With the second international break at its end, Everton will host old boss David Moyes and his West Ham side this Sunday at Goodison Park. It should be a raucous affair as the Blues hope to have a trio of important pieces back with the team. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, and captain Seamus Coleman have all been out with various injuries, while Lucas Digne appears to have sustained one too while on international duty with France, but the aforementioned trio could be back against the Hammers this week.
This couldn't come at a better time, as Everton have done a really good job of getting positive results since DCL and Richy began missing matches; that the team could get a draw out of Manchester United without that trio should tell you the type of form we are playing with right now. Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray have been sheer revelations, and their ferocity and passion seems as infectious as the work ethic of their boss, Rafa Benitez.
Rafa and the Toffees have been rocking so far this year, and while West Ham presents difficult challenges in the form of their offensive ability, defensive organization and execution in front of the goal, the Hammers will have to deal with a very talented squad themselves. A healthy DCL and Richy, alongside players who are playing well and are full of confidence, having earned points without the team's two best players, as well as its fearless captain and leader, can only mean a better Everton emerges out of this second international break than might’ve even been seen before it.
Everton needs to get off to a good start, but so does West Ham
While Everton sits in fifth place with 14 points, West Ham sits right below them in ninth place with a respectable 11 points. They are but three points behind Everton, and so the Blues have no time to come out slowly; they must attack and get on the front foot against a team that is playing some free-flowing attacking football.
Like Calvert-Lewin, Michail Antonio is an absolutely fabulous talent, and would likely add a level of class and power to any club that was lucky enough to sign him. The player will have no reason to leave London at this rate; his team is in Europe, they are playing competitive football in all of their current competitions and they are only improving as they are able to keep their young, talented players like Declan Rice longer than a lower side might be able to.
The backline, likely consisting of Digne, Yerry Mina (or Michael Keane), Ben Godfrey and club captain Coleman, will have to keep the attacking forces of West Ham in their pockets for as long as they are able to in this match, especially since the Londoners can score in bunches. Tomas Soucek, Andriy Yarmolenko, and Said Benrahma are all capable scoring threats and the Blues will have their hands full.
If Richarlison plays, it would be good to see him get a goal or two, as he was getting a bit antsy before he got injured. He is an aggressive and passionate player, and one who really cares about contributing for his club. When he doesn’t score, or doesn’t play the entire match, everyone becomes quite aware of his moodiness. Rafa says its a good thing, and until further notice, I’m inclined to agree with him.
With three points on Sunday, Everton could really go into the coming matches against Watford, Wolves, and Spurs with great momentum before the third international break of the season in November. The Hornets recently sacked their manager and replaced him with veteran Claudio Ranieri, Wolves have won three of their last four and Spurs appear to have righted their ship after three successive league losses. Nine or more points for the Blues should see them firmly entrenched in the battle for European spots before the insanity of the holiday season schedule kicks into high gear.
But it will all begin against Moyes’ side, and the tone that Rafa and the boys set against this club will be indicative of the sort of team we can all expect to watch during the rest of the season. Last year, Carlo Ancelotti tried to get us through the entire season on bravado, will, and proverbial fumes, and by the end of last year's campaign, the final performance against Manchester City appeared as tired and incapable as any team we had witnessed all season.
He got last year's squad off to a similar start as Rafa has gotten us off to this season, and so the Spaniard will have to demonstrate that this team is more steady, more dangerous, better organized and bossed, as well as more creative and passionate. This West Ham match will be another big test, and another potential jumping-off point for this Toffee team to announce itself as a serious threat in English football this season. COYB!