In its best form of the season, Everton heads to Craven Cottage to take on already-relegated Fulham. The Toffees dominated Arsenal last week despite the one-goal margin of their victory, and were good value for their 2-0 obliteration of West Ham United the week before.
Fulham is a very different team than either the Gunners or the Hammers, primarily in that the Cottagers are and have been an utter dumpster fire for most of the season. Yet, these are the sort of matches that have historically tripped Everton up — can Marco Silva and co. prevent an embarrassing setback with the Toffees so close to seventh?
Tactics and Formation
One of the major components to Everton’s success in the last two matches was the tactical setup of its opposition. Both West Ham and Arsenal rolled out three center-backs, wing-backs pushed way up the pitch, and two central midfielders ill-equipped to handle well-applied pressure.
In its last two matches, Fulham has played with three center-backs and a central midfield duo of Tom Cairney and Andre Zambo Anguissa.
That sort of setup has allowed Idrissa Gueye and Andre Gomes to overrun opposing midfields without having to worry about getting outnumbered. Once won, the ball gets pinged in behind the advanced wing-backs, letting Bernard and Richarlison go to town.
Marco Silva is going to roll out the same personnel and system regardless of what he thinks Fulham will do. But, if Scott Parker puts out a repeat of the last two weeks, this could get ugly and fast.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne - 10/10
Kurt Zouma - 10/10
Michael Keane - 10/10
The Englishman’s late removal from the lineup last week allowed Phil Jagielka to enter and be the hero, but there’s no doubt that Keane is a starter whenever he’s healthy.
Seamus Coleman - 10/10
Andre Gomes - 10/10
Idrissa Gueye - 10/10
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Idrissa Gueye is very very good at football.
The front four has impressed with its fluidity and skill in recent weeks, and the back-line has earned plaudits for keeping three clean sheets. But, it’s Gana who wins the ball in areas that create dangerous chances for the attackers, and it’s Gana whose second-to-none ball-winning skills keep the opponent away from the Everton defense altogether.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 10/10
The Icelander has been less involved in chance creation in recent weeks than for most of the season. That’s not on him, but rather the system that looks to create chances quickly in wide areas before opposing full-backs get back in position.
That said, his work rate and willingness to press are a huge factor in the overall success of the system. We’ve said it before and will say it again — finding a No. 10 with Sigurdsson quality is tough. Finding one with the quality and the willingness to run for days — that’s damn near impossible.
Richarlison - 10/10
Bernard - 10/10
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 10/10
Much like Sigurdsson, DCL hasn’t gotten on the scoresheet perhaps as much as we’d like to see from the No. 9, but his pressing is also integral to the system as a whole. If he continues to contribute to the overall system in the way he is, the chances will come.
Better late than never in terms of finding the preferred XI and system, right? Let us know if you’d change anything in the comments below.