Even by Everton’s recent standards, this season has been bleak.
But, the clouds are set to part over Goodison Park for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off – if only briefly – with Duncan Ferguson looking to inspire a cauldron-like atmosphere.
There are sub-plots a plenty: with Big Dunc in charge, Leighton Baines by his side, Steven Gerrard his adversary and even a quick return for Lucas Digne.
So who does Ferguson have at his disposal?
The Blues are without four players for this one: Tom Davies, Fabian Delph, Anwar El Ghazi and Alex Iwobi.
Tom Davies is still recovering from a hamstring injury while Fabian Delph – surprise, surprise – has picked up a long-term injury. However, Allan has recovered from illness though and is available.
Anwar El Ghazi will have to wait to make his Everton debut as he can’t play against his parent club due to Premier League loan rules, while Alex Iwobi is set to represent Nigeria in the knockout stages of the African Cup of Nations against Tunisia on Sunday evening.
Tactics and Formation
Ladies and Gentleman, Everton will be playing four-four-f***in’-two.
Everton will cover more ground and make more tackles than they have in any other game this season. Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be leading the line. And the Blues will look to get the ball into the box at every opportunity.
Sub-plot: Duncan Ferguson currently shares the record for most Premier League red cards (8) with Richard Dunne and Patrick Vieira. With Steven Gerrard in the other dugout, I wouldn’t rule out Big Dunc claiming the record for himself. Whether these comments are true or not, there is no love lost between the pair.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford – 9/10
Jonjoe Kenny – 6/10
I have a sneaking suspicion Kenny will get the nod in order to put better quality crosses into the box from wide positions.
Vitaliy Mykolenko – 9/10
Ben Godfrey – 8/10
Yerry Mina – 6/10
Could (should) replace Keane.
Allan - 7/10
Will start if he’s fit enough.
Abdoulaye Doucoure – 10/10
Demarai Gray – 9/10
Andros Townsend – 7/10
Basically a toss-up between Townsend and Gordon. Townsend may get the nod though with no other quality left-footed options from set pieces with Digne now playing against us.
Richarlison – 10/10
Dominic Calvert-Lewin – 10/10
Nathan Patterson – Being eased in gently, but hopefully we’ll see him soon. Maybe even as a sub against his former manager?