Almost injury-free Everton look to gather some momentum with the trip down to Norwich City in what has to be a must-win for the Toffees. With just the one win in 12 league games, surely there is no better place to go than the side who sit bottom of the Premier League, with no goals scored in their last six games, right? As we know, it would be typical Everton to throw away this great chance for some points and build some confidence going into a run of games which on paper, look reasonably winnable.
As I said, Norwich sit bottom of the league without a victory in their last eight games and only one goal in the process. They have conceded the most goals, scored the least and will have very little argument about their league position, with a -18 xG difference. They concede on average over two goals a game and score a goal every 0.4 games. Their top goalscorer is Teemu Pukki with five of Norwich’s eight goals this season. They only average 1.5 tackles per game in the attacking third, which is the lowest in the league. This shows they are unlikely to press teams high and sit in a low block absorbing pressure.
The lack of forward pressing should be music to Everton fans’ ears, as Rafa Benitez’s men often struggle against teams that press high up the pitch. Our defenders and midfielders, unless gifted a lot of time on the ball, struggle with playing out from the back, hence the extremely low possession stats this season. With a rumoured midfield three incoming for Everton (if, like me, you noticed Everton’s training video on Youtube, which had an Everton 11 vs 11 setup, with three in midfield for the first team), we should have no struggles in keeping the ball. With the three in midfield against a side who are happy to let the defenders have the ball, we should be able to create space for our holding midfielder, whoever it may be.
A very interesting battle for me this weekend will be Demarai Gray against Max Aarons. Aarons, who has been linked with Everton in the past, has a very high success rate in winning tackles against dribblers. In fact, only six players in the league better him in this department. Demarai Gray, has attempted 47 dribbles this season, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. Max Aarons is also one of Norwich’s main attacking threats and is always bombing on. This will be an area we can look to exploit on the counter attack, with Gray pushing into the space left behind by the defender.
Between Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson, two of Norwich’s main centre halves, they have won 96 headers this season. Although Dominic Calvert-Lewin is good in the air, it’s the sort of battle the Norwich players love and long balls into our striker should be avoided as much as possible. We often play long ball due to being unable to play possession football but against a bottom of the league side who are extremely short on confidence, we should be able to dominate the midfield battle and play through them, using our in-form wingers to get at the defenders and attack them this way.
No team in the league has conceded more penalties than Norwich, so we should be looking to get our wingers high up the pitch and running at their defence. Hopefully, we see a little more attacking from our full backs this weekend as it would be great to see Vitaliy Mykolenko overlapping Demarai Gray. With high full backs and our wingers cutting inside and running at the defence, this should cause all sorts of problems for Norwich and hopefully we can add to that growing penalty conceded tally.
Earlier in this season, Everton beat Norwich 2-0 in one of the few games we haven’t conceded this season. We setup in a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Gray playing just off Salomon Rondon. Although we won the game, it wasn’t as comfortable as the scoreline suggested. Norwich setup with three midfielders and had more possession than Everton, something which has become a regular occurrence so far this season. With the rumoured three in midfield coming this weekend, it would be great for once to see Everton control the game against lesser opposition. I understand I sound like a broken record when I write this but I’m sure I’m echoing the views of many Evertonians out there.
With only Tom Davies officially ruled out and a few new signings made adding to key positions, there really is no excuse for Everton not to come away with three points. A lot of fans who have been backing the manager recently have asked for patience with Rafa Benitez due to the depleted squad, which I understand. Now our key players are coming back and coming up against the worst side in the league, a convincing win is the only scenario which should be happening at Carrow Road.
Pressure is certainly on the manager from a large portion of the fan base and it’s surely only a matter of time before the Board share these views if the poor results continue.