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Everton at West Brom: Blogger Q&A

Blues take on Baggies

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Everton are away again on Monday night, taking on West Bromwich Albion. The Blues had a comeback win on Tuesday in the Capital One Cup, beating Reading 2-1 while the Baggies crashed out to Norwich City, who ironically the Toffees will play next.

Ahead of the game we spoke with Matt Evans, who runs the ESPN FC's West Brom blog and has been kind enough to correspond with us in the past as well.

RBM - Surely times have changed in the transfer market when clubs like West Brom and Everton can put their foot down and say "No!" to the deeper-pockets clubs. How do you feel about the Baggies stance on Saido Berahino.

ME - It was nice to see our chairman set a price and not bow down when a "big club" tried to do a deal on the cheap and in the case of Tottenham Hotspur - very little class - by unsettling Berahino through the press. I don't think anyone would have begrudged him a move to Spurs after his exploits last season, even Jeremy Peace and Tony Pulis, but only in a deal which suitably rewarded the club for bringing a player through the academy and developing him to the point where he was in a full England squad.

RBM - Speaking of whom, fans must be glad that the spat between Berahino and club chairman Jeremy Peace seems to have been amicably resolved? They were singing his name when he scored against local rivals Aston Villa!

ME - The whole situation had an air of the Peter Odemwingie saga about it, but luckily things have worked out differently. While Odemwingie became a disruptive presence around the club and was booed roundly in every appearance, it seems as if Berahino has knuckled down, been welcomed back by the players and the reception he got against Southampton in his first game must have been better than he expected. Then to get the winning goal against Villa and boing boing in front of the Villa fans has certainly got him back in the good books. West Brom need Berahino to survive in the league so the spat had to be resolved.

RBM - Where else were the Baggies active during the transfer window? Do you think the weaknesses in the squad were addressed to Tony Pulis' liking? Are you expecting to be busy during the winter transfer period too?

ME - There was plenty of additions in the summer but we didn't strengthen in certain areas that needed addressing. A box to box central midfielder would have been nice, and it was clear Pulis wanted at least one more wide player in the squad. I expect that Albion will try again for Matt Phillips of QPR in January, and if Berahino goes, he'll want at least one striker. The brightest of the summer signings is undoubtedly Jonny Evans, who looks a class above any defender West Brom have had in the Premier League era.

RBM - Did my eyes deceive me or were you using ex-Everton striker Victor Anichebe as a defensive midfielder in the midweek Capital One Cup game? Had we known he could play there we'd have kept him and gotten rid of Gareth Barry!

ME - He did play there, and it certainly raised a few eyebrows. He didn't do badly but as you well know, his energy levels aren't the best so he started struggling after 70 minutes. More than anything, it shows the lack of depth in that area and also just where Anichebe stands in the pecking order of West Brom's forwards.

RBM - What are West Brom doing differently at home? They have two wins and a draw away, but only two losses and a draw playing at The Hawthorns?

ME - They aren't doing anything differently, which is the problem really. Tony Pulis' set up works perfectly away from home, he gets all 11 men behind the ball and forces the home side to make all the running, soaking up pressure and then springing on the counter attack. He does exactly the same at home, but that merely results in the opposition attacking endlessly and the fans getting on the backs of the players who feel under pressure when they get the ball. He needs to be a bit more pro-active at home and let the players attack with a bit more freedom and width.

RBM - After the 13th placed finish last season, what would you say are the season targets for Tony Pulis this time around?

ME - As ever, the first priority is survival. Getting to 40 points as quickly as possible would be good, so then Albion can look up and try to break into the top half of the table. That'd be a first for Pulis, so it must be something he's targeted.

RBM - Games between the two sides tend to be close and hotly-contested. Who do you see shining in this Monday night highlight fixture? How about a score prediction?

ME - I think Callum McManaman will be important for Albion if he plays, he's a real creative outlet when he's on form and would likely be up against an inexperienced player at left back like Brendan Galloway. For Everton, I think Ross Barkley could get some joy against our rather one-paced midfield while I'm sure Romelu Lukaku will get another hero's reception. I'll go for a 1-1 draw, with Berahino getting Albion's goal.