can better the 16 goals that conceded by Swansea with Mawson at the heart of the defence. With the Swans currently in the relegation zone, with only 2 win in 14 games, it may be possible for Allardyce to coax his countryman to Goodison Park.
Push for Europe?
Everton’s win during the week, brought them up to 13th in the table. When a club have hired Allardyce in the past, it has been to almost guarantee Premier League survival. But with the blue half of Liverpool almost in mid-table, can Big Sam look higher?Embed from Getty Images
During his first meetings with the media as Everton manager, Allardyce confirmed that it was the ambition of the club that was the biggest attraction for him. Not just in terms of spending money, but in qualification for European competition as well as successful cup campaigns.
“They [Everton] finished seventh last year and it’s my job to steer them back in the right direction and get among the European places and the FA Cup final or League Cup final.”
In the Premier League, success is relative to each club. In the past, developing a successful team, in regards of top half finishes and cup finals, has been low on the list of priorities for Big Sam. However, with Everton slowly rising up the table, it may be possible for Allardyce to look up towards 7th instead of down towards relegation.