Everton look to bounce back from what is undoubtedly one of the worst performances the Goodison faithful has seen in recent years. A four-goal collapse in just over a dozen minutes saw the Blues end the game with a 5-2 defeat to Claudio Ranieri’s Watford. A lot of fans have been questioning all sections of the Everton hierarchy and have been demanding answers for the recent struggles with our current squad depth.
The Toffees travel to Molineux on Monday night to face Bruno Lage’s Wolves who in recent weeks have started picking up some great results and are clearly taking to the new regime under the former Benfica manager. After a tricky start, Wolves haven’t lost in four games and find themselves sitting just one place behind Everton going into this game.
In their last five league games, they’ve only bettered the opponents on xG in two of them, but they have still come away with three wins and a draw from these games. In terms of style of play, Lage in recent years has been known for implementing an attacking way of playing. At Wolves, they play a lot of long balls averaging 101 per game. Coupling this with them being fourth in the amount of offsides in the league, it shows a clear intent to play long balls in behind the defenders with the pace they have up front. One of them being Spanish player, Adama Traore.
Moving on to the Spaniard, he’s one of those players which tends to split football fans down the middle in terms of whether they rate him or not. Due to his minimal goal contributions over the last few years he’s often referred to as someone with very little end product despite being one of the best dribblers in world football. He’s completed 43 successful dribbles this season which puts him at the top of the table in the league by some way. Last season, he completed 160 with second place only having 88. This shows how head and shoulders above the rest of the league he is in terms of dribbling.
Looking at his goal involvement issues, this season he’s completed 39 shot creating actions, more than any other Wolves player. This is why, when looking at end product, he’s creating the opportunities for players in shooting positions but unfortunately for Wolves it doesn’t often amount to anything. On the other end of the spectrum, he has had no goal involvements so far which is why you can understand the split in fans opinions. He’s also second to Jack Grealish for carries into the 18 yard box which shows how often he’s taking on players and getting into shooting positions. Adama is the main reason I expect Ben Godfrey to play at the weekend. Whether that be at full back or in the middle, his pace and recovery runs are going to be vital when Traore inevitably gets in behind our back line.
One player who has certainly impressed with the stats to back it up is Hwang Hee-Chan. He’s outperforming his xG so far with four goals from an xG of two. With Raul Jimenez clearly struggling after his horrific injury sustained last year he’s really stepped up to the plate after his move from RB Leipzig. He’s also managed this number of goals and xG from just seven shots this season, showing how effective and prolific he’s started the season. However, he is yet to get an assist this season and has only managed two shot creating actions.
Comparing this to Jimenez who has managed 30 already. He’s also only completed 35.3% of his dribbles this season so he’s the type of player who probably isn’t going to take players on and create things, but we must be aware of him getting space in the box as he’s already shown his ability to put the ball in the back of the net. He’s a clever player who likes to get his body in the right places and draws fouls. He has drawn more fouls than Adama Traore and with Everton’s recent set piece record we need to make sure we aren’t giving away and silly free kicks in and around the final third.
I expect Everton to try and setup to stop Wolves rather than planning how we can take the game to them. After two home defeats on the bounce there is a lot of pressure on Rafa to shore up the defence. With Richarlison looking like he’s available to start we have the ability and directness on the counter attack with Gray and Townsend also. To limit the space in behind for the likes of Traore to run into I imagine we will set up in a low block and let them have the ball in the central areas. If there is limited space in behind for Traore to run into then this can hopefully nullify the threat that he possesses.
Wolves sit seventh in xGA showing how resilient they are in defence also. With Max Kilman and Roman Saiss at the back, who have won 45 headers between them, any side that aims to hit it long and play off a striker is going to struggle. With these two attacking the ball and Conor Coady sweeping behind in the central centre back role they’ve really limited the amount of opposition chances this season.
With their three centre back system don’t be surprised if Rafa plays with two up front in Rondon and Richarlison. Clearly Rafa sees something in Rondon and with him being able to stand up there and occupying a centre half this will allow more freedom and space for Richarlison to play in. I’d like to see us play the Brazilian up top on his own as realistically we’re going to have very little of the ball on Monday and our most effective form of playing will be to hit them on the counter attack. He also likes himself a goal against Wolves, having scored five times in six outings against them.
This is a huge game for Everton to turn a corner and rekindle the form we saw at the start of the season. Another defeat will see another week of toxicity on social media which myself and a lot of fans included hate to be involved in. A win at Molineux could see us climb up to fifth in the table and all of a sudden everything seems rosy again.