Everton look finally set to fulfil a fixture having not played a game since the trip to Stamford Bridge on the 16th December. The numerous cancellations over the festive period have been a bit of a double-edged sword for Rafa’s side. With many players out injured, it will allow us to get a few players back fit but on the other end, nobody wants to not play football for weeks on end. The Toffees host draw specialists Brighton who will be looking to avoid a tenth tie already this season with victory at Goodison Park.
As I mentioned, Brighton have struggled to put teams away this season. Nine draws from eighteen games has seen Graham Potter booed off the pitch at times this season. Although they are punching above their weight in terms of league position, their fans are clearly frustrated at the number of stalemates they’ve witnessed, which is understandable. Despite the lack of wins, their defensive record is up there with the best in the league this season, having only conceded 18 goals, the 5th best in the Premier League. On the flip side, they’ve struggled putting the ball into the net. Brighton have managed just 17 goals this season, the 4th lowest in the league. Graham Potter has often flipped between a back four and a back five this season after being very reluctant to move away from his attacking wing backs system which he played last year. The former xG monsters are less so this season, with an xG of 20.1 from 18 games so far.
Brighton are a possession heavy side, with only Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City having more of the ball this season. They like to press the opposition high up the pitch, applying 39.3 pressures per game in the attacking third. They’re also very effective when doing so, managing 2.89 tackles per game in this area, the 3rd highest in the league. This is a style Everton often struggle against when oppositions players press our defenders high up the pitch. This will result in the centre backs launching the ball long as we will unlikely have a midfield player wanting to get on the ball in the game against Brighton.
Graham Potter’s side were praised last season for their high xG and lots of chances created and were unlucky to not finish higher if it wasn’t for a lot of missed chances. This year, they have a non-penalty xG of just 0.99 per game. This ranks them 16th in the league compared to their peers and a drop off from last season where they averaged 1.18. The majority of their goals from Neil Maupay who has scored seven goals in just 14 starts this season, just one goal from equalling his scoring tally from last year already.
Leandro Trossard is a player we must keep quiet tomorrow if we’re going to get a result. With four goals and one assist to his name, he’s the player they look to for chance creation. He’s managed 46 shot creating actions this season. Only Andros Townsend has more for Everton this season, as a comparison. He will often play in and around the striker Neil Maupay and the pair have created a bit of a partnership so far this season. The Belgian has also managed the most dribbles completed for Brighton and the most touches in the attacking third. It’s clear that he’s vital in their offensive play and is a player we must look out for in tomorrow’s game.
With the news that Dominic Calvert-Lewin is back in training and fit enough to play some part, it would be great to see him start at Goodison Park on Sunday. The Englishman is vital to our style of play, with him holding the ball up, bringing others into play and his deceptive pace on the counter attack. With Salomon Rondon in attack we’ve struggled in transition due to his lack of pace. Defensively, also it will be a great help on defending set pieces. Calvert-Lewin often occupies a free role on corners to attack the ball and with him and Yerry Mina we are drastically better off in defence. With players like Dan Burn, Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk who are exceptional in the air, Calvert-Lewin’s presence will be even more welcomed.
After Demarai Gray reportedly contracted Covid-19 before the trip to Chelsea last time out, I’m hoping he’s made a recovery in time for this weekends game. In the reverse fixture earlier in the season, he scored a fantastic goal, running at the defence at pace and striking low and hard. His pace in behind the gaps left by the attacking Tariq Lamptey will be a great area to exploit. As good as Lamptey is, he much prefers going forward to defending so often leaves space on the counter. Without Richarlison, Townsend and potentially Calvert-Lewin not being fit enough to start, that’s a large chunk of our goals unavailable this weekend. Players like Gray coming back in will be so important if we are to get a result at Goodison Park this weekend.
With many games being postponed to the seemingly everlasting Coronavirus pandemic, it will be great to finally see an Everton fixture after weeks and weeks of disarray. Sometimes, especially this time of year, many fans rely on Everton games for their mental health so I really hope for the sake of those who are really missing it, that this game goes ahead. I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and New Year and you all enjoy a 2022 full of great health, mental and physical.