Marco Silva has come out and flat said it, and we agree: the FA Cup is (especially now) really important to Everton. Not only does it represent a semi-reasonable chance at silverware, but so too does it represent a chance for the club to show tangible progress in Silva’s first year.
As such, it may, in some cases, make sense to play a full starting eleven in these matches to help ensure progression. Not tomorrow, though. League Two teams are still League Two teams.
Tactics and Formation
Though Everton has been let down by its top-tier talent to an extent in recent games, this year’s squad remains among the deepest in recent memory. We think Silva will be pretty comfortable with most of the second-string players who step into this early-round cup tie.
The only major gap is in the space vacated by Gylfi Sigurdsson — but Silva’s tactics have used him so sparingly anyway that a lack of obvious replacement for the Icelander doesn’t really impact the second team as much as it might seem.
Expect the team to focus even more than usual on progressing the ball and attacking in the wide areas, where the second-team options are much more comfortable going forward than the second-team midfielders.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Maarten Stekelenburg - 7/10
Everton’s last remaining Dutchman has become a forgotten man since the addition of Jordan Pickford. We’re pretty positive Pickford will get a break in this one, and we don’t think Silva will go to the youngster Joao Virginia — though anything is possible.
Leighton Baines - 10/10
Lucas Digne has played a ton of minutes because he’s proven to potentially be the Premier League’s best signing of the summer. That’s been a tough break for Baines, whose age has certainly shown itself, but still could be an occasional contributor on this team if he wasn’t blocked by the Frenchman.
With Digne having played 17 straight full 90s in the league, including four in ten days during the festive period, Baines is a lock to start this one.
Yerry Mina - 8/10
For most players in this lineup, the Lincoln City match is a chance to show that they still belong anywhere near the first team. Mina, on the other hand, has already shown pretty clearly that’s where he belongs, even with some recent struggles.
But with Mason Holgate’s departure for West Bromwich Albion on loan, the Toffees have one fewer excess center-back to rotate into the lineup in this kind of match.
Phil Jagielka - 9/10
Speaking of excess center-backs, expect the captain to get back in the lineup for this one. Like Baines, his age certainly justified a reduction in role — the extent to which he deserved to be buried in the bench, we may never know. After his opening-day red card, he never really got another chance.
With Mina, Kurt Zouma, and Michael Keane all available and healthy now, he’s very clearly fourth-choice in the center of defense, but still good enough to comfortably roll out against fourth-tier opposition.
Jonjoe Kenny - 8/10
Kenny struggled earlier in the season during a brief injury to Seamus Coleman, but he was among the better Everton players when handed a start against Leicester City on January 1 (not that being the best among that group was a huge achievement.
The only reason Kenny isn’t rated higher is the fact that Coleman was recently handed a rest, so it isn’t implausible that Silva return the Irishman to the lineup to keep some semblance of order among the rotated parts here.
Morgan Schneiderlin - 9/10
Ah yes, now we get into the interesting stuff. Few players have more to gain and more to lose on Saturday than the French midfielder. With Everton struggling mightily to get Gylfi Sigurdsson involved in the attack, the Toffees could use another accomplished passer in the center of midfield — and this could be a chance for Schneiderlin to make his case for a return to the regular first-team picture to fill that role.
Conversely, the Toffees already have so many central midfielders that it isn’t hard to see a poor Schneiderlin performance in this one leading to a January or summer sale of the player — another potentially bizarre chapter in the confounding story of the Frenchman’s Everton career.
James McCarthy - 7/10
Rumors of a potential loan for McCarthy increase the odds that he might not even get a chance under Silva at all, but if the Irishman does play, the stakes could be as high for him as they are for Schneiderlin.
While Idrissa Gueye was out injured, Silva was clearly hesitant to replace him with Tom Davies, indicating the role of first midfielder off the bench could yet be up for grabs. Can McCarthy use a strong performance against Lincoln City to pip Davies in the depth chart?
Tom Davies - 10/10
Young Tom will certainly hope not. While his star as a fashionista, cultural icon, and blonde John Lennon impersonator has been on the rise over the last 18 months, his star as a useful midfielder has been headed in the opposite direction. It’s not that Davies has regressed, per se, but he certainly hasn’t improved either.
With McCarthy back, Davies needs a strong performance in what is a virtually assured start this weekend.
Bernard - 7/10
Bernard draws in at left wing primarily because he was the least used of the available wingers during the festive period, not because he’s still got something to prove in the way that most of the players in this lineup do.
Ademola Lookman - 9/10
Ade’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for him or for Everton. With four matches in 10 days, Lookman was sure to get chances to prove himself.
Given Everton’s attacking stagnation during the second half of that period, there’s no doubt that a starting place is there for the taking. Can Lookman finally grab it?
Cenk Tosun - 8/10
Unless Silva really pulls a fast one on us and brings Oumar Niasse back from the dead, Tosun is the obvious starter against Lincoln City. We don’t think he’s genuinely in any danger of being sold this January, but grabbing a couple of goals against fourth-tier opposition would surely help to solidify his place.
Would you rotate this heavily? Should they rotate this heavily? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.