These are apprehensive times for Everton. Caretaker manager David Unsworth has not performed in the hot seat to the extent perhaps chairman Bill Kenwright would have hoped for when he and majority owner Forshad Moshiri gave the then under-23s boss the nod to lead the side.
Plans to acquire the services of a long-term successor were set in motion. But 36 days since Ronald Koeman was sacked following a walloping at the hands of Arsenal at Goodison Park, and not only has a new manager not been announced, but the team’s performances under Unsworth have been as bad as they were all season and worse.
They’ve crashed out of the Europa League in tremendously egregious fashion, having conceded nine and netted just once in their last two European fixtures, leaving them with just one point from their five group games. The club has risen two places in the table since Koeman’s departure, but what a desperately lukewarm and feeble positive that will be for the fans, seen as it still leaves them in 16th place, just two points above the drop zone.
Plus, thanks to the 4-1 loss to Southampton as the weekend, Everton now hold the always-humiliating title of being the leakiest defence in the Premier League this season to date, having seen 28 goals converted against them.
And, to pop a cherry on the not-very-appetising cake, the man who now looks likeliest to step in as Koeman’s replacement is Sam Allardyce, the coach who could now be unofficially dubbed ‘the rescue man’, the one who can guarantee the avoidance of relegation, albeit while not playing hugely attractive football.
But is that where Everton are right now? Thirteen games into a Premier League campaign, not half the season gone, club not rooted to the bottom of the table or even in the bottom three, and the whispers now are that Allardyce will be coming to save the day?
Former Everton player Kevin Kilbane suggested recently in an article for BBC Sport that his old side are now in the midst of a ‘relegation scrap’, which as much as anything sounds like a hysterical and overblown summary of Everton’s current position.
Football manager pigeonholing certainly can’t be what those who work in the profession enjoy or relish, but Allardyce can’t be all too unsurprised if now people view him as a not-very-sexy fix-it man, who employs un-exciting tactics and who doesn’t supply a great deal of entertainment for the supporters, but whose approach, as history suggests, does equal some degree of stability. For a club which had previously been in relegation danger, the former England and Crystal Palace manager has proven that he can keep teams up.
So for Everton to be linked with Allardyce – as they had been soon after Koeman left but quickly faded when it appeared Sean Dyche and Marco Silva could be more positive and popular choices – effectively paints a picture of what Everton’s chairman and owner have in mind.
£148 million spent in the summer, and now before December has even arrived Everton’s board are thinking of employing a man to stop them from being relegated.
It felt like Dyche would have been the perfect fit. The Burnley man had proved himself over a number of years to be a coach who could get the most out of a small budget and get results against big sides with far superior financial muscle and talent. Whether the clubs could not agree a fee to pull Dyche away, or if the manager himself ultimately decided to stay put was never made entirely clear, but with Marco Silva it did appear to be the case that Everton simply gave up after Watford firmly stood their ground and insisted that the Portuguese would not be going anywhere, at least until next summer.
But with Everton being such a big club, and with money there to spend thanks to the depth of financial resources brought in by Moshiri, it is slightly unusual that Everton had failed to snatch up either manager. Especially in Dyche’s case, who may never be offered such a big job for the rest of his career.
Silva did seem visibly flattered by Everton’s interest in him, and perhaps he did have initial designs on leaving Watford when the rumours started to grow, but the Hornets were right to stand firm. Plus it could have been a potential pitfall for Silva had he forced the move through.
He hasn’t been in England for a year, and to hop from a club who were relegated to a club with mid-table aspirations to another club who, with the wealth of their new majority shareholder, are looking to gatecrash the top six would surely be quite an over-accelerated and jarring trajectory, and could result in unredeemable failure.
Whether Allardyce comes in or not, Everton won’t be relegated. Even if Unsworth remains in charge until May, it is difficult to imagine the results will continue to be as desperately poor as they have been. What Everton need is January to roll around fast, so they can buy a striker and perhaps another central midfielder and try to steady the ship in any way they can.
Also come January, they won’t have any more midweek European football to contest, so more work can go into preparing for the weekend’s league games.
The Toffees have two homes games coming up against West Ham and Huddersfield, then it’s the trip to Anfield for the Merseyside derby on December 10. Maximum points from those two home games and a commendable performance against Liverpool could be enough to get this Everton side back on track.
It’s just too early for relegation to be a genuine fear.