Tuesday 24 April 2018

Rooney's decline gives Allardyce a major headache

Everton's Wayne Rooney. Photo: Peter Powell/Reuters
Everton's Wayne Rooney. Photo: Peter Powell/Reuters

Simon Hughes

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Finch Farm this week. It would be an exaggeration to describe Everton's training facility as a battleground over the last few months but there has been the sort of tension that eventually erodes cohesive working relationships.

A debate on the corridors of power, for example: should Sam Allardyce be allowed to take credit for Everton's victory over West Ham when he was appointed but not in charge - a result that makes his record as manager that little bit more impressive?

At some point, Wayne Rooney will be in Allardyce's office. A conversation will take place about Rooney's reaction to getting substituted in the Merseyside derby when there was still half an hour or so left.

"F**king bulls**t," Rooney spat out, having thundered past Allardyce and snatched a training top.

Rooney had struggled against another elite opponent and, for him, this is becoming a dangerous theme.

There are some games like against Brighton - when he performed majestically at the base of Everton's midfield - when you start to believe this former world star can still do it.

There have been others - like against Liverpool on Saturday when he was in a more advanced midfield position - and you remember what it was like watching Paul Gascoigne, though not the one in 1990, the one that showed up at Goodison Park a decade later when his legs had turned to jelly.

What Allardyce does not need at the moment is one of his senior players turning on him. Yet, he also needs to remain in control of the dressing room.

Of all of the criticisms levelled at Allardyce over the years, very few of them have come from his players, who have always seemed to quite like working for him.

Allardyce was asked whether it worries him that Rooney struggles against the best the league can offer. The Wayne Rooney brochure he was selling was not a glossy one.

"I can agree with you to a certain degree," he replied. "He didn't play very well in the first half against Man City…"

Rooney had indeed been "outstanding" against Brighton and Stoke, according to Allardyce.

Ultimately, though, confirmation would come that, to him, Rooney is just like any other footballer now: meat.

"It's simple for me," Allardyce began to explain. "There's my eye in the game and then there's the stats after the game and, when those stats match what I've seen, for any player, it's where we make our decisions.

"We talk to the player about that situation, whoever it might be, and say levels have to be lifted.

"And when that continues to happen - no matter who it is, whether it's Wayne, Phil Jagielka, Tom Davies or whoever - you get left out of the team.

"That's the beauty of our matrix of statistics today, which backs up your eye and gives you the information for what you've looked at because emotions in the game can sometimes be a little more exaggerated than what the statistics actually show so they don't lie.

"I don't get them till Monday but all I know is he put a terrific effort in his time on the field, a terrific effort, and the time to be changed was the right time for me. We were all getting tired because we were chasing the ball too much."

When the sides were announced on Saturday, the Klaassen family were revealed as the match ball sponsors.

For Davy Klaassen, it seems to be the only way his name will get on the team-sheet any time soon.

Allardyce had bemoaned his lack of midfield options and yet, he still didn't choose to use Klaassen, who had been Ajax's captain before moving to Merseyside last summer for £23.6m only to flop under Ronald Koeman.

Allardyce, who feels like he needs to win every single game to win popularity amongst Everton's irritated fanbase, described Klaassen as an "anomaly".

The Everton manager reasoned: "I don't have the luxury of saying go on give it a go lad. Because if we lose it's me that gets the stick."

There had been questions about Liverpool's midfield as well.

Jordan Henderson won't play in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie at Manchester City because he's suspended, while Emre Can, who would usually play there instead, is injured.

It meant that Gini Wijnaldum filled the space as a holder against Everton as a dress rehearsal.

Jurgen Klopp confirmed that despite some moments of uncertainty that came as a consequence of over-confidence, Wijnaldum will be there again tomorrow night. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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