Everton return from the international break, and things remain in just as much chaos as before they left. Thankfully, their opponent tomorrow might represent a respite - Crystal Palace are by far the worst team in the division, with a whopping 4 points to Everton’s 11.
With injuries and player controversies, how might the Blues line up?
Tactics and Formation
For much of the season, projecting Everton’s lineups has been a bit of a balancing act. For half of the club’s Premier League games, we’ve had to consider the roster selection’s impact on the upcoming Europa League or Carabao Cup match.
The Toffees do play on Thursday in the Europa League, but they’re already eliminated from that competition. We have absolutely no idea how Unsworth will handle his squad selection for that match — except for that we are quite confident he won’t let it get in the way of playing his best players on Saturday, in a match that actually matters.
Saturday’s opponent, Crystal Palace, doesn’t present much of anything in terms of outstanding quality or tactical nuance, so we think Unsworth will simply go with what he believes is his best 11 players. Based on what we’ve seen from him so far, we think (that he thinks) that’s the following.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Jonjoe Kenny - 9/10
Kenny has quickly proven to be Unsworth’s favored right-back, and we see no reason why that will change Saturday.
Michael Keane - 10/10
He looked a little rusty in his return against Watford before the break, but there’s no doubt that Keane is the top-choice center-back when healthy.
Phil Jagielka - 9/10
Jagielka remains miles better than Ashley Williams or Mason Holgate.
Leighton Baines - 10/10
Beni Baningime - 7/10
We think that the disagreement between Morgan Schneiderlin and Everton management will blow over, and the Frenchman will be back on the bench this week. However, Beni has been the better option as the deep-lying midfielder recently, and we don’t anticipate that Unsworth will want to rush Schneiderlin back into the lineup either.
Idrissa Gueye - 9/10
There’s no reason for Gana, Everton’s best central midfielder by some distance this season, shouldn’t start this match. But, Unsworth has done some very strange things with his midfielder and attacker selections, so we can’t give him a 10/10 either.
Wayne Rooney - 8/10
Don’t shoot the messenger here — we don’t want to see Rooney starting either. But, Unsworth has continued to show the same reliance on the former England star that Ronald Koeman did, and there’s no reason to think that will wane.
Aaron Lennon - 9/10
David Unsworth has done a lot of questionable things since taking charge of the senior team. One of the few things he appears to have gotten absolutely right, though, is the reintegration of Lennon into the side. He’s been dangerous (though imperfect) in attack and provided solid cover for the team’s defensively-questionable right-backs.
He looks sure to be a regular starter for as long as Unsworth is in charge — at least until Yannick Bolasie returns from injury.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 7/10
We don’t know what to say about the Icelander anymore. We remain steadfast in the belief that he’s got genuine ability when used properly — it’s just that if Wayne Rooney is in the lineup, there’s no way for him to be properly used. It’s a crying shame that he’s being pushed out of his comfort zone to accommodate Rooney, but we just can’t see any reason to believe Unsworth will stop doing so.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 7/10
DCL and Niasse both showed well in the final half hour against Watford, but Calvert-Lewin remains the more complete striker. We think he’ll start, with Niasse coming on to play the late hero once again, if needed.
- Joel Robles — We have no idea where Maarten Stekelenburg went and we’re starting to worry about him.
- Mason Holgate
- Ashley Williams
- Morgan Schneiderlin — As we said above, we think Schneiderlin will get back into the lineup in some form on Saturday. His quality was clear last year, and I think the coaching staff knows he brings something no other player can when he’s on his game. Getting him back on his game, however, goes beyond the scope of this discussion.
- Tom Davies
- Oumar Niasse
- Ademola Lookman — There was a little debate about how to handle the last spot on the bench. Surely it will go to either Lookman or Kevin Mirallas — but Mirallas’ spat with the coaching staff is a little longer-lived than Schneiderlin’s was, and he’s got more competition at his position than the Frenchman. We give Lookman the nod for now, but plan to keep a close eye on this situation.
How’s it look, then? Would you welcome Kevin Mirallas or Sandro Ramirez in from the cold? Perhaps even Davy Klaassen? With Ross Barkley, Seamus Coleman, and Yannick Bolasie on their way back, time is running out for some of these new signings.