Everton return to Goodison Park in front of a sold out crowd, aiming to bounce back after a disappointing trip to Villa Park last week. A lot of negativity has been circulating on social media from many Everton fans especially after crashing out of the cup away to Championship side Queens Park Rangers in the week. Norwich are yet to get a point this season, but with Everton’s depleted squad, it may not be as straight forward as it seems.
Looking at our opponents this weekend, they’ve really struggled to adapt to being back in the Premier League so far this season, with 5 defeats from 5 games, conceding 14 goals and only scoring twice. For a team at the bottom of the table without a win, you’d expect them to be a side that don’t like having a lot of the ball. They have averaged 45% possession this season, despite playing Manchester City and Liverpool who are 1st and 2nd in the possession stats. To have this much possession whilst playing those two sides is very impressive. Despite only just coming up from the championship, Daniel Farke won’t surrender his style of play. This has to be respected for a lover of football like myself. They are a team that like to press the opposition all game and sit in fourth position for amount of pressures applied to an opposition player.
One player I really hope is fit and available this weekend is Lucas Digne and this is due to a player Everton have been heavily linked with in recent years, Max Aarons. Despite being a right back in a side rock bottom of the league, he is 7th in the league for successful dribbles this season. He’s even above the likes of Jack Grealish, Mason Greenwood and Mo Salah. The last thing Everton need is to be playing somebody out of position having to go up against him. Digne is also fourth in the league for blocks, so I’d hate to imagine how many goals they would have conceded without him in the defence. Not only for his defensive work, he performed a lot better on Tuesday after a few subpar performances from the Frenchman, by his standard anyway. His linkup with Gordon on the left was fantastic and to grab a goal for himself I’m sure would have been a big confidence booster for him.
Although I said Norwich like to press the opposition relentlessly, the majority of their pressures to an opponent happen in their defensive and middle thirds. They’ve only made six tackles in the attacking third, which is only worsened by Watford. This suggests they allow the defenders of the opposition to have the ball, before pouncing when the ball gets into the midfield or forwards. This may suit Everton, as our defence has looked very vulnerable when being pressed this season. An example of this being Southampton at home with Adam Armstrong and Che Adams causing havoc for our centre back pairing that day.
Due to this, we should be aiming to get our centre backs on the ball when playing out from the back and continuing to play fairly direct. With Andros Townsend on the right, we should be aiming to get the ball out wide to him, as they’ll likely press our central midfielders if they get played the ball.
With getting the ball out wide, Everton should be looking to do something they haven’t done a lot of this season, getting crosses into the box. Rafa Benitez received a lot of plaudits early on with our old school — get the ball into the box — style of play. Everton are actually 17th in the league for crosses into the box. The reason I say this, is due to the contrast in aerial duels won between the two sides. Everton have won 95 aerial duels this season (3rd), compared to Norwich’s 58 (20th). With somebody like Salomon Rondon, who got some more vital minutes in the tank to build his fitness midweek, we should be aiming to get more crosses into the box, especially with Townsend’s ability out wide. Rondon did struggle aerially against Aston Villa but then showed signs of improvement against QPR in the air, maybe not with the ball at his feet, though.
Norwich are the most dribbled past team this season and also allow the most carries into their 18 yard box. This means our wide players like Demarai Gray, Townsend or even Alex Iwobi are going to be vital. One thing we saw against Villa was when Matty Cash got forward, there was a huge gap in behind which we could expose. Aarons is very similar in style and will aim to get forward as much as possible. This means Iwobi and Gray, who I imagine will be behind the striker and in left-sided midfield, can drift into that space on the counter. Although we should be dominating possession against a team like this, like I said earlier they aren’t afraid to get forward, which has probably been their downfall this season
A little wildcard might be Anthony Gordon, who was very impressive midweek against QPR. He made four key passes and his off the ball movement was very impressive. The youngster was visibly more gutted than anyone else after the game, maybe due to the fact his game time could be limited with one less cup run in the schedule. Iwobi had a poor game and has certainly not cemented a place in the starting XI. With Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin out injured, Gordon must be giving Rafa some thinking to do and will certainly be hoping he can get some more minutes this weekend. In recent weeks he’s spoken very well in little interviews and has emphasised the positive effect Rafa has had on his game since he took over as manager.
Norwich have lost 15 Premier League games in a row and so far this season, only Teemu Pukki has scored for them. This game has to be a comfortable win to ensure we don’t head down a slippery slope after the week we’ve had previous. With Manchester United away next weekend, a loss this weekend will more than likely lead to us having three league defeats on the trot. After a fantastic start, lets hope Goodison isn’t filled with toxicity after a few poor results.
Time to get back to winning ways and give the fans something to smile about just like that second half against Burnley.