Everton head to Stoke City this weekend with one big problem on everyone’s minds: the absence of Gylfi Sigurdsson.
While it has been an up and down season for the Blues’ playmaker, he has nevertheless tied the team together on the rare occasion that Sam Allardyce is inclined to attack an opponent’s net rather than a boat of gravy.
How might he be replaced in the lineup?
Tactics and Formation
There are two competing factors at play when considering Everton’s lineup for this match.
On the one hand, Sam Allardyce has been hesitant to make significant changes to his team after a victory. This has been good at times and bad at others, but it’s been a pattern that has at least helped us make sense of the tactical dinosaur’s thought process.
On the other hand, Gylfi Sigurdsson is out this weekend, and likely for the rest of the season. He’s been an integral part of the team this season — despite being largely misused by three different managers. So, Big Sam has a job on his hands figuring out how to replace him.
Allardyce is faced with a choice the. Keep the changes to a minimum despite Sigurdsson’s injury, and hope that a similar group of players can work together to replace the Icelander’s contributions — or make more substantial changes to give his team a different look in the post-Gylfi era.
We think he goes for the former.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Seamus Coleman - 10/10
The Irish right-back appears to be at full health at this stage, and with a week off between matches, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t start again.
Michael Keane - 9/10
Phil Jagielka - 9/10
Saturday’s victory over Brighton included Everton’s first clean sheet of calendar year 2018. Yes, it was at home, and yes, it was against Brighton, but that’s still a substantial step in the right direction. It’s hard to see any reason for the Toffees to change the center-back pairing after a rare defensive success.
Leighton Baines - 9/10
Like Coleman, Baines looked back to his old self last weekend, had a week of rest, and has two weeks off before the next match. He’s returned from injury a little more recently than Coleman, but he still should, in all likelihood, start.
Tom Davies - 8/10
Idrissa Gueye - 8/10
Wayne Rooney - 8/10
The injury to Gylfi Sigurdsson will force a change to the Everton midfield at a frustrating time, given that Big Sam seemed to have finally committed himself to playing the Icelander in the center of the pitch. In all likelihood, that will mean a move up the pitch from Wayne Rooney, with Davies keeping his place and Gueye returning from injury.
Allardyce has tended to go for as little change as possible after victories, and this setup would represent that. Although, as we pointed out earlier this week, there are other players in desperate need of proving themselves with Sigurdsson out.
Yannick Bolasie - 8/10
Bolasie, indirectly, is another player who can prove himself with Sigurdsson out. Gylfi, for better or worse, occupied the left wing for much of this season, limiting Yala’s opportunities even after his return from injury.
That’s not going to be a problem the rest of this season, and Bolasie is the obvious candidate to play that position for now — and he hopes to prove that will continue to be the case in the future.
Theo Walcott - 10/10
Cenk Tosun - 10/10
Can’t argue with the big man’s form, can we?
- Joel Robles
- Cuco Martina
- Ramiro Funes Mori
- Davy Klaassen - The Dutch midfielder may get his chance with Sigurdsson out too, but Big Sam hasn’t exactly pushed the envelope when it comes to integrating new players. A win this weekend would put Everton at the mystical 40-point safety mark — so maybe after hitting that landmark, Klaassen will get more chances. We aren’t holding our breath.
- Beni Baningime
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin
- Oumar Niasse
Would you rather see Klaassen come in as a direct replacement for Gylfi? Perhaps - gasp - Nikola Vlasic? Let us know in the comments.