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Can Big Sam lead Everton back to where they belong?

Sam Allardyce is known for his remarkable record of rehabilitating struggling “smaller” clubs in the Premier League by bringing them back to the safer positions of the table. West Ham, Sunderland and Crystal Palace are some of the latest clubs to have experienced the Big Sam effect.

However, Allardyce’s latest club in his managerial career is not a “smaller” club. Everton have not finished below 11th place since 2003 and have had a habit of hovering in and around the Europa league spots since then. But their awful start to the 2017/18 season under Ronald Koeman meant that a change in management had to take place.

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Counting from the day Koeman was sacked, it took the best part of forty days for Sam Allardyce to be appointed as the new manager. The deal was pretty much finalised on the day of West Ham’s visit to Goodison Park. David Moyes’ team were demolished 4-0, and it seemed that Allardyce just being within the stadium boosted the Toffees’ performance and lifted the team to victory.

One particularly revitalised player was Wayne Rooney, who scored his first hat trick in over six years, with one goal being a spectacular first-time strike from well within Everton’s own half.

Allardyce’s first official game in charge also produced a win, Huddersfield falling victim to Everton and losing their fifth away match in a row by 2-0 on Saturday. Record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson got himself on the score sheet this time with a smart finish off Calvert-Lewin’s back pass, who also claimed a goal later in the game with the help of a deflection.

The story of a match of frankly few chances was simply that Everton took theirs and Huddersfield didn’t. The more important fact as far as Everton fans are concerned is that the Toffees have kept two clean sheets in two games, after conceding 28 goals in the first 13 league games, with their only other clean sheet coming on the first day of the season.

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Two wins on the bounce have moved Everton up six places into tenth and once again the Big Sam effect has not taken long to be instigated.

After Everton’s most recent loss, the interim manager David Unsworth stated that the squad just needed to “get back to basics”. That’s exactly what a lot of us expected would happen when Sam Allardyce was appointed, and lo and behold that is what we’ve seen already throughout the team.

Saturday’s game against Huddersfield didn’t bring out an overly superior performance, but the three points ended up in Everton’s grateful hands nonetheless. With the new boss being a former defender himself, the much-improved defensive display will have pleased Allardyce greatly. It wasn’t perfect, but considering the terrible defensive record throughout October and November, the effect that the former Crystal Palace boss has had on the team’s back four can already be seen very clearly.

Not only this, Allardyce seemed to have a much more distinctive plan in place than was seen under Unsworth, particularly regarding the action taking place down the wing. Sigurdsson officially played on the left wing but, being the more central player that he is, didn’t have that much effect down that side. Instead, Aaron Lennon’s attacking pace was utilised much more down the right-hand side. There was clearly a complex and well-thought tactical routine at play, and the team were not afraid to get forward when things weren’t going their way.

Taking so long to appoint a new manager really put Everton in the spotlight for a considerable amount of time, and gave everyone a chance to notice and pick out whatever was going wrong at the club. Allardyce has never brought out the glamorous side of a football team, but he can certainly spot areas of weakness and remedy them.

Of course, it should be accepted that West Ham’s and Huddersfield’s poor form of late didn’t make them the hardest opponents to come up against, but the fact that Everton are now in the top half of the table should bring reassurance to the team with fixtures against Liverpool, Newcastle, Swansea and Chelsea coming up this side of Christmas.

Written by Harry Mahon.

Harry Mahon

90maat's team correspondent for Tottenham Hotspur, graduate of Loughborough University and current student at the University of Surrey.

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