Everton travel down to the capital to face newly promoted Brentford in a game which a lot of fans are describing as a must-win fixture. With an extremely difficult run of games ahead, including the Merseyside Derby on Wednesday, it’s going to be a tough ask to find points in the coming weeks. Games like Brentford are going to be vital to secure three points so we don’t see a downward spiral into a relegation battle.
If the league table only started five games ago, you’d be seeing Everton bottom and Brentford in second bottom. I wouldn’t be blaming any neutrals for skipping this one. Both sides started extremely well this season but in recent weeks have been struggling to pick up points with both teams only managing one point in their last five games. The Bees have slumped down into 14th place with Everton a few positions above in 11th. It may be the perfect time to play Brentford but with an injury list as long as Yerry Mina’s legs, we’re going to be lacking in multiple departments going into this one.
Brentford have mostly setup in a 3-5-2 formation this season using Rico Henry and Sergi Canos as their wing backs. Ivan Toney plays as the main striker with Bryan Mbeumo floating around him, running in behind and picking up the ball off the target man. Brentford have completed and attempted the most dribbles in the league this season, which is normally quite natural when not playing any wingers and using wing backs. Christian Norgaard has been almost ever present this season for The Bees and is leading the way for most tackles won this year with 34. He’s had multiple partners due to injuries, but I’d expect Mathias Jensen to come back in after missing their recent game against Newcastle after catching coronavirus.
One player Everton can look to get at is Sergi Canos. Normally a winger but recently converted to a wing back by Thomas Frank, there are naturally some defensive parts of his game in which he’s vulnerable in. He’s been dribbled past more times than any other full back or wing back this season. He’s attempted more tackles than most in the league, sitting in 9th out of all players but in terms of tackles won, he’s extremely low down the list. In fact, he’s as far down as 113th in the table. This shows he often dives into tackles and rarely wins them and has also managed three yellow cards so far. Unfortunately, it looks like Demarai Gray could miss out due to an abductor injury picked up against Manchester City, but with the increasing confidence of Anthony Gordon, it would be fantastic to see him be relentless in his dribbling and try and give the Spaniard a torrid time on Sunday.
Brentford’s top scorer this season is Ivan Toney but it isn’t his goalscoring ability which worries me this weekend. Without Yerry Mina, Everton have been very vulnerable in their defensive aerial game, something I’ve touched on in previous articles. The Bees’ striker, who will have a point to prove after Rafa Benitez never gave him a chance in his time at Newcastle, has won 60 headers this season, only beaten by Burnley’s Chris Wood. Despite only managing three goals, his sheer aerial ability is going to give our centre halves a difficult afternoon.
Yerry Mina has been confirmed unavailable and most Evertonians will know the struggles Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey have both shown in the air. Toney also draws a fair number of fouls. He will often get into tussles with defenders and either get the better of them or draw set pieces in key areas. Only four players in the league have drawn more fouls and with Everton’s terrible set piece record, we can’t allow any silly fouls in attacking positions.
With Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan both doubtful for the game, once again midfield options are very limited. I expect Fabian Delph to keep his place and it was great to see Andre Gomes back in training this week. We may see Gomes come straight in if others can’t pass fit but Rafa may have hinted in his press conference that Gbamin is fit and ready to play.
A lot of fans on social media haven’t been discussing the central midfield positions. The talk of who is going to play up front has dominated Everton fans’ discussions in the last few days. With Calvert-Lewin still out and Richarlison suspended, there is a striker spot up for grabs. Salamon Rondon has failed to impress so far in an Everton shirt which has lead to a fair amount of supporters shouting for Ellis Simms or Lewis Dobbin to start. We must take into consideration although Rondon hasn’t impressed, he’s a seasoned professional. Chucking a young lad into a situation in which they may not be ready for can make or break them and we don’t want the latter to happen. As much as I want to see these young lads come through, the ideal situation would be for them to pick up more first team football and gain experience out on loan.
In terms of predicting the result, in my opinion it will come down to which players have been passed fit to play. If we can lineup with a midfield two of Doucoure and Allan and Demarai Gray miraculously makes the eleven, there’s no reason we can’t get a result. Without one, two or even all three of these, it could be a difficult afternoon down in London.