Everton: 2017-18 season part 2

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: Wayne Rooney of Everton greets Sam Allardyce, Manager of Everton as he is substituted off during the Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and Everton at John Smith's Stadium on April 28, 2018 in Huddersfield, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: Wayne Rooney of Everton greets Sam Allardyce, Manager of Everton as he is substituted off during the Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and Everton at John Smith's Stadium on April 28, 2018 in Huddersfield, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images) /

We continue our 2017-18 season review by focussing in part two on how Everton fared after Ronald Koeman left.

Koeman departed Everton at the end of October immediately following that disastrous home defeat to Arsenal that left the Blues in the relegation zone.

Having overseen a catastrophic decline in the Blues form since the season began, the Dutchman cannot have been totally surprised at his sacking but claimed he was disappointed at the decision.

Although many Everton fans probably also felt it was time for a change, there was still a feeling that maybe Everton had panicked and pulled the trigger too soon. Surely a squad assembled at such cost was too good for the drop?

Well anyway the decision was done and so Under-23’s coach David Unsworth took over the first-team on a temporary basis.

But there was no new-manager bounce for Unsworth and the team continued to struggle. Three more defeats followed with only a streaky 3-2 win over Watford to interrupt the run of losses.

A draw against Crystal Palace hinted that maybe the Blues were improving a little. But this was then followed by a desperate and humiliating 1-5 loss at home to Atalanta in the Europa League.

While all this dreadful stuff was being served up to Everton fans on the pitch, there was indecision off it as the club seemed incapable of getting its act together and finding a new manager.

The only target seemed to be the Watford boss Marco Silva. But the Hornets were determined to hold onto their new manager who was overseeing a fine start to the season at Vicarage Road.

In late November, a month after Koeman’s dismissal and with Everton still looking for a new manager, Watford were sitting comfortably in eighth place (exactly where the Blues would finish the season).

And Everton were now being accused of ‘tapping-up’ the Portuguese coach by Watford. The possible threat of legal action then forced Everton to back off.

So what now? There seemed no ‘plan-B’ in place given Watford’s resistance or in case Silva wasn’t interested in the job.

Plan B of course eventually turned out to be a new plan-A as in (Sam)Allardyce!

Having initially said he wasn’t keen on the job, once it became clear Everton had no one else to turn to, he was in a much stronger bargaining position. And so after protracted negotiations he finally penned an 18 month deal to become Blues boss at the start of December.

So now just four months into the season Everton had a new manager, the man renowned for rescuing clubs in relegation trouble.  Who could have predicted this outcome in mid-August?

Just as Allardyce was in the process of finalising his contract, Everton had produced their best goal scoring performance of the season with a 4-0 thrashing of West Ham at Goodison.

The highlight of the win was a superb hat-trick from Wayne Rooney. It was the perfect start to the new era and the Blues then went on a run of eight games unbeaten, their best such run of the season.

Allardyce seemed at first to be making his customary difference, getting the team better organised and making them harder to break down, even if Everton’s attack was still largely anaemic.

But after apparently remembering again how to defend, Everton then relapsed into their old bad habits and started leaking goals again.

Heavy away defeats in north London first to Tottenham and then another five goal thrashing by Arsenal, seemed to show nothing much had changed.

To be fair to the players, in the Arsenal match, Allardyce had decided to switch to a back three to accommodate January loan signing Eliquim Mangala. That signing was one that probably left many Everton fans, myself included, frankly baffled.

It was a disaster as the Blues were all at sea defensively and given their fragile confidence it was really no surprise so many goals were conceded.

It’s true many Evertonians weren’t exactly enthused by Allardyce’s arrival but there was a sense that maybe he should be given a chance to see what he could do.

But Allardyce’s reputation was built on his defensive qualities and here he was tinkering with the team’s formation and as a result Everton were leaking goals for fun again.

At the same time as all this, Allardyce’s handling of one of this other January signings, Cenk Tosun, was also proving difficult. Tosun, who had cost £27 million had hardly featured in the team.

The Everton manager claimed he was not fit enough for the Premier League, which raised questions about whether Allardyce himself had wanted the player.

And so the Blues season lurched on and for me one match in particular that showed how bankrupt the Allardyce regime was, came at Burnley.

The Clarets had been enjoying a fine season under a coach in Sean Dyche who had adapted his approach very cleverly to the demands of the Premier League.

But despite the team’s poor away from, this was still a game that Everton should look to win. However from the start the Toffees were poor lacking energy, ideas or much attacking flair.

Despite this the Blues went ahead through Tosun’s debut goal and went in at half-time, somehow, one goal up.

Instead of pushing on in the second half and putting the game to bed, Everton produced a dire second half display and Burnley came back, coming from behind to win for the first time in the Premier League.

Allardyce withdrew his main attacking threats, despite the fact the match was there to be won. And the whole sorry mess was summed up by a late red card for Ashley Williams, part of a defence that was awful.

It was after this game that things really began to turn against the new regime.

Everton did manage a relatively comfortable home win over Brighton the following week.

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The return to full fitness of full-backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman and a back four that by accident took on a settled look, were key, as was the increasing threat up front of Tosun, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott.

That win effectively secured the Toffees from any threat of relegation. But there was a price as Sigurdsson picked up what turned out to be a season-ending injury.

The Blues followed up this win with, finally, a victory away from home as Everton defeated a poor Stoke City 2-1.

Again though as with the Brighton win, the Blues benefitted from their opponents having a player sent off. It was still a patchy and unconvincing performance.

However the Toffees did avoid defeat in their remaining fixtures, (apart from a humbling home loss to Manchester City), until the final week of the season.

But a closer inspection of these fixtures underlined the poverty of Everton’s football. In particular a dire derby display against a weakened Liverpool team at Goodison seemed to underline the lack of ambition in Allardyce’s approach.

So we come to the final game of the season and Everton travelled to West Ham with constant speculation over the manager’s future dominating the headlines.

The Blues fell to a deflating loss to finish the season and fan discontent was obvious and increasingly hard to ignore.

Next: Which Blues are going to Russia?

And just days after the season ended the club had moved and Allardyce was gone. We’re waiting now to see who will succeed him.