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Everton-Tottenham Hotspur Preview
Everton centre-back Phil Jagielka says manager Sam Allardyce is being "unfairly" judged ahead of Saturday's trip to Wembley to face Tottenham Hotspur.
The decision to replace Ronald Koeman with Allardyce as Everton manager at the start of December prompted an upturn in form. But the Toffees (7-6-9) went four games without a win over Christmas, scoring just one goal in that stretch, and last Friday they were knocked out of the FA Cup by local rivals Liverpool.
An 0-2-3 stretch since Dec. 23 has seen questions asked of Allardyce's suitability for the job, particularly surrounding his ability to play attacking football. However, Jagielka says that those doubts are based on the coach's work at former clubs rather than on the evidence of what's happening at Everton.
"Unfairly, some people had their own opinions about the manager, but whatever club he has gone in to, he has dealt with what he has had," Jagielka told the official Everton website. "He knows he has ability in defence, midfield and attack here, and I am sure he will be able to use all of that.
"The previous clubs he has been at, he has had to play the hand he has been dealt and people have jumped on the bandwagon. The gaffer does not say to us, 'the be all and end all is to defend and we forget about going forward and attacking.' He wants us to cause problems for the teams we play against. It is up to us to find a mixture of both."
It won't be easy to find that balance against Mauricio Pochettino's defensively strong Tottenham (12-5-5), particularly given that the hosts will be keen to respond to the 1-1 draw against West Ham that soured their strong league run of Christmas.
The Lilywhites had won three on the bounce prior to the London derby against the Hammers on Jan. 4, but were held to a result that leaves them three points outside of the top four. Spurs did bounce back with a 3-0 win over AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup.
Saturday's match will also see the spotlight focused on striker Harry Kane, following reports in the Spanish media that he is a transfer target for Real Madrid. Kane's red-hot form was always likely to attract such speculation, but Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy insisted this week that the Premier League's top-scorer, and every other major player in the Spurs squad, will remain at the club for next season.
"I'm 100 percent confident," Levy said. "Every single player that we want to keep, I can assure you will be playing for Tottenham Hotspur next season."
And the famously tough-negotiating Levy also added that Tottenham may opt against strengthening their squad during the January transfer window.
"Mauricio's strategy has always been that if an opportunity arises that he thinks can improve the squad then we will need to look at it, but January is always a very difficult window," a circumspect Levy said.
Spurs are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League meetings against Everton and won 3-0 in September, with Kane scoring a brace.
Updated January 11, 2018