Everyone knew how difficult Sean Dyche’s opening pair of fixtures were as Everton manager, and most will be happy with three points from a possible six.
And while not as glamorous, this Saturday 3pm home tie against fellow strugglers Leeds United is by far our most important test to date – it was also give us the clearest view of where we’re actually at under Sean Dyche in this season’s relegation battle.
So, how will Mr Dyche line us his Mighty Blues of Everton?
The bad news is bad – but not surprising: Dominic Calvert-Lewin is out.
However, I am fond of the fact that Dyche seems committed to not rushing back the target man – despite the pressure – and try to fix his underlying issues. Something I don’t think has been happening over the past 18 months.
James Garner and Nathan Patterson won’t be available, but they are drastically stepping up their recovery by playing in Friday’s Under-21s game. Hopefully both will be sufficiently fit for the Aston Villa game next week.
Aside from that, just Andros Townsend remains out.
EVERTON SQUAD AVAILABLE VS LEEDS
Goalkeepers: Pickford, Begovic, Lonergan,
Defenders: Keane, Mina, Godfrey, Tarkowski, Holgate, Coady, Mykolenko, Coleman,
Patterson (INJURED), Vinagre, Welch
Midfielders: Doucoure, Iwobi, Davies, Onana, Gueye,
Garner (INJURED) , Price
Townsend (INJURY), McNeil, Mills
Calvert-Lewin (INJURED), Maupay, Simms
Tactics and Formation
Despite starting reasonably well at Anfield, it was a pretty flat performance from the Blues in the end.
And, with a less prestigious opponent this weekend, I do wonder if Dyche will revert to his bread-and-butter 4-4-2. If so, that would likely see Ellis Simms and Neal Maupay paired up top – although he did say he also saw Demarai Gray performing in that role.
If not starting up top, Blues might like to see Gray resume his role on the wing – but Dwight McNeil and Alex Iwobi do seem to be favoured at the moment.
In a midfield two, it’s surely Onana and Gueye – although I do get the feeling that Dyche is trying to test Onana and so I wouldn’t rule out a shock dropping on the Belgian star.
In defence, there’s not much choice at full-back: Myko and Seamus it will be.
But at centre-back, Yerry Mina, Michael Keane, Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate are all waiting in the wings if Dyche opts to drop Tarkowski - or more likely – Coady.
Dyche will be watching the Under-21s play tonight, primarily to observe Nathan Patterson and James Garner as they work their way back to fitness, but it's an opportunity for some fringe players to impress too.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford – 10/10
Seamus Coleman – 9/10
Vitaliy Mykolenko - 9/10
James Tarkowski – 9/10
Conor Coady – 7/10
Amadou Onana – 8/10
Idrissa Gana Gueye – 9/10
Alex Iwobi – 7/10
Dwight McNeil – 7/10
Neal Maupay – 7/10
Ellis Simms – 6/10