Analysis: Youthful Blues leading the Allardyce overhaul

Analysis of Everton’s 3-1 win over Swansea City on Monday night.

Analysis: Youthful Blues leading the Allardyce overhaul
Photo: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill

When three of Everton’s four core youngsters signed new contracts last week, Sam Allardyce stated that they "epitomise what we are trying to accomplish with young players here.”

On Monday night, it was again that three - Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Mason Holgate and Jonjoe Kenny, plus a substitute appearance for Tom Davies that saw the Blues extend their unbeaten run to the sixth game with a 3-1 win over Swansea City.

A group of four players on Merseyside can be easily dubbed the ‘Fab Four’ but for Everton’s youngsters, it’s less fabulous and more work hard and determination that sees them drawing plaudits from the Goodison Park faithful.

In a season that could have spiralled out of control, in stepped David Unsworth, who, for all the faults as the interim manager, brought back the youth to an ageing squad.

Kenny was first and he hasn’t missed a beat since.

Shockingly for many, it has continued under Allardyce and now the four youngsters are making it hard for some senior players to win their place in the squad. For others, the youngsters' performances are placing doubt over some players futures at the club altogether.

Mason Holgate

The 21-year-old has partnered Ashley Williams in the heart of the Everton defence since Allardyce took charge and the Blues have conceded just twice in the last six games.

Holgate’s influence can be seen in just how much calmer and settled the Everton backline looks with him in the centre.

That may be to do with his quickness. He allows for Williams to step up and perhaps make a mistake because he can cover it. Same too with Cuco Martina, who has improved significantly since slotting in at left-back.

He also wants to play the ball quickly but only at the correct times.

With the Blues trailing in the first-half, Holgate demanded that Jordan Pickford release it to him quicker than he had been because the centre-half had a chance to knock a pass wide to Kenny. It led to a chance but it was more Holgate showing just how mature beyond his years he actually is.

Against Swansea, he also had two clearances from inside his own six-yard box and a defensive block just inside the 18-yard-box. He throws himself at the ball. 

Holgate could have found himself on the bubble of perhaps being sent out on loan in January but has, instead, made himself difficult to drop.

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Jonjoe Kenny

Any Everton right-back is going to draw comparisons to Seamus Coleman but Kenny is different, slightly better defensive but perhaps, a bit more intelligent in his forward play.

That has been evident in recent weeks and again against Swansea on Monday.

His run to win the Blues’ second penalty - albeit controversial - was timed brilliantly to the point where his marker had no other option than to try and swipe the ball away from his feet despite ultimately being unsuccessful.

He also had no unsuccessful dribbles against the Swans.

On the back end, his defensive work is excellent.

Three clearances - including two at the back post to clear his lines and another late in the game to ultimately waste time, plus a key interception that led to a dangerous Everton attack shows just how much he has progressed since being blooded by Unsworth.

He only gave away three fouls - none in any sort of region that could be described as a ‘danger area’ - and won seven including the penalty.

When Coleman returns, Allardyce will have a dilemma on his hands but for now, Kenny has carved out the right-back spot as his own - and how.

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Calvert-Lewin is industrious, canny and productive despite not finding the net on as regular a basis as he’d like.

The 20-year-old links play well, shields the ball with ease and bundles into defenders without fear. He’s quick too for his size, forcing solid Premier League centre-halves like Federico Fernández to make mistakes and foul him as he spins away.

Against the Welsh side, he had 18 successful links in play and won two late fouls that allowed Allardyce’s side to slow down, breathe and effectively kill the game off.

Whilst he got the Blues level following Wayne Rooney’s missed penalty, he fluffed his lines twice in the second half with chances that could and should have put the game to bed much earlier than the hosts did.

There is much improvement to be made in his game but the forward, with his name shortened to DCL, has come on leaps and bounds since making his Everton debut last season.

It’s easy to see that there is a player there that needs a bit of guidance and moulding but playing with a balance of player - experienced heads like Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson plus youngsters he’s played with for a while - Kenny, Davies and Ademola Lookman - his development is surely to be swift.

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Tom Davies

Despite not kicking on as many expected following a blossoming first spell in the Everton first-team last season, Tom Davies is still a key part of the team's future and his performance on Monday night showed why.

Davies was a substitute against the Swans and replaced Morgan Schneiderlin on the hour mark.

The 19-year-old’s introduction meant Allardyce was reverting to a 4-1-4-1 formation after starting with a 4-2-3-1 system. Davies parented Rooney in the heart of the second four, with Idrissa Gana Gueye marshalling the space behind them.

Davies glided into the space afforded to him by the visitors on numerous occasions but none was more so obvious than when he played in Rooney as he set up Sigurdsson for his goal that put the Blues ahead.

There was a worry from many fans that Davies would perhaps become ‘too safe’ in his play to retain a first-team berth after showcasing his adventurous side last season. That hasn’t happened despite him looking more comfortable in possession this term.

He only gave the ball away once on Monday night - a long ball headed for Calvert-Lewin but it didn’t dismay him from trying again a couple of minutes later.

It worked because like many things with Davies, it just works.

He will want to kick on and steal that spot in the Everton midfield away from Schneiderlin and continued performances like Monday night will do just that.