Opposition Focus | Everton
Big Everton fan Matt Desai, who works at BT Sport as a social media producer, tells us what we can expect from the Toffees tomorrow.
What sort of form are Everton in right now?
Who knows? We played pretty well against Leicester and won 2-1, then got hammered 5-1 at Arsenal in one of our worst-ever Premier League displays, then beat Palace 3-1. It’s been impossible to predict which Everton will turn up for a little while now.
There was immediate bounce effect after Big Sam took over. What did he do differently to Koeman?
It’s a horrible football cliché, but the first thing he did was make us solid. We only conceded two goals in his first six league games in charge. That didn’t last very long though and we’ve since leaked goals just as we did under Koeman.
In Unsworth’s final game he moved Rooney into a much deeper role, which Allardyce has kept to, and it’s definitely where he’s best utilised for us. They were probably the two biggest things he did straight away that got us those vital immediate results.
Would it be fair to say the magic has worn off as you've lost five of the last eight in all competitions?
It has well and truly worn off. After that initial upturn in form, we’ve had seen some truly awful displays. We got battered at Spurs and Arsenal, and against teams we’d consider ourselves much better than, we’ve lacked any real attacking intent and initiative.
He doesn’t seem to have improved any of the under-performing players from Koeman’s final months, and we have a pool of players like Klaassen, Vlasic and Lookman who he’s refused to give any reasonable first-team chances too. It would be fair to say that already, Allardyce is very unpopular amongst Evertonians.
Do Everton fans wish they had got Marco Silva instead of Allardyce?
Yes, big time! The fact the board even went from wanting Silva to Allardyce shows how muddled their thinking was. No Everton fan wanted Allardyce as our next manager, rightly or wrongly we probably considered him beneath us, and from what our aspirations were back in August, it was completely unthinkable.
Silva took Hull down but he made a good go of keeping up a side that looked well gone when he arrived, and he obviously started the season brilliantly at Watford. The majority of Everton fans would have been very happy if we’d be able to appoint him back in November.
Just how significant and badly needed was that 3-2 win over us in November? It certainly proved a turning point for us for all the wrong reasons
That win was massive and we really had no right to pull it off. We’d be playing poorly, Unsworth wasn’t managing to get any results, and then we go 2-0 down at home to Watford. Somehow, we win that game 3-2 and although you couldn’t say it turned our season around, it was a massive win at a really critical time, and maybe if it hadn’t happened we’d be a lot lower in the table now.
You paid big money to sign Cenk Tosun in January. Why hasn't he done the business?
He’s not been given a chance unfortunately. He started against Spurs and actually looked quite good, but since then has only managed another 80-odd minutes across two matches. Even when we were 3-0 up at home to Palace, Allardyce brought Schneiderlin on instead of him.
Apparently he’s struggled to adjust to the physicality of the league, but he’s a big lad who has made an impact in the Champions League this season, and with very few other options up top it’s quite strange that he’s been so under-used.
We’ve just had a warm-weather training camp in Dubai though, and there’s been some positive chat coming out of the club about the impression he made on the trip, so I’m hoping he starts on Saturday evening.
What's the latest injury news? Anyone definitely out? Anyone touch and go?
Obviously James McCarthy is out for the foreseeable future with a broken leg, and Leighton Baines has been out for a while, though he is back training now. It looks like Eliaquim Mangala’s Everton career may only be remembered for his part in the Arsenal drubbing as he could miss the rest of the season. Ramiro Funes Mori hasn’t played all season but he’s back training now and might not find it too hard to get back into the Everton defence.
It is great to see Seamus Coleman back. He must have provided everybody with a real lift
Having Seamus Coleman back fit is massive – he’s a right back but he’s literally one of our best attackers. He was absolutely unreal in his first game back against Leicester and played the whole match. He then missed the Arsenal game, and went off at half-time in the Palace game, so we’re just hoping he hasn’t had any form of setback. But yes, he’s an incredible player who embodies Everton and makes those around him play better.
Has Allardyce solved the conundrum of how to fit Rooney, Sigurdsson and Klaasen in the same team?
Kind of yes, kind of no. He’s totally disregarded Klaassen whose only appearance under him was in a Europa League dead rubber that Allardyce didn’t even attend. Rooney and Sigurdsson spent the first half of the season wanting to occupy the same space, but now Rooney is playing deeper in midfield we’re seeing better from both of them.
Evertonians would like to see Sigurdsson playing centrally more often, he’s been based on the left far too much for my liking. We’ve got some good wingers in the squad and he’s probably our best number 10, so we need to see that set-up more often I think.
You've only won one game on the road this season. Why do you think the away form is so poor?
Firstly, that’s a really terrible record, especially considering our hopes at the start of the season - you can’t challenge the top six with a record like that. There have been games like West Brom away, who hadn’t won in 20-odd matches, where you just wished we’d gone there with some swagger and gone at them. We didn’t and we drew 0-0.
There have been too many like that, where our approach just isn’t positive enough and ultimately, if you set up to try and win 1-0 with an attack that has been as blunt as ours, and a defence that has been as penetrable as ours, then you aren’t going to win many matches.
What do you think the team will be on Saturday?
There’s a difference between the team I think we’ll play and the team I hope we’ll play but as an optimist I’ll give you the latter.
Before hearing the latest injury news I’d go with: Pickford; Coleman, Holgate, Williams, Martina; Gueye, Davies, Rooney; Sigurdsson, Walcott, Tosun.
I know I said Sigurdsson needs to be central, but at the moment, that middle three have performed well and need to be kept together. Sigurdsson has to be on the pitch too, so although he’ll be set-up from the left, hopefully the three behind him means he won’t have to spend too much time out wide.
How do you see the game going?
I watched your last home game against Chelsea and you were fantastic that night, you’ve got some really exciting players going forward and I’m a big fan of Doucoure in midfield.
We’re so hard to predict right now, as you can see from our recent form, but I’m hoping the week’s rest and trip away has a really positive effect and the players have a determination to somehow take seventh spot from a pretty nightmare season.
We’ve been awful on the road and I can’t look past Deulofeu scoring, but I think we can take something from the game so I’m going with 2-2.