Cats Eye View: Back to the drawing board for thinker Allardyce

Billy Jones and keeper Costel Pantilimon can't stop Gerard Deulofeu from opening the scoring for Everton. Picture by Frank Reid

Billy Jones and keeper Costel Pantilimon can't stop Gerard Deulofeu from opening the scoring for Everton. Picture by Frank Reid

2
Have your say

The talk before the game at Goodison Park was all about the tactics and formation Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce would deploy.

Allardyce had alluded before the game that he would be tinkering.

And he certainly didn’t disappoint when it came to springing a surprise.

Once the team sheets arrived, a big debate sparked on social media and in the packed press room over how Sunderland would line up.

It soon became clear that Allardyce had rolled the dice and gambled with his selection and formation.

The Black Cats were to play a back three, with wing backs, and the much-maligned Patrick Van Aanholt was back in the side.

Allardyce, it has to be said, had a fair number of changes hoisted upon him.

None of the injured quartet of John O’Shea, Ola Toivonen, Younes Kaboul and Fabio Borini had made the squad.

All would probably have started.

Instead, Allardyce dropped Jeremain Lens to the bench and went with a back three of Sebastian Coates, Wes Brown and Billy Jones.

It was a risk given Jones is naturally a full-back.

Spurs loanee DeAndre Yedlin and Van Aanholt were in the wing-back positions, with Jermain Defoe leading the line alongside Steven Fletcher.

Allardyce’s game plan was clear.

Defend in numbers, frustrate Everton and break swiftly with pace in a bid to nick something from the game.

Was the formation, in part, to help protect Brown in the centre of the back three, given it was the veteran defenders first start of the season?

Perhaps. The return of Van Aanholt was the biggest surprise, given his awful start to the season.

Anticipation was building ahead of kick-off.

The afternoon started well enough, but it wasn’t long before it had descended into farce.

Sunderland were bright in the opening 15 minutes or so, arguably their best start to a game all season, with Adam Johnson, Defoe and Fletcher all linking up well.

The wing-backs were providing pace, Van Aanholt hit the post. But a defensive mix-up cost them dear with the first goal.

All that promising early work undone in the blink of an eye.

Gerard Deulofeu was afforded far too much time and space, with Van Aanholt not tracking him back properly and Jones failing to see the danger.

1-0 Everton. It was soon 2-0. A long afternoon ahead, it seemed, and so it proved.

Sunderland rallied through goals from Defoe and Fletcher.

But the Black Cats have never come from 2-0 down in the Premier League and won.

And it soon became blindingly obvious another heavy defeat was on the cards.

Everton scored three times in seven minutes. Embarrassing at Premier League level.

Yedlin and Van Aanholt were left wanting out wide in the second half, with Sunderland torn apart through the middle by a rampant Toffees side.

Rusty Brown struggled badly in his first game of the season. His experience saw him through the first half, but Lukaku battered him after the break.

Coates was having an equally horrendous time alongside him, scoring an own goal and being too easily beaten by Kone.

It was desperate and comical from Sunderland, clinical and quick-fire from Everton.

They looked they’d score with every attack. Sunderland’s confidence, shape and defending shot to pieces.

In the space of seven minutes the game had been taken away from them.

Doubly frustrating for Allardyce given his side had picked up their first clean sheet of the season in the win against Newcastle seven days prior.

Injuries had cost Sunderland dear.

Yes, the Black Cats looked dangerous on the break. They had more shots at Everton’s goal, 17 in total, than the hosts managed on theirs.

That will provide some comfort to Allardyce.

But his side’s defensive failures will have given him nightmares on Halloween weekend.

And as much as Allardyce will argue it is down to the players, not the system, it clearly didn’t work.

On paper, it looked a promising plan. But, with the injuries, Sunderland didn’t have the players available to execute it effectively.

Back to the drawing board for Allardyce & Co.