Everton were completely out-played by Tottenham for the second time this season, going down to a heavy 4-0 defeat.
Cenk Tosun was handed his full debut following his arrival from Besiktas in a £21m move last week but the Turk spent the hour he was on the pitch mostly chasing shadows as the Blues once again failed to register a shot on target.
Instead, it was the prolific Harry Kane who stole the show once more after Son Heung-min had put the home side ahead after 25 minutes. The South Korean converted a simple chance from Serge Aurier and then created a similar chance for Kane to score two minutes into the second half, albeit from a suspiciously offside position, to effectively kill off Everton who were dreadful throughout.
Kane added his second just before the hour mark with the visitors' defence embarrassingly flat-footed while Christian Eriksen finished one of the best moves of the match by sweeping home inside the last 10 minutes.
The talk for Everton coming into the game had been about Tosun and Allardyce's admission that, having improved defensively, he and his team now had to add goals and entertainment to their game. The new signing was reduced to jumping for long balls downfield and vainly running the channels, however, while the defence crumbled at the other end.
Son's flicked header off an Eriksen free kick in the 14th minutes was the first sight of goal for either side but it flashed over Jordan Pickford's crossbar before Rooney was put in by Tosun's flick but he dragged a shot across goal and wide.
The veteran forward had the ball in the net midway through the first period, this time off Tosun's nod-on from Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner, but his goal was chalked off for offside.
The game sparked into life at that point and Pickford had to make a double stop to keep Spurs at bay, parrying away efforts by Kane and Aurier and then diving to his right to stop another shot from the England striker three minutes later.
Tottenham made the breakthrough when a switch ball to the right flank caught Cuco Martina well out of position covering an opponent in the centre and Davinson Sánchez's low centre was tapped in by Son.
Kane doubled the lead following an error by Jonjoe Kenny who committed himself against Son and was left stranded as the Spurs forward surged into the space behind him and delivered a dangerous ball into the six-yard box that was turned home as simply as the first goal.
Pickford saved from Kane again and Son hammered a shot off the post before the home side's goal machine added another when he stole in behind Mason Holgate to bobble Eric Dier's centre over Pickford's despairing gloves.
Allardyce used all three substitutes to almost no effect as the second half progressed and Everton all but disappeared from the contest. Pickford kept the score down two more stops to deny Son and Alli but he was powerless to prevent the fourth from going in with eight minutes to go.
A flowing Tottenham move ended with Eriksen firing home from Dele Alli's flick to complete the rout.
The Toffees remain in ninth place and still sit seven points above the drop zone but have not won in almost a month. The humiliating defeat was Everton's fourth in succession in all competitions and extended their winless run to six games, erasing the initial steps forward taken when Allardyce first arrived.
Allardyce undermined as abject Everton revert to type
This wasn’t supposed to happen anymore after Sam Allardyce was appointed, was it? The Premier League’s famed “fire-fighter” would whip together a sorry bunch who had, thanks to the flawed leadership and inadequate recruitment of his predecessor, helped plunge Everton into the bottom three and destroyed all the pre-season optimism generated by an unprecedented spending spree.
He would shore up the defence, make the Blues hard to beat, and slowly instil in the players a confidence that they could take on anyone in the top flight and get a result. And yet, here we are, staring at another 4-0 drubbing, four successive defeats and Everton conceding at a rate of 2½ goals a game. Allardyce’s unique selling point — defensive solidity and backs-to-the-wall defiance — has gone up in smoke since Boxing Day and it begs the question: so what now?
This was an utterly miserable performance, one only briefly lifted above the turgid and the hapless by a fleeting moment here and there early on in the final third by debutant Cenk Tosun and the brief, quickly extinguished, elation at a Wayne Rooney goal chalked off for offside. Beyond that, there were almost no redeeming facets save the continued shot-stopping form of Jordan Pickford… that is when he wasn’t left completely exposed by a flat-footed or simply non-existent back line.
I’ve resisted the temptation of hyperbole throughout this nightmare of a season but this was as abject as anything I’ve witnessed as an Evertonian. No (legitimate) shots on target for the third Premier League game in the last five and a collapse in the second half that echoed the nadirs of the Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman regimes.
To hear Sam Allardyce speak afterwards of having to now make his side more boring and less adventurous afterwards beggared belief. This Everton team couldn’t be more dreadful to watch, nor could they be less adventurous. The manager talked as if their maverick spirit had been punished as they poured forward in attack when, in fact, the Blues did precious little by way of getting forward beyond sending missiles forward from the boot of Jordan Pickford, aimed in the general direction of Tosun’s head.
The Turk was as isolated as his predecessors in the role before he was withdrawn in the second half — proof, as if it were needed, that you can’t just throw a striker into this team and expect all the problems going forward to melt away.
Rooney was deployed nominally in the hole with Gylfi Sigurdsson forced out wide left — a position where, by his own well-documented admission, he struggled during his own Spurs days — which went against all the logic established during the FA Cup derby, when the Icelander scored a lovely goal from a central position, while the Englishman had to be hauled off to save himself from a red card. Everton struggled as a result — Rooney again mis-placing passes left and right and Sigurdsson battling to assert himself on the contest.
And for all Allardyce’s renowned defensive bent, Tottenham picked their way through a system supposedly bolstered by twin defensive midfielders and around the fullbacks with ease.
Their first goal was an alarming case in point. With Phil Jagielka drawn way out of position to track Harry Kane, who had dropped off into attacking midfield, and Cuco Martina sucked across to centre-half to cover Son Heung-min, an ocean of space was left on Everton’s left flank for Serge Aurier to exploit. The Spurs defender delivered drove a hard and low ball into the 6-yard box where Son simply side-footed home from close range.
It’s been said numerous times but how a Premier League club of any description — let alone one with top-four aspirations which has been backed to the tune of £220m in signings under Farhad Moshiri — can go so long without acquiring cover at left-back just beggars belief. There hasn’t been a viable back-up to Leighton Baines for two seasons; while Martina has mostly acquitted himself as best as can be expected from a defensive perspective playing out position, he offers very little going forward and the simple fact remains that he isn’t near good enough even in his natural right-back role.
Tottenham’s second was almost a mirror image of the first although this time the freedom of the flank afforded Son came from Jonjoe Kenny’s inexperience as the South Korean expertly rolled him, leaving him for dead. Kane was offside when the ball was delivered to him but the defending in the middle was just as lax, with the striker easily able to steal between Jagielka and Martina.
Unforgivably, the heads went down after that as a sense of futility set in with 43 minutes plus stoppage time to go. That sense of pointlessness was echoed by Allardyce's substitutions: the ageing Aaron Lennon replaced the utterly ineffective Yannick Bolasie while Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Morgan Schneiderlin came on in unimaginative like-for-like swaps for Cenk Tosun and James McCarthy.
Kane plundered a second as blue jerseys ambled about and Eric Dier then simply passed the ball into the 6-yard box again behind the static Mason Holgate and Jagielka to toe it over Pickford.
And Christian Eriksen, the like of which Everton so desperately need in attacking midfield, finished off the rout at the end of an impressive Spurs move when he swept home Dele Alli’s flick.
It could have been worse. Pickford made a number of stops to deny Kane, Serge Aurier, Kane and Son. Son also rattled the post in the second half prior to the third goal while the Blues offered nothing going the other way.
As this played out, thoughts inevitably turned to how we go about fixing what continues to be a shambles at Everton. Allardyce was brought in with a specific purpose – one he achieved almost instantly with three wins and three draws in his first six league games in charge. There is a danger that we could get drawn back into a dogfight at the bottom if this sequence of defeats is prolonged but the hierarchy will, no doubt, have faith that the experienced “relegation specialist” will be able to stave that off.
Beyond that, you would hope that the 18-month deal he was offered — the brevity of which is being cited as a possible reason for the contempt of his leadership that some of the players appeared to show yesterday — means that work is being done in the background firming up a long-term hire with a more expansive outlook.
In the meantime, Allardyce’s rhetoric portends of more dirge to come in the next few weeks from an unbalanced squad labouring under the same limited approach as his predecessor.
Wembley footballing lesson humbles miserable Blues
Everton are at Wembley for the Premier League fixture with Tottenham Hotspur, and a first outing for new signing Cenk Tosun, making his debut.
Yes, Everton's 'Fab Four' make their first appearance, Bolasie, Rooney, Sigurdsson, and Tosun leading the line in a whole new era for the Blues. Calvert-Lewin makes way.
The defence is the same that conceded two at Anfield last weekend, but Gueye replaces Schneiderlin in midfield. Michael Keane is out injured. Tom Davies, who has been poor, is not involved.
Everton kicked off and hoofed it straight out of play... Holgate then repeating the feat, putting the Blues on the back foot until they won the first free-kick. Kenny was then penalizes for a late foul on Son, setting up Spurs first real attack.
Aurier's cross flew off Martina for the first corner that Davies took, Jagielka glancing the ball away. Spurs were finding plenty of space as they surged at Everton's defence.
Bolasie's first chance to play in a cross was blocked by three defenders. Everton had some possession but chose to pass the parcel until Tosun was slow to profit from a decent first touch, fouling the defender.
Tosun showed some intelligent touches and a nice style as he got more involved in Everton's characteristically sluggish build-ups. Kane was allowed to cross after picking up the ball from a clear offside position. Gueye caught Alli, and Eriksen whipped in a wicked ball that Son glanced beyond Pickford's goal.
From the goal-kick, Rooney controlled it well but drove his shot wide, and Everton had to defend again until Rooney was fouled by Dembele but the free-kick came to nothing.
Tosun looked smart in getting a free-kick wide left that Sigurdsson curled in, Everton eventually getting their first corner, cleared by Alli, Kenny winning a corner that was powered in by Rooney off Tosun's smart header but the Everton man was called for offside.
Everton were immediately under pressure with Pickford fielding strong shots from Kane, a sign of the dangers investing too much in the transition from defence to attack. Kane tried to spin Jagielka who had done enough to weaken his third shot at Pickford.
Aurier was wide open on Martina's side and drove the ball low for Son to score with a soft tap-in, Pickford with no chance and Everton behind far too easily.
Rooney tried to break until fouled by Eriksen. Everton got three bites of the cherry but did not get the ball beyond Spurs' 18-yard line; however, Dier gave them another set-piece chance with his foul on McCarthy, this time delivered to deep, straight to Lloris.
Bolasie got forward and delivered a decent cross that Tosun got well underneath. Sigurdsson crossed in well from the left but there was no-one there to convert.
Holgate brushed aside Kane who retaliated with a reckless challenge on the Everton defender but any attacking intent was soon turned over despite Tosun's first touch. After showing signs of being a little more adventurous with the ball, Everton were now reverting to an all-too-familiar cautious style, Bolasie failing to defeat a high Spurs line, his run for a loose ball called offside.
Tosun galloped around the Spurs defense but surprised everyone with an early and deep cutback. Then, a clumsy challenge on Vertonghen led to a Spurs corner, Rooney heading clear. Some neat triangles down the left ended with the ball being driven past Martina and out of play.
Jagielka was booked for blocking Alli's run, Eriksen firing a wild ball well beyond the Everton goal. The half ended with a foul by Tosun, who had been well enough involved and shown some much-needed spirit and desire, but no shots on target again for Blues, disallowed goal notwithstanding.
It was a scrappy start to the 2nd half with lots of silly head tennis until Son far too easily turned Kenny and drove a gift into the offside Kane for another easy goal.
Rooney fired well over from distance before Son resumed his footballing lesson for the Jonjoe Kenny, forcing him back. Son played in Dele Alli but Kenny did enough and the Spurs man's shot hit the side netting.
Gana gifted a ball to Kane who turned and ran at Pickford forcing a wild parry back into play, that at least saved an almost certain goal. Everton were showing even less going forward, summed up by an awful hoof from Holgate. Former Spurs player, Lennon replaced Bolasie to a great ovation from the entire crowd.
Spurs swept forward, Son hitting the post before Kane fumbled a clever ball from Dier over Pickford and into the net for a third Spurs goal, Everton's defence looking as rotten as ever. Calvert-Lewin replaced Tosun, who had done nothing since the break.
Rooney won a free-kick on the right wing, Kenny finding Calvert-Lewin but no second ball retention, although an Everton corner resulted, but with no goal threat. An Everton attack bogging down in the right corner spoon turned into a surging Spurs attack that stopped with Dier, any pretence that we were witnessing a real contest becoming increasingly sparse.
A fall by Alli won a free-kick that Pickford punched clear as Spurs proceeded to toy with the Everton defence, McCarthy giving way to Schneiderlin for the last 20 minutes.
A clever flick by Rooney from Lennon's pass fell nicely for Calvert-Lewin but he could make nothing of it. Rooney saw yellow as he chased the faster stronger Vertonghen and clipped his heel.
Son danced inside inside again, firing straight at Pickford, the ball coming out to Alli who lashed it first time straight back to the Everton keeper.
Son looked to have the beating of Holgate after a horrible giveaway by Lennon but Holgate recovered brilliantly to thwart the Korean's shot. But the fourth was not long in coming, a fluid move of first-time touches finished with lethal accuracy by Eriksen.
Spurs continued to taunt the Blues with exhibition stuff as the final minutes ticked painfully by, and Big Sam looked on forlornly, all his good work rebuilding Everton's defensive prowess ripped to shreds.
Updated Everton get back to the bread and butter of the Premier League this weekend with their season essentially over bar the goal of a top-seven finish and the relative intrigue of whether Sam Allardyce can evolve beyond his limited reputation.
The fact that the first game after the elimination from the FA Cup at the first time of asking will be at Wembley is a mildly bitter twist of fate just as the distance at which the Blues continue to lag behind their one-time peers, Tottenham, won't be lost on the travelling Evertonians.
While the cup offered one last shot at success in what has been a pretty miserable season, the fact that another date under the arch is off the table really will sharpen the focus on the manager, particularly now that he has landed his top priority for January — a striker to ease the burden on Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Cenk Tosun wasn't signed in time to face Liverpool last Friday but with a week to settle into his new surroundings, get familiar with his team-mates and hone his fitness again, he could be in contention for a starting berth rather than a place on the bench as would have been likely at Anfield.
Whether the addition of a more rounded and experienced striker proves to be the tonic to transform a side that has, frankly, been pretty abysmal going forward since the 3-1 win over Swansea almost a month ago remains to be seen.
Much will depend on the formation and personnel deployed behind him and whether Allardyce opts for the overtly defensive posture he adopted at Bournemouth when he played three defensive midfielders and a lone striker.
Wayne Rooney came off the bench that day in place of James McCarthy but couldn't inspire Everton to victory and his removal from the fray against Liverpool last week following a worryingly ineffective and indisciplined performance doesn't bode well for his chances of leading a newly dynamic Blues side now that Tosun will be leading the line.
Instead, the incisiveness came from Gylfi Sigurdsson who scored the equaliser that threatened to force a replace and the badly-needed creativity came from Ademola Lookman. The young winger, criminally overlooked at West Brom and Bournemouth — they were two games that were begging for him to come on in the final quarter of an hour to inject some direct running and inventiveness — made a strong case for his inclusion in the squad at Wembley but the strength of the opposition might make Allardyce think twice about starting him.
That honour will likely go to Yannick Bolasie again while the number of more defensively-minded central midfielders that end up in the line-up could depend on the fitness of Idrissa Gueye. The Senegalese international was risked at Bournemouth, aggravated a hamstring injury, has missed the last two matches and is therefore probably still doubtful.
Leighton Baines remains sidelined with a calf problem while, on the other side of defence, Seamus Coleman's rehabilitation continues with, perhaps, the end of the month as a target for his return. Michael Keane is also ruled out as he continues to have problems with a gashed foot.
Cuco Martina and Jonjoe Kenny will continue to deputise, leaving Allardyce just needing to perm two from Phil Jagielka, Mason Holgate and Ashley Williams, assuming he doesn't go for five at the back instead.
Spurs, who begin the weekend in fifth place, were held at Wembley by West Ham in their last League outing but had, prior to that, looked like they had finally got to grips with their temporary home with strong consecutive wins over Southampton, Brighton and Stoke City in the League and Apoel Nicosia in the Champions League.
They have shown themselves to be susceptible to teams that go at them on their home turf, something Everton haven't really done at any point this season under three different managers but Blues will be looking to see if Allardyce can maintain his side's defensive solidity against a very strong attacking team while starting to add some adventure going forward in his own team.
Kick-off: 5:30pm, Saturday 13 January, 2018
Referee: Craig Pawson
Last Time: Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Kenny, Holgate, Jagielka, Martina, Schneiderlin, McCarthy, Rooney, Sigurdsson, Bolasie, Tosun