Everton play AFC Bournemouth for the second time this season on Sunday at Goodison Park, and the match represents a decent measuring stick for the Blues. The Cherries sit level with Everton on points at 27, though their defense is considerably worse.
Luckily, Josh King, Callum Wilson, and Ryan Fraser (so basically the entirety of Bournemouth’s attack) are likely to miss the match, meaning there’s no logical reason that Everton should lose this game...if they line up correctly.
Tactics and Formation
We’d like to take an underhanded stab at Silva’s attacking tactics and the team’s struggles to break down opposition, but with Bournemouth as the opponent, they’d probably be wasted.
Say what you will about Eddie Howe — the man is not a mid-table, “let’s play for a scoreless draw” type of manager. The Cherries will come out looking to attack — same as always — even if their form is poor.
Bournemouth has conceded 15 goals over its last four matches in all competitions, so if the Toffees can’t find a way to grab a few goals in this one, the attacking troubles will be well and truly formalized.
At any rate, expect a 4-3-3 with things mostly the way you’d expect.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
If Silva didn’t even rest Pickford against Lincoln City, he might not miss another game the rest of the season.
Lucas Digne - 10/10
Kurt Zouma - 8/10
There’s a growing perception that Everton’s defensive troubles are beginning to grow large enough that they rival the team’s attacking woes — and I’m just not sure that’s true. The always-nebulous eye test says that most of Everton’s defense — Zouma in particular — is doing pretty well in open play.
The Toffees have conceded 19 goals in open play, which is only 11th-best in the league, but nearly half of those goals came against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur while Idrissa Gueye was out. Since those two matches, Everton has conceded four goals in its last four — set piece, set piece, counterattack, and set piece.
The point is that, for the most part, the Everton defense looks fine in open play, with Zouma and Michael Keane leading the center-backs.
Michael Keane - 8/10
We suspect that Keane keeps a starting place alongside Zouma and ahead of Yerry Mina, whose decision-making and positioning have been the weakest of the three center-backs.
Seamus Coleman - 10/10
Andre Gomes - 10/10
Silva rested relatively few starters against Lincoln City, but Gomes was among them. We’re thankful for that, because he looked absolutely gassed against Leicester City on New Year’s Day, and the Portuguese midfielder holds massive importance to the team’s success.
Idrissa Gueye - 10/10
Gana got his break over the holidays while injured, and from this point on, you can basically expect to see him go the full 90 in every match Everton plays. That is, of course, unless the club decides to sell him...
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 10/10
Everyone’s favorite Icelander looks likely to be an ever-present as well. Will Silva’s squad and tactical choices get him the ball? Probably not, but he’ll at least be there watching longingly as Seamus Coleman crosses into some dude’s shins.
Richarlison - 10/10
As has been the case for the past six weeks or more, Richarlison will surely play — the only question is whether he’ll be wide left or up top.
Ademola Lookman - 6/10
The no-longer-Leipzig-bound winger finally returned from injury against Lincoln City, and managed to score a goal (with his head!!!) in the 2-1 victory. He was solid — at least insofar as any Everton player was — and we think he just barely beats out Theo Walcott for the starting spot on the right wing.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 6/10
Based on Silva’s personnel choices over the holiday period, DCL is the best guess to start at striker. But it could be Richarlison or even Cenk Tosun and we wouldn’t be that surprised.
James McCarthy - Will Silva give the Irish midfielder a chance to prove himself, or has the manager made a decision before even seeing the player in a competitive match? (Yes, I am leaning into the Nikola Vlasic subtext — thank you for noticing.)
What do you think, Blues? Would you start James McCarthy? Someone else up top? Bernard or Theo Walcott over Lookman? Let us know in the comments.