This weekend Everton will be making a trip to struggling Hull City aiming to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup. Hull sit in 19th position in the Championship with just six wins out of the 24 games played so far this season. With no trophy in 27 years, Rafa Benitez’s men will be desperate to advance into the next round in order to partially save what has been a very disappointing season so far.
Hull City will be without three key first team players this weekend. Mallik Wilks, Josh Magennis and Callum Elder will all sit out the game against Everton, with all three players being regular starters for Grant McCann’s side this year. The Tigers have struggled to put the ball in the net this season, with only two sides in the league managing to score less than them. Their top goalscorer, Keane Lewis-Potter is their top goalscorer with just five goals this campaign. They average 11.5 shots per game which puts them around mid table in the Championship, which really shows their main struggle being putting away the chances they are creating.
In terms of how they play, Hull City are an extremely cross heavy team. Only three teams in the whole league have attempted more crosses than them this season and with two of their main forward presences ruled out, they may have to switch up their game plan a little. Keane Lewis-Potter often plays out wide or up front, but he’s not the tallest of players so we will unlikely see them trying to whip balls into the box for the youngster. In terms of possession, Hull average 46.4% of the ball. Despite being fairly low, this is significantly more than The Toffees who have managed just 39.6% all season. No team has failed to score in more games than Hull this season, with 12 games ending in them without getting on the scoresheet.
Everton’s injury list is still a reasonably long one, so this may be an opportunity to see some of the youngsters and potentially new signings get some minutes. The Under 23’s played on Thursday night and Ryan Astley, Isaac Price, Tyler Onyango, Ellis Simms and Lewis Dobbin all missed out, which adds to the speculation whether they will be involved this weekend. Tactically, it will be interesting to see how Rafa sets up this game. With a five at the back setup in our last two fixtures, is this the route Rafa wants to go down in the future? With the struggles defensively, it seems he believes this is the way to fix this issue but that certainly wasn’t the case against Brighton, conceding three goals.
With no Tom Davies available and Jean-Philippe Gbamin being told he can leave the club, the midfield numbers are still very low. Myself personally and plenty of other fans have been crying out for a three-man midfield for a while but it’s certainly difficult without actual players fit to play in these positions. Playing three in the midfield allows us to have more domination in the game and gives the centre backs more options to play through the lines. Without the third man, we often resort to long balls into the forwards and with Dominic Calvert-Lewin likely rested this weekend, we lack aerial presence up top. Personally, I would like to see Ellis Simms play this role as he offers us a physical target man if we must play slightly longer football.
There has been lots of debate over whether to field a full strength team or not. With our injury struggles and senior players simply not performing, I think it’s a great chance to play some of these younger lads in a fixture which should be significantly easier than a Premier League game. There is of course the risk of lack of experience but if we can mix a blend of a few older heads and a few youngsters, hopefully it will be enough to breeze past the Championship side.
Rafa certainly didn’t rule out Everton fans being able to see one of the new signings making their debut this weekend. With both players not training with the side for very long and not match fit, this may not be possible. Personally, I’d love to see both players at least making the bench and with Lucas Digne likely to be out the door and Seamus Coleman struggling in terms of performance, Rafa may be tempted to chuck one of the new lads straight into the deep end.
It’s been extremely rare to see Everton dominate games this season, even against lesser opposition. Even when drawn against Championship side QPR in the Carabao Cup, we only managed 39% of the ball. If we play a three-man midfield, there’s no reason we can’t try and play out from the back and transition the ball from defence to attack with ease. Hull are missing key players as well as Everton so there’s little excuse for The Toffees not to set the tempo and try control this game against Hull City.