Everton got back in our good graces with a 5-1 drubbing of Burnley in mid-week, but the pressure is not exactly letting up as they head to Brighton & Hove Albion tomorrow afternoon. This time of year, rotation is usually the name of the game, but will that be the case for our Blues?
Tactics and Formation
In a world not so different from our own, Marco Silva might have taken this opportunity to rotate his squad — giving starters a chance to rest and reserves a chance to prove themselves.
But in our world, Everton has taken five points in it last six matches and eight points in its last eight. With Manchester United unshackled from the oppressive and idiotic reign of Jose Mourinho, Silva can’t afford to drop any more points in the festive period.
So, we expect we’ll see a lineup and gameplan more-or-less in line with what we’ve come to expect.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne - 8/10
Everton’s French left-back deserves a rest, but he’s just playing so goddamn well. Leighton Baines remains an acceptable second-choice, but Digne’s attacking and defending have just been so clearly superior that it’s hard to see Silva taking him out of the lineup.
Michael Keane - 8/10
Keane has pretty clearly been made the number-one choice at center-back, so the only reason he’d come out of the lineup is for a rest. Generally though, center-backs need such rests less frequently than their more ground-covering counterparts, so we expect him back in once again.
Kurt Zouma - 5/10
We don’t envy Marco Silva for having to make this choice. Kurt Zouma has proven to be more mentally reliable than Yerry Mina, but you can’t teach size — and Mina’s six-foot-five frame means he’s a superior aerial threat.
This is as close to a toss-up as we’ve seen this season — we shade it toward Zouma, but only just.
Seamus Coleman - 7/10
Coleman’s continued presence in the lineup has more to do with his backup than his play. The Irishman was fine against Burnley, but he’s still no Lucas Digne.
That said, Jonjoe Kenny certainly is no Leighton Baines either — and Silva seems unlikely to be particularly eager to throw Kenny back into the lineup. So, it remains Coleman’s spot, even if fatigue is starting to creep in.
Idrissa Gueye - 9/10
Silva’s decision to give Gana an extra match off looks to have worked out nicely. Gueye got a few minutes in the Burnley match to get his feet under him, but should still be fresh enough to return to a starter’s role against Brighton.
Andre Gomes - 8/10
Everyone’s favorite Portuguese midfielder has also gotten some rest during this period, even though he’s started every match. Those few early exits should leave him well enough equipped to start once more on Saturday.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 9/10
Kieran Dowell’s loan to Sheffield United confirms what we already suspected — Gylfi Sigurdsson is a play-making robot never in need of rest, who will play 100% of minutes the rest of the season.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit much — but it’s an interesting development to be sure. Might Everton target depth at the No. 10 position in January?
Theo Walcott - 8/10
Ademola Lookman’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for him, but it inadvertently may have turned Theo Walcott’s season around. The former Arsenal winger had been struggling and looked sure to lose his place to Lookman over this period, but the youngster’s knock has forced Walcott to stay in a starting role.
The result? Theo got the opening goal in the match against Tottenham Hotspur (and the match ended immediately thereafter and Everton won 1-0, right?) and then put together another solid performance against Burnley, meriting a special comment for the winger from Silva too. We still wish Lookman was healthy enough to get a chance here, but thankfully that’s no longer simply because Walcott is struggling.
Richarlison - 10/10
Silva’s favorite Brazilian didn’t start against Burnley, the first time the attacker missed out on the starting lineup since his early-season suspension. He’s sure to return to the starting lineup after that well-earned rest — and quality garbage-time goal on Boxing Day.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 9/10
He didn’t get a goal in Everton’s 5-1 drubbing of Burnley, but it’s worth pointing out that the Toffees have scored quite freely with DCL on the pitch over the last month. Calvert-Lewin got on the board against Manchester City, had a dubiously disallowed goal against Tottenham, and drew a foul in a dangerous area that led to Lucas Digne’s first goal on Boxing Day.
Even when he’s not scoring, he’s making good things happen around him, and after a rest at the end of the Burnley match, he’s quite likely to lead the line again.
Bernard - While it wasn’t mentioned by Marco Silva or an any reports, it was clear to those watching that the diminutive winger suffered some sort of groin injury against the Clarets. He toughed it out, but it’s likely to be a good idea for him to start on the bench tomorrow.
What kind of lineup would you use, Blues? Let us know in the comments below.