As more competitive games are played, Ronald Koeman’s first choice Everton starting eleven will continue to come into focus. Of course, there’s still the matter of more new signings that will surely arrive, but for now, there’s a fairly clear picture of how the Blues’ Dutch manager wants to approach things.
Everton head into the second leg of their Europa League qualifying match against MFK Ružomberok with a slender 1-0 lead. A few of the new boys look set to make their full debuts, so lets dive into how the Toffees may set up tomorrow in Slovakia.
Tactics and Formation
Don’t expect this week’s match to be substantially different than last week’s. Ruzomberok will be a little more comfortable playing at home, but the gap in ability is still much too wide for the Slovakian side to take the match to Everton. Expect Ruzomberok to sit deep and look to play on the counter and for set pieces, at least until the final half hour or so, provided the score remains the same.
As a result, Koeman will likely go to his preferred 4-3-3 once again, given little reason to do otherwise. Taking what we learned last week and what Koeman has said since that match, expect to see the following:
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 9/10
Koeman has indicated that Pickford should be ready to start after missing out on the first leg due to his lack of time with the team.
Cuco Martina - 5/10
The Curacoan right-back was probably Everton’s worst player last week, and the decision to include him was a bit strange to begin with. Koeman benched Pickford and Sandro because they hadn’t had sufficient time to work with the team, but Martina, who was in training for a similar period of time, was trusted with a starter’s role.
Interestingly, our original prediction to play right-back in that match, Jonjoe Kenny, didn’t even make the 18-man roster. Instead, it was Mason Holgate — center-back by trade, right-back by necessity — along with Phil Jagileka on the bench.
Given Koeman’s apparent lack of trust in Kenny, his bizarre willingness to use Martina last week, and the fact that Holgate still isn’t a right-back, we give the former Southampton man a 50/50 shot to start — though it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either of the other two options either.
Ashley Williams - 9/10
There’s a remote chance that Koeman could pull a fast one and go with a now more fit Jagielka in this spot — but there’s no apparent reason to make that change.
Michael Keane - 10/10
Keane was dominant in preseason and solid Thursday. He’ll start in Slovakia this week.
Leighton Baines - 10/10
Last week’s goalscorer had a good match, not that it really matters in terms of his job security. The club still has no cover at left-back, so it’ll be Baines without a doubt.
Morgan Schneiderlin - 10/10
Idrissa Gueye - 10/10
Davy Klaassen - 10/10
The combination of Schneiderlin, Gueye, and Klaassen is obviously Everton’s best midfield trio. Klaassen will have Tom Davies breathing down his neck for a starting spot all season, but the Dutchman was more than good enough last week to secure a spot for this week.
Kevin Mirallas - 7/10
The Belgian didn’t do a whole lot last week to make a case that he should keep his starting spot if/when Gylfi Sigurdsson or a similar player comes to Everton. But as it stands now, he’s one of the players most capable of filling Koeman’s ideal inside-drifting winger role.
Other options at the wide positions do still exist, with Aaron Lennon and Ademola Lookman waiting in the wings. But the former is less explosive and the latter less proven — expect the Belgian to get the nod.
Sandro Ramirez - 8/10
Everton’s performance improved when Sandro entered the match for Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the 61st minute, and he’s now had an extra week to get acclimated to the squad. Like Mirallas, he’s not necessarily a perfect fit for the role or the most talented player around, but he’s the best the Toffees have at this stage.
Wayne Rooney - 10/10
With a move for another striker still on hold, Rooney will continue to play up top.
- Maarten Stekelenburg — Stek did an acceptable job last week and is pretty clearly preferred to Joel Robles at this stage.
- Gareth Barry
- Tom Davies
- Phil Jagielka
- Mason Holgate — We aren’t convinced he’s good enough to necessarily play at right-back or center-back, but a lack of depth at both positions lands Holgate on the bench. We’d prefer to see Jonjoe Kenny here (or in the starting lineup, actually), but his absence from the matchday 18 last week says all we need to know.
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin — The English striker got a look at right wing last week, and he looked out of place. He thrived in a true striker’s role at the U-20 World Cup this summer, so he’s the best depth we have at that position as things stand.
- Ademola Lookman — Speaking of players who had good showings at the U-20 World Cup, Lookman will probably nab the last spot on the bench. He got the spot over Aaron Lennon last week at Goodison, so we wager that Koeman will stick with that plan. It is worth noting that we prefer Lennon in this spot though, given the potential for needing to defend a late lead away from home.
In truth, the lineup for tomorrow is fairly straightforward - however, there are a few interesting wrinkles that Everton could throw at Ruzomberok. Given the tight scoreline through one leg, the team news tomorrow will be worth watching closely.