As has been the case with most things Everton this week, our discussion of what the Toffees’ starting lineup will look like against this weekend must begin with an acknowledgment of the injury to Andre Gomes.
The midfielder’s horrific ankle injury puts him out of consideration for the foreseeable future, and limits Marco Silva’s options in the center of midfield even further. Remember Jean-Philippe Gbamin? Nah, me neither.
The first test in the post-Gomes world? Southampton — a side playing its first home league match since an embarrassing and historic 9-0 thrashing at the hands of Leicester City a few weeks ago. The Saints must have wronged the football gods in some way, because their reward for surviving the Leicester fiasco with any semblance of dignity or hope intact was back-to-back matches against Manchester City.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team lost 3-1 to City in the League Cup, then took an early lead against the Citizens in Premier League play last weekend, before finally succumbing to late goals from Sergio Aguero and Kyle Walker. For a team that conceded nine times the week before (albeit down a man), their bunkered-in defense kept the defending champions at bay for an impressive period of time.
Does Marco Silva have the plan to break through like City did?
Tactics and Formation
Adam took a look earlier this week at what he would do if he was potentially managing for his job against Southampton on Saturday — but Marco Silva, not Adam Braun, is manager of Everton Football Club.
Still, we suspect he’ll come to at least a few of the same conclusions that Adam did — first and foremost that his brief foray into the 4-3-3 will have to end as quickly as it started. It isn’t so much that the 4-3-3 wasn’t successful (it wasn’t successful, but that’s not the point), the issue is that it falls apart without Andre Gomes to hold it together.
The whole system revolved around having Gomes and Davies work as dual-8s in front of Fabian Delph, pressuring opponents in the midfield. There isn’t a real replacement for Gomes among the currently available players, so it’ll have to be back to the 4-2-3-1.
Of course, Southampton presents an entirely different challenge than Spurs did — expect the Saints to sit deep, absorb pressure, and hit Everton on the counter. We’ve talked ad nauseum about Silva’s struggles in these situations, and we don’t really have a ton of faith that he’ll get things turned around here.
As such, we expect a lineup that’ll look pretty similar to what we saw before he moved to the 4-3-3 last week.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne - 10/10
Mason Holgate - 8/10
Injury to Yerry Mina forced Marco Silva to use Holgate a few weeks ago, despite a pretty obvious aversion to the player thus far through his tenure.
But Holgate has surprised — he has a goal and an assist since entering the starting lineup, and more importantly his defensive play has been anywhere from passable to downright decent. Silva tends to stick with what’s been working, and Holgate certainly wasn’t at fault for the goal conceded against Spurs last weekend, so we think he’ll be back in again on Saturday.
Yerry Mina - 10/10
If the season ended tomorrow (which might not be a bad thing), there would be a real argument that Yerry Mina has been Everton’s player of the season. He’s at the very least been Everton’s most improved player, and looks a lock to remain in the starting lineup.
Djibril Sidibe - 6/10
In our minds, Sidibe and Seamus Coleman have played pretty equally this season, so we don’t necessarily have an inclination (or even a preference) at the right-back position. Sidibe started last week, so we give him the nod here, but only just.
Tom Davies - 9/10
When Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Fabian Delph were signed at the start of the season, one of the most common questions from supporters was “What happens to Tom Davies now?”
Fast forward three months and Gbamin and Gomes are both long-term injury casualties, Delph has been middling since his strong debut, and Davies has been thrust into perhaps his most prominent status since breaking into the senior team.
His pressing ability and willingness to pass or dribble the ball forward (though not always well) make him the obvious short-term replacement for Gomes.
Morgan Schneiderlin - 8/10
Delph, in addition to his middling form, is also fighting a knock, so it looks likely that Everton’s most polarizing Frenchman will get the call once more. Schneiderlin remains who he’s always been — not flashy, but generally reliable in the center of midfield. With Gomes out, the Toffees need Schneiderlin the calming presence, not Schneiderlin the ground-pounding, ankle-stomping ball of emotion.
Alex Iwobi - 10/10
Iwobi looked to have supplanted Gylfi Sigurdsson in the No. 10 role before Silva moved to the 4-3-3 last week, so we see no reason why that won’t continue to be the case. Even if Sigurdsson does regain his place in the first XI, we’d then expect to see Iwobi wide left.
Theo Walcott - 9/10
Though his position is obviously far from that of Andre Gomes, Walcott’s return to form is still a major boon given the midfielder’s injury. With a move back to the 4-2-3-1 likely, and Iwobi’s move back to the center likely as well, that opens up a spot out wide that cannot be filled by the injured Bernard. Enter Walcott once more.
Richarlison - 10/10
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 6/10
Even if you think that Richarlison is best as a striker (you’re wrong if you do), the fact of the matter is that if Iwobi has to move inside to the No. 10, there’s only so many fit wingers left in the squad, and Richarlison has to move back out to the wing. We also think Silva will move the Brazilian back out wide independent of that fact, but it’s worth noting.
So our best guess is that Dom gets the start up top — though Cenk Tosun’s late goal against Spurs could feasibly see Silva give the Turkish striker another chance as a starter.
Beni Baningime - Young Beni is too good to be playing in the U23s at this point — David Unsworth himself said so back in September. He’s been a favorite of ours since his debut with the senior team under Unsworth and this is as good a chance as any for Silva to give him a look, given the overall state of the position right now.
You could probably argue that over the last three weeks, more players have made a case for legitimate playing time than during any other stretch of this season. It gives Marco Silva important decisions to make — a good problem to have — but one that could quickly expedite his trip out the door if he gets them wrong.