Sam Allardyce is not expecting Everton’s midweek game against Newcastle United to be any easier than Sunday’s 1-1 Merseyside Derby draw with Liverpool.
The Blues travel to St James’ Park looking to make it five games without a defeat but despite Rafa Benitez’s side being winless in seven, the 63-year-old Everton boss is not expecting an easy game against his former side.
Speaking to the media at Finch Farm, Allardyce said: "St James' Park is always a test for your players and the test is to nullify Newcastle’s attack because it keeps their crowd quiet.
“Do that and you get the opportunity to go and attack their defence and see where you go from there. They conceded three goals against Leicester City so we will be looking at that, particularly what areas they attacked to see if we can use that.”
He added: “We have to be 100 percent to get a result against any team. I don’t expect it to be any easier than the Liverpool game. If you sit off for a second then teams will punish you. We have to play a difficult tactic so our plan will be slightly different than Sunday.”
The new Blues boss has come under fire from parts of the media for the way he set his team up on Sunday afternoon in the Merseyside Derby.
“From a defensive point of view, Liverpool had scored 12 goals in two games, my responsibility was to make sure the quality of their front line was frustrated and that’s exactly what we did. I make no apologies for that,” Allardyce said.
“We had to go with the best way to get something out of it and that was to stop Liverpool scoring. Against other teams, they’ve scored five and seven. Our defensive determination was outstanding."
Allardyce was still disappointed by how his team played in the attacking areas of the pitch. He added: “We would have all liked to do better on the ball but Liverpool do this high press which is difficult to play against and to play out from and we didn’t cope with that as much as I would have liked.”
“Tactically, we were sound. We didn’t create as much as I would have liked but Anfield is a difficult place to play. Even Manchester United had a similar tactic. A team that opens up against Liverpool rarely wins.”
As the January transfer window approaches, the new Everton boss is expected to have some turnover in his squad.
Allardyce has already eyed up a number of targets but insists he has to get his first signing right so that he has the fans and the board on side. He is also targeting meetings with each senior player to see where they stand at the club.
Speaking on those meetings, the former England boss said: “It’s extremely difficult between the period of games we have but we will get there as quickly as possible. Those meetings have been instigated by me, I haven’t had a player knock on my door yet and ask questions from their point of view. We move forward and get through the squad as quickly as we can.”
After signing in the summer, Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez were expected to have a much bigger role in the Blues side but have quickly fallen by the wayside and have even been linked with January moves away from Goodison Park.
Yet Allardyce looks set to give them both a chance over the next few weeks.
“It’s difficult for a player from abroad to settle immediately and it is more difficult when a club is struggling,” he said.
“Time is what they need sometimes. You come into a difficult culture, country, environment and training from your previous club. It’s our responsibility to make sure that they are comfortable at the club, where they live and their partners are comfortable.”
Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane are back from injury but Leighton Baines is out of the trip to the North East with a calf muscle strain.
None of the other long-term injuries are back for Everton with Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman still a number of weeks away from returning. James McCarthy’s status is still unknown.
It’s not all bad news for Allardyce as Yannick Bolasie completed half an hour for David Unsworth’s under-23 side on Monday afternoon against Leicester City.
“It is good news. He (Bolasie) will be very, very eager to get back and my difficulty will be holding him back,” the Everton boss said of the winger’s return to action.