Marco Silva has perhaps more lineup decisions this week as Everton faces Watford FC than he has all season. His side, which has been solid for most of the season, is coming off maybe its two most disappointing results of the season, and with the race for sixth well and truly on, there’s little room for error.
Tactics and Formation
After a solid attacking first half, albeit one in which Everton conceded, the Toffees toiled to find a second goal against a deep-lying Newcastle United on Wednesday. Marco Silva’s goal will be to find a way to convert possession into chances and goals more effectively on Monday against his old club.
Everton hasn’t dropped any home points in matches that featured Silva’s previously preferred XI, so we think he’ll go back to that group — with one change.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne - 10/10
Michael Keane - 9/10
Keane’s rest on Wednesday was well-deserved, but with it now behind us, we expect him to be back in the lineup. All three of Everton’s top center-backs have done well overall, but we think Keane sits just ahead of Kurt Zouma and Yerry Mina.
Kurt Zouma - 5/10
The other spot, however, is anybody’s guess. As we’ve said in the past, if the race between Mina and Zouma is a true coin flip, we expect Mina to get the edge, because we know he’ll be at Everton after this season.
However, Mina lost Jacob Murphy on Newcastle’s only goal on Wednesday, and Zouma put in a strong performance. We remain very high on Mina on the whole, but Zouma’s performance against Newcastle United might just have earned him a chance to stay in the first XI.
Seamus Coleman - 10/10
Idrissa Gueye - 10/10
Andre Gomes - 10/10
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 10/10
Silva’s decision to take the Icelander off in a 1-1 match was strange, and can really only be explained if you believe the manager wanted to give his star No. 10 a bit of a break.
With that break now given, it’s hard to see Silva not immediately going back to Sigurdsson — especially given how Everton played after he left the pitch.
Theo Walcott - 7/10
Ademola Lookman wasn’t great or bad in his first start of the season Wednesday — but we don’t think he quite did enough to jump ahead of Theo in the preferred starting XI.
We might still give Lookman the start, especially given Walcott’s obvious lack of confidence at the moment — but Silva has thus far been pretty unwavering in his support for the player.
Bernard - 8/10
Bernard’s return to the lineup hinges entirely on Silva’s decision at striker. If Richarlison comes back in up top, we expect his Brazilian counterpart to join him on the left. If Cenk Tosun or Dominic Calvert-Lewin start up top, Richarlison will play on the left and Bernard will go to the bench.
We think Silva goes back to Richarlison up top.
Richarlison - 10/10
The PXI committee had the following discussion about Richarlison during the Newcastle match, after one of Richarlison’s several boneheaded turnovers on the left wing.
A: You know, I’m starting to wonder if Richarlison at striker really has anything to do with the striker situation.
C: What do you mean?
A: I think Silva might put Richarlison at striker so that when he makes those type of stupid decisions, it’s not immediately leading to a counter the other way.
C: You know, that actually might check out
Make of that what you will — we all know Richarlison will play, and we expect him back at the top of the formation.
In the closing of last week’s projected XI, we noted that Everton had made a habit of beating the teams that it ought to beat. The Toffees fell short of that mark against Newcastle — can Silva now pull the right strings to turn that around?