Everton must surely have a spring in their step this weekend as they welcome Huddersfield Town to Goodison Park on the back of the 4-0 thumping of West Ham on Wednesday night.
It may well have been a coincidence that Sam Allardyce was appointed just hours before the Toffees’ biggest win of the season, or it might have been just dumb luck that they managed to stumble upon a worse team than they, but whatever it was, it should be a platform to build upon.
Indeed, Everton’s players have had to soldier through a period of uncertainty after the sacking of Koeman, and that’s hardly an easy thing to do – it’s one thing to be on form so bad that your manager gets the sack, but to then have to carry on for well over a month just sticking your finger in the hole of the slowly sinking boat and hoping for rescue at some point before it’s too late would be a tough task for anyone.
Perhaps that, more than anything else, was why Wednesday’s game showcased an Everton we haven’t seen all season.
After the game, David Moyes was right: his side lost a game 4-0 when they could well have come back into the game in the second half. Everton were comfortable, but they should be under no illusions. The same could be said for Huddersfield, who looked the better team at the Emirates for most of the first half. It was only a four-minute spell when Mesut Ozil took control of the game with 20 minutes or so left that resulted in the heavy 5-0 scoreline. But that, too, was a false result in many ways.
But tempering optimism after one performance, and getting teams to focus on the task left at hand this weekend is something of a speciality of Sam Allardyce. Far from being a systems manager, he’s more of an arch-pragmatist: getting his team to focus on their job is perhaps the most important part of his management. But he’s also a wiley competitor. Like the pool hall hustler, looks can be deceiving when it comes to the former Sunderland and Crystal Palace manager. He finds the weaknesses in the opposition and goes for them. He’s very good at that.
And yet there’s also a streak to him that likes to moan about not getting a fair shake, of being unfairly seen to be a dinosaur or a man without style. That will stand Everton in good stead, too.
This weekend Allardyce will face David Wagner, one of the new breed of coaches who often appear prize their system and style above all else. He is loved by the media and won’t be criticised for his team’s display in their 5-0 defeat against Arsenal – he’s seen as sophisticated enough to simply praise his methods instead. And so, you’d fancy Big Sam’s chances against a team like that on his debut at Goodison: he’d love nothing more than to stamp his authority on the club with a win over the supposedly sophisticated foreign-type in the neighbouring dugout.
In fact, that sentiment goes much further than just this weekend’s fixtures. Across Stanley Park at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp is a similar sort of manager, but he belongs to the new ranks of the ‘super-manager’, the top six managerial specialists who are certainly much flashier than Allardyce. Look just a little bit further and you’ll find Manchester, where City and United are first and second, managed by Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.
And so Allardyce, meanwhile, now finds himself in the perfect position. He’s taking over a team on a high, but one that he can make sure comes back down to Earth to focus on the next game. He’s taking over a club whose aim is to break into the top six of the Premier League, if not this season then certainly soon. And most importantly, he’s taking over the People’s Club: a chance to stick it to the managers who are seen as much more sophisticated than he is, even though the public have no real basis to think such a thing.
There’s a spring in the step at Goodison once again, but in Sam Allardyce, it’s the growling bruiser with a chip on his shoulder they can use to turn their season around. And in that regard, he’s the perfect appointment.
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