It’s good to be back. We missed club football, and the advent of the Nations League wasn’t quite interesting enough to scratch that footy itch. Everton welcome a truly terrible West Ham United side to Goodison Park on Sunday, and it’s a match that seems like it should be quite winnable.
The Hammers have scored twice and conceded ten times. They have the division’s worst goal differential. They are dead last, they have no points, and may God have mercy on their souls.
How might Marco Silva utilize a depleted squad?
Tactics and Formation
With all the injuries to first-team players right now, there was some disagreement among the Projected XI team (Chris and I) about how Marco Silva will set his team up for this match. My initial thought was that Silva might use a 5-3-2 to mitigate the absence of what feels like every possible winger the team has. Chris thought that would be too great a divergence from Silva’s preferred 4-3-3, especially with some of his key players out of camp on national team duty during the buildup to this one. Ultimately Chris won out — primarily because I realized that Silva’s past uses of a back five have almost exclusively been 5-4-1, as opposed to 5-3-2. Still, let it be said that I still wouldn’t be shocked if the injuries force Silva to go with something exotic, simply because he lacks another option.
So, I wrote the above before the Marco Silva presser on Friday morning/afternoon, and evidently that was a mistake. Because Bernard and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are both available, and Theo Walcott is in contention as well, Silva has enough options out wide for the 4-3-3 to be the obvious choice.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford -
Lucas Digne - 6/10
West Ham is very bad, and our assumption in the early part of the season has been that Digne would play against better teams and Leighton Baines the worse ones. But, Digne has looked so at home on the left of defense so far, we just barely give him the edge over Baines in this one.
Mason Holgate - 10/10
Kurt Zouma - 10/10
Unless Silva moves Digne into the center of defense (a move that would make more sense in a back five than a back four), both Holgate and Zouma are pretty much automatic inclusions in the lineup.
Jonjoe Kenny - 10/10
Seamus Coleman’s foot injury will keep him out for several weeks, leaving Kenny as the primary option at right-back.
Tom Davies - 7/10
We don’t think Gana will be ready to start this match, so we give Davies the edge. But, if Gana’s health allows it, he obviously gets the start in midfield.
Morgan Schneiderlin - 10/10
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 10/10
Bernard - 8/10
Silva says the Brazilian is fit to play in this one, and that’s incredibly welcome news with Richarlison suspended. We don’t suspect he’ll go the full 90 any time soon, but 50-60 productive minutes would really help Everton out of this week’s injury/suspension mire.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 9/10
Arguably the hottest player at the club right now (in terms of form, that is...although have you seen his abs...wait what were we talking about again), DCL’s knock from international duty seemed like it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
But, Silva reports the youngster is ready to play this weekend, and he’ll be needed out wide as well.
Cenk Tosun - 10/10
If the situation at wing was different, we might have been tempted to think about DCL getting the start up top. Tosun is playing well, but DCL is clearly in excellent form right now, so he might have been worth a look at his actual preferred position.
But, things being what they are, DCL is probably needed out wide, leaving Cenk as a lock up top. We think he’s close to a breakthrough on the scoresheet, and that he’s playing well even without scoring — so we’re still more than happy to see him play.
Tyias Browning - Yerry Mina is probably the closest to a return among the injured first-team center-backs. But, he’s still probably a week or two away from a debut, so it’s Browning on the bench (and saying your prayers that nothing happens to Holgate or Zouma).
Idrissa Gueye - Given that West Ham is *checks notes* not good, it seems unlikely that Silva will rush him back into the starting XI if he’s facing any battle for fitness. A 20-30 minute appearance off the bench seems more likely.
Theo Walcott - The Walcott situation is a little more delicate, because his replacement (Bernard) almost certainly can’t play 90 minutes, while Gueye’s replacement (Davies) should be able to. If there’s any doubt about his fitness, we will probably see Ademola Lookman in this spot, because Marco needs to have a wide player on the bench he can count on for 20-30 minutes.
However the Blues line up this weekend, it’s bound to be interesting. Slowly but surely, players are starting to get healthy - James McCarthy and Yerry Mina both trained today - and that’s a good problem to have.