Sam Allardyce feeling blue after horror show leaves Everton stuck in another rut

Sachin Nakrani at Wembley on 13 January 2018

As Everton’s players headed towards their supporters shortly after the final whistle had blown, it was not immediately obvious who there were more of. The exodus in that corner of Wembley was stark and had started some time before the end of proceedings, with many of those who had travelled from Merseyside and elsewhere clearly keen to get away from the misery taking place in front of them.

It was hard to blame them. There is, after all, only so much any fan can take. The despair has been long-standing but this season particularly so given the hope that sprung from a summer of heavy investment. A seventh-place finish was meant to be the minimum but quickly the blues kicked in for the Blues – a slide into relegation trouble, the less-than-universally-popular arrival of Sam Allardyce, an FA Cup defeat by Liverpool and now this, a 4-0 hammering that could – and should – have been worse.

Tottenham were excellent, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in particular and, before kick-off, most Everton fans were probably expecting their side to face a stern challenge from opponents who have rediscovered their verve in recent weeks. Defeat was always likely but not like this.

“[The gulf] was massive,” conceded Allardyce after his side’s fourth successive loss. “I saw the good side of the players last week against Liverpool and some of the worst side of them today. It’s worrying how bad our performances have become in such a short space of time. I didn’t expect to see it and I have to address it as quickly as possible.”

As part of that process Allardyce will sit down with his players at the club’s Finch Farm base next week and show them a video of this game. It will be a horror show. Basic defensive errors contributed to Tottenham’s first three goals and, while Kane may have been offside when he struck for the first time on 47 minutes, the way Everton reacted to that setback was alarming. Heads dropped, shoulders sagged, those in blue lost their shape and all but stopped running for the cause. Allardyce rightly described the visitors’ second-half display as a “capitulation”.

This outcome will not aid Allardyce’s hopes of remaining as Everton’s manager beyond this season, with the sturdiness he brought to the side after replacing Ronald Koeman in November having all but vanished. Ten goals have been conceded in that run of four defeats with this the third game out of six that Everton have not mustered a shot on target, which somewhat makes a farce of Allardyce’s assertion that one reason his team lost here is because he set them up in far too an attacking shape.

In his defence, this remains a woefully imbalanced squad. Very little pace, very little creativity and at the back, a toxic mix of defenders who are either on the wrong side of the hill or have barely begun the climb. In Cuco Martina’s case some are also not good enough – yet again the Curaçao international was terrible, no more so than when he backed away from Serge Aurier, allowing the Frenchman to easily deliver the cross from which Son opened the scoring on 26 minutes.

Equally, Allardyce has not helped his cause with his generally negative tactics – such as deploying three defensive midfielders for last month’s trip to Bournemouth – and playing Gylfi Sigurdsson as a wide left attacker, as he did here. The Iceland international is simply too slow to be an attacking threat from there and lacks the necessary defensive responsibilities that come with the position. A player who cost Everton a club-record £45m should only be deployed as a No10, the position from which he scored at Anfield last week but which here was occupied by Wayne Rooney. The former England captain hustled and bustled in characteristic style but it was telling that the most notable aspect of his evening was avoiding a red card for a late tackle on Erik Lamela having already been booked by the referee, Craig Pawson.

The one positive for the visitors was the debut display of Cenk Tosun. Deployed as a lone forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the £27m Turkey international showed a level of aggression, movement and canniness that has been lacking at Everton since Romelu Lukaku left last summer.

“He will definitely be an improvement for us,” said Allardyce of the 26-year-old, who he withdrew just after an hour but will surely use again from the start when West Bromwich Albion visit Goodison Park on Saturday.

It says something about the cramped shape of this season’s table that despite sitting ninth, Everton go into that contest stalked by relegation concerns. “It’s a massive game,” Allardyce conceded on an evening when the doom and gloom that Everton thought they had escaped well and truly took hold again.

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