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Everton at Watford: Projected XI

Multiple players return from injury, giving Ancelotti a welcome headache

West Ham United v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

There is, finally, some good news on the injury front.

Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Alex Iwobi are all available for selection this week when Everton takes on Watford away, giving Carlo Ancelotti more tactical and personnel options than he’s had since he took over at the club.

To this point, we’ve seen Ancelotti largely have to get creative with the few senior players available to him, with his hand often forced into a particular setup simply because he had no other viable options due to injury. With these players back, we might for the first time get to see what Ancelotti wants to do, rather than just what he’s been forced to do.

Tactics and Formation

As an opponent, Watford doesn’t present anything particularly noteworthy that Everton needs to prepare for. The Hornets experimented with a few different tactical looks in the opening third of the season, all of which were spectacular failures. Watford’s first win of the season didn’t come until November 8.

That said, since Nigel Pearson took over on December 6 and implemented a pretty direct 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3 with Troy Deeney serving as the focal point for long balls atop the formation, the Hornets have seen a significant shift in fortunes. They’ve got four wins, three draws, and just two losses in Premier League play since Pearson’s tenure began, nearly lifting them out of the relegation zone.

For Everton, that means there are no real tactical considerations that need to be made defensively — Mason Holgate and either Yerry Mina or Michael Keane will simply have to corral Deeney in the air.

That, combined with the return of Richarlison, Sigurdsson, and Iwobi, gives Ancelotti significant license with his own tactics when considering how to break down a Watford side that, at least relative to its place in the table, has been respectable defensively.

That could mean we get to see some funky stuff from the Italian — but I think we’re probably a week or two away still from any significant tactical tweaking. Expect Ancelotti to use a familiar-looking system, at least from the start this game. If the Toffees need a goal late though, a move to a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 isn’t at all out of the question.

Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)

Jordan Pickford - 10/10

Lucas Digne- 10/10

Yerry Mina - 8/10

Mina presumably will be preferred to Michael Keane, but it isn’t entirely out of the question that we see the Englishman return to the lineup.

Mason Holgate - 10/10

Djibril Sidibe - 10/10

Gylfi Sigurdsson - 8/10

Save your complaining for someone who cares. The reality is that none of Morgan Schneiderlin, Fabian Delph, or Tom Davies have exactly showered themselves in glory with Andre Gomes out, and Sigurdsson brings at least a level of potential creativity that none of the other options here do.

Once Gomes returns (which despite everything I know about medicine and biology, appears to be pretty soon), the Icelander could see a reasonable spell on the bench, but for now, I suspect he’ll start.

Tom Davies - 6/10

The other midfield spot could theoretically go to any of the guys I mentioned above, but Davies has shown sightly better than the other two in recent weeks, so my best guess is that he’ll be back in the starting XI.

Theo Walcott - 8/10

Please make this the week Theo Walcott finally turns all his good play into goals.

Bernard - 8/10

Iwobi is back, but I just don’t see Ancelotti throwing him immediately into the starting XI after his elongated spell on the sideline. Bernard has been excellent of late anyway, and the manager should be in no rush to replace him.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 10/10

Richarlison - 9/10

Like Sigurdsson, Richarlison’s spell away from first-team action was shorter than Iwobi’s, so I suspect he’ll come right back into the lineup.


Maarten Stekelenburg

Seamus Coleman

Leighton Baines

Fabian Delph

Morgan Schneiderlin

Alex Iwobi - I’d be shocked if we don’t see Iwobi at some point in this match, just not from the start.

Moise Kean - The timing of Richarlison’s return is unkind to Kean, who had his best match of the season against Newcastle, and should have spent the week being celebrated as a hero — but instead we had to focus on Everton’s utter capitulation instead. He’ll certainly get a chance to play as well, with Richarlison unlikely to go the full 90 in his return.

This is an exciting opportunity to start to get a sense of what Everton might really look like under Carlo Ancelotti. I’m intrigued to see what his final decisions regarding this match are.