Sam Allardyce might have hoped that his critique of Everton’s pathetic (his words) defeat by Arsenal would, in some way, have soothed the pain and yet he only succeeded in adding to the sense of disillusionment festering among a seething support.
The headline confession that he had borrowed the game plan of Swansea City, who had beaten Arsène Wenger’s side four days earlier, and attempted to replicate it overlooked the reality that he has different players. For a start he has Michael Keane, not Alfie Mawson, in his defence.
However, it was the reasoning behind his insistence that Ademola Lookman would have made no difference to an abject 5-1 reverse at the Emirates that served to expose the sheer scale of the mess that has enveloped Everton.
“No,” Allardyce said. “We’ve got £20 million Theo Walcott and £30 million Yannick Bolasie and if you’d put him [Lookman] out there he wouldn’t have done any better than the rest because the whole team played crap.”
Never mind that Lookman had just stepped off the substitutes’ bench for Champions League-chasing RB Leipzig in his first game after his deadline day loan move to Germany, streaked past Borussia Mönchengladbach’s retreating defenders before finding the corner of the net in a cutting cameo that his parent club have been crying out for this season.
By Allardyce’s rationale, £21 million Cenk Tosun would have come on before £1.5million Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the second half. That the Turkey forward did not is something else for Everton to worry about. Everton are surely the last club that should be equating price tags to quality given the bucket loads of money they have wasted over the past 18-months in arguably the worst spending spree in football history and one which has left director of football, Steve Walsh, enduring death by 200 million cuts.
Competition is tough but Lookman may actually stand as the most pertinent symbol of Everton’s flawed transfer strategy.
One tranche of Walsh’s policy was to recruit the best youngsters in the country. Lookman arrived from Charlton Athletic last January for £11 million only to become so desperate to leave within 12 months due to a lack of opportunities that he was prepared to go against Everton’s wishes by moving to the Bundesliga rather than Championship high-fliers Derby County.
One of the Merseyside club’s unique selling points has been their willingness to give youth a chance and they can reel out the statistics that point out that they have given more minutes to youngsters than any other top-flight club this season. Yet examine that more closely and the burden was placed on them because a replacement for Romelu Lukaku was not immediately recruited.
Jonjoe Kenny has played primarily because of injuries, while Tom Davies has been in and out of the side during a difficult second season.
Allardyce was brought in to steer the club away from the relegation zone. He will do that despite the weekend embarrassment. But Everton are not just losing games, they are in danger of losing their identity.