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Everton at Wolves: Match Preview | Toffees need to respond to Watford shambles

They can’t be that bad again, can they?

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Everton - Premier League
Michael Keane scores at Wolves last season
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Everton head to Molineux on Monday needing to show a response to last weekend’s shambolic showing against Watford.

The last 15 minutes against the Hornets must go down as one the Toffees’ worst capitulations of recent times, especially when you consider the limited opposition who had been thrashed 5-0 the previous week.

We accept getting beaten, it happens in football, But there is no excuse for the kind of performance we witnessed there. Everton simply gave up and lost their heads. It was literally schoolboy defending.

Everton v Watford - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

The fact Josh King bagged a hat-trick after failing to score in six months at the Toffees last season is the latest entry into the ‘Everton That’ collection and will likely take star billing.

The Goodison crowd often gets criticised for jumping on the players too quickly but they were justified here. It was completely unacceptable.

That said, some perspective is needed. We were 2-1 up with 12 minutes left and seemingly on the way to a battling win that would have lifted the club up to fourth in the table. The key question is whether the frantic finale is the exception rather than the rule.

Rafa Benitez will no doubt have made his displeasure clear this week, where hard work on the training ground was required to shore up that disorganised defence (why have we suddenly gone back to being awful at defending set pieces again?!).

Everton were gifted a kind opening to the season which they initially took advantage of. But the fixtures in the next few weeks are not so kind meaning a dramatic improvement is needed if we are to avoid any more embarrassments.

The opposition

Like Everton, Wolves also changed managers over the summer as Nuno Espirito Santo left after a successful four-year spell that saw him lift the club out of the Championship and establish them in the top flight.

Despite that success there was a feeling the now-Spurs boss (at time of writing!) was right to move on. The fans had become a little frustrated at his safety-first tactics and last season hinted that their forward momentum was starting to stall.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

With super agent Jorge Mendes still enjoying a close relationship with Wolves’ owners it is little surprise that Nuno’s replacement was another Portuguese - Bruno Lage.

Four defeats from their opening five games suggested Wolves’ problems lay beyond just the dugout, though on closer inspection it was clear they were unlucky in several of those games.

They have since recovered to win three straight games before being denied a fourth thanks to a stoppage-time equaliser by Leeds at Elland Road last week.

Such is the reversal of fortunes, Wolves can move ahead of Everton with a win, eroding much of the momentum gained from the Toffees’ strong start.

Previous meeting

Everton 1-0 Wolves, May 19, 2021

Everton v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Richarlison scored the only goal of the game as Everton beat Wolves 1-0 at Goodison in their final home game of last season in front of 10,000 supporters.

Team news

Rafa Benitez says Richarlison is in contention to start against Wolves after coming off the bench to score against Watford last week.

Fabian Delph is back training after a shoulder problem but Yerry Mina again misses out with a hamstring injury.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin remains several weeks away from a return while there is still no comeback date for Andre Gomes despite the midfielder being pictured back training.

There was some encouraging news about Abdoulaye Doucoure, who is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a foot problem and could return against Manchester City immediately after the international break.

What they said

Everton v Watford - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

Everton boss Rafa Benitez: “Why it happened is very clear – we didn’t win the tackles, we were in bad positions, we didn’t attack the ball when we had to defend. Too many things when you put them together. We were in a bad position when we conceded the second goal and then, after that, we were in bad positions – two or three players who were in situations that we cannot be exposed to.

“We have looked at the mistakes and how to change that, how to improve.

“The main thing is to be sure that we stick together as a team.

“The best way to respond will be winning the next game – it’s as simple as that.”

Aston Villa v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Wolves head coach Bruno Lage: “I’m happy, but I want more. That’s what I’ve said to my players every day. We are happy, but we want more.

“Every time I push them to the limits because I don’t want anyone to be comfortable in their position. I don’t want anyone to be comfortable in the way we are, because our mentality is to do more every time.

“Even for us as coaches, even for the players, they need to have that mentality, because I want more from my career. I want to improve what I need to be better at to arrive to the next level.

“I’m happy, but every time with that pressure, I want more from them.”

Final word

This is a clash between a side seemingly on the up and another seemingly on the way down. Last week was so bad Everton surely cannot plummet to those depths again. But the underlying issues that led to that collapse are still there. Whether or not they respond is a good indicator of their character, which is worrying in itself.