Everton face Aston Villa tomorrow for the first time since March 1, 2016 - a game that the Blues won 3-1. In fact, in their last 8 matches against Villa, Everton are 6-1-1. Of course, that dominance likely matters very little these days, but safe to say it’s been awhile since the Villans have enjoyed success against the Toffees.
Marco Silva again has options at his disposal. Will he drastically alter this week’s lineup, continue to bring the new boys along slowly?
Tactics and Formation
It’s always tough to assess newly-promoted opponents and what to expect them to bring tactically — but Villa takes that to an entirely different level.
Dean Smith’s side opened the season against Tottenham Hotspur, keeping a measly 29% possession while trying to defend an early lead. After 70 minutes, the dam finally broke and Spurs wound up dropping three and taking the match 3-1.
Last week, Bournemouth turned the tables on Aston Villa, scoring twice early and forcing the Claret and Blue to chase the game. Villa grabbed one goal back and held a resounding 63% possession before finally succumbing 2-1.
That’s a long and detailed way of saying we don’t really have a clue what Aston Villa might try to do on Friday — so I expect Marco Silva to continue trying to move toward a more possession-oriented style with little concern for the specifics of the Villa gameplan.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne - 10/10
Yerry Mina - 10/10
Michael Keane - 10/10
Seamus Coleman - 10/10
Andre Gomes - 10/10
The Portuguese midfielder passed his late fitness test ahead of the Watford match, and was his typical effective self at Goodison Park last weekend. No reason to think he’ll be out this week following that performance.
Morgan Schneiderlin - 6/10
Schneiderlin returns from suspension this week, and we think he edges out Jean-Philippe Gbamin for the starting spot alongside Gomes. The Frenchman was quite good against Crystal Palace on opening day — that is, until he picked up a yellow for throwing a temper tantrum and then another for stepping on a guy.
Gbamin’s performances so far have been universally shaky, and he could likely still use a few more weeks to get fully integrated into the side. That said, Aston Villa is among the weaker opponents on Everton’s fixture list, so if Silva prefers a continued baptism-by-fire approach, he won’t have a much better opponent to take that route with.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 10/10
Following Bernard’s strong performance last week, we might have to start thinking about a world in which new-signing Alex Iwobi challenges Sigurdsson for the starting No. 10 role, rather than Bernard on the left. He’s under no real pressure at this stage, but it’s something to consider in the coming weeks.
Richarlison - 10/10
Bernard - 9/10
He was probably Everton’s best player last weekend — which the goal played a part in, but his entire contribution was positive. Iwobi, you’d suspect, still long-term slots in ahead of the Brazilian on the left wing, but Bernard’s performance against Watford at least pushed that turn of events back a week and gave Silva something to think about.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 7/10
Silva’s approach to his new signings has been slow integration, so we think DCL will start at least one more time this week. His contributions remain what they’ve always been — full of hard work, lots of running, and pressure on opposing defenders.
His hold-up play has definitely improved this season as well, but Moise Kean’s performance in the second half against Watford made pretty clear who the eventual first-choice striker is going to be — and it ain’t Dom.
When everyone is healthy, Everton are going to have about 23 players who have a reasonable argument for first team playing time. Fabian Delph remains on the shelf, but the proposed lineup above still leaves out Djibril Sidibe, Cenk Tosun, and Theo Walcott. It’s a good problem to have.