Everton return from a lengthy break, with hopes of making a final charge at 7th place in the Premier League, and possibly a Europa League playoff spot.
Standing in their way to start are Watford. The Hornets “boast” a couple of Everton old boys in Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu, but the club have lost their way a bit after a hot start under Marco Silva. The Portuguese manager is gone, and Javi Gracia is in.
How will the Blues line up?
Tactics and Formation
Sam Allardyce used a slightly unconventional midfield against Crystal Palace when Everton last played, and it worked pretty well for the Toffees. Tom Davies operated as an advanced destroyer, in front of Idrissa Gueye and Wayne Rooney — with the Englishman taking on the majority of the distributive duties.
That setup still forces Gylfi Sigurdsson into a wide position and leaves Rooney potentially exposed defensively, but we don’t think Big Sam sees either of those issues as big enough to make substantial changes.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Jonjoe Kenny - 10/10
With Seamus Coleman evidently out once more, Kenny will continue getting the call at right-back.
Michael Keane - 9/10
Keane has put together a reasonable run of matches, and appears to be over the foot injury that dogged him for much of the season. He should be among the first names on the team sheet each week, but we’ll see what Big Sam has to say about that.
Ashley Williams - 6/10
Williams entered for the injured Eliaquim Mangala in the Crystal Palace match — and was...fine? Big Sam preferred him to Phil Jagielka and Mason Holgate on that day, so we see no reason why he’d change his mind (even if we don’t agree). That said, any of Williams, Jagielka, or Holgate could line up next to Keane and we wouldn’t be that surprised.
Cuco Martina - 10/10
What is a Luke Garbutt anyway?
Tom Davies - 8/10
Davies is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, having played well in each of Everton’s last two matches. Allardyce probably isn’t particularly anxious to get Morgan Schneiderlin back on the field after the booing fiasco against Palace, and Davies’ play has made that decision easier.
Idrissa Gueye - 9/10
Allardyce claimed Gana picked up a knock at the end of the Palace match — a recurrence of that injury is the only reason the Senegalese midfielder won’t start.
Wayne Rooney - 8/10
Deep-lying midfielder Wayne Rooney isn’t exactly how we saw this season going, but here we are. He’s served as an important distributor when utilized in that role this season — but his defensive deficiencies are glaring. Palace didn’t have the firepower to make an issue of that though, and we don’t think Sam will suspect Watford is any different.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 9/10
The Icelander has slowly been building in confidence for awhile now. He’d still surely prefer to play in the middle, but he’s almost a lock to play on the left against Watford.
Theo Walcott - 10/10
Walcott has easily been Everton’s best player since arriving on Merseyside.
Oumar Niasse - 8/10
We remain unconvinced that starting Niasse is an adventure that benefits anyone. Cenk Tosun needs game time to acclimate to the English game, Dominic Calvert-Lewin needs game time to continue his maturation into a Premier League striker, and Niasse is what he is — a poacher with a tendency to pop up in the box at the right time.
That’s no slight to Niasse, whose play has absolutely justified his continued inclusion at Everton going forward. But is starting him really serving any purpose on a team all but locked into a mid-table finish? At the very least, Allardyce seems to think so.
- Joel Robles
- Leighton Baines - This spot could go any number of ways. Baines could be back, or it could be Seamus Coleman. If neither are fit, expect to see Mason Holgate.
- Beni Baningime - Morgan Schneiderlin missed the Dubai camp attending to a family matter in France (let the conspiracy theorists begin their questioning on that one). Regardless of the actual cause of his absence, it’s hard to see him in the 18 for this one. Instead, young Beni will probably get a look.
- Phil Jagielka - This match looks to have come a little too soon for Ramiro Funes Mori to make an appearance, so we should see the skipper in the 18.
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin
- Yannick Bolasie
- Cenk Tosun
In truth, this lineup is a bit of a tough one to nail down. The midfield should remain the same from Everton’s win over Crystal Palace, but several defenders could be in line for a return to action (Baines? Coleman? Funes Mori?), not to mention the fact that Cenk Tosun has been talked up throughout the recent mini-camp. Perhaps not even Sam himself knows what will happen.