The draw with Norwich last week may have put Everton two points behind where we were last season after the first game, but the 88% pass success rate that’s been bandied about all week suggests that the players are capable of taking on board Roberto Martinez’s evolution of our tactics. Unfortunately the defensive errors that crept into our game last year let the Canaries back into the match.
Our opponents this week are West Bromwich Albion, and they didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory with their 1-0 home defeat to Southampton. But at this stage of the season form means nothing, surprise results can spring from anywhere, meaning Everton should be guarded, despite their impressive home record against the Baggies - they have dropped just four points from a possible 21 against them at Goodison.
People felt that West Brom overachieved last year in finishing eighth, their highest finish since the early 1980s, and that they’ll struggle to replicate their final position in 2013/14. Since last year they’ve lost a big young player in Romelu Lukaku who has returned to parent club Chelsea, and replaced him with a temperamental older player in Nicolas Anelka. Also added to the squad are centre back Diego Lugano and on loan striker Matej Vydra. Boss Steve Clarke will be wanting a better performance from his team than on the opening day, when Rickie Lambert's 90th minute penalty condemned them to defeat.
Roberto Martinez will be hoping that Darron Gibson is fit to take his place in the starting line up this week, potentially at the expense of Leon Osman, who was below par last week. Gibson was key in pre-season and was missed against Norwich City after tweaking his knee in the game against Real Betis. Apart from Gibson, Tony Hibbert's slow recovery and Antolin Alcaraz’s continued absence are other injuries for Everton to contend with. And in late news Sylvain Distin will have a fitness test before the game.
West Brom are waiting on their new signings Lugano and Vydra after they weren’t considered fit to start last week following international duty. Zoltan Gera is still recovering from long term injury and won't be considered. Anelka has been excused on compassionate grounds.
Keys To The Game
All the talk recently has been about our new passing play and how this will affect our season, but this is the kind of game where defensive strength needs to be shown after conceding two sloppy goals against the Canaries last week. Thankfully the Baggies appear short on quality in the final third of the pitch. Shane Long is a grafter but not a consistent goal threat, Anelka is still settling in on his return to the Premier League while Vydra is new to this division having played in the Championship last season. I am confident that we’ll score tomorrow, but whether Phil Jagielka and Distin/ Johnny Heitinga can keep a clean sheet is perhaps the biggest question. There is also the matter of a certain Ross Barkley. After his impressive display and goal last week, can he follow it up at home?
West Brom have failed to score a goal in four of their last six Premier League games away from home.
Just one of the previous 14 Premier League meetings between these two sides has ended in a draw.
Everton averaged the highest possession figure of all Premier League sides on the opening weekend (67%), as well as the second best passing accuracy (88%).
Shane Long scored a goal in each of the two Premier League meetings between Everton and West Brom last season, with both arriving in the 65th minute.
The Baggies have won only one of their last 10 Premier League games (W1 D3 L6).
Nikita Jelavic has scored just one goal in his last 20 hours and 36 minutes of Barclays Premier League football for Everton.
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- Everton at Norwich City: Tactical Analysis