Such is life as a supporter of Everton, huh? Sometimes you get a new boss and beat Arsenal and Leeds United. Sometimes though, you lose to Liverpool. Sometimes you have Carlo Ancelotti as your boss, other times it’s Rafa Benitez. Sometimes you feel like Frank Lampard after that match against Crystal Palace at Goodison Park at the end of last season, and sometimes - well - you feel like you imagine he feels right now.
But with all jokes and prose put aside for a moment, Sean Dyche does appear to be a good boss for this team. Now, this writer knows he is an unrelenting optimist, and has said favorable things at one point or another about each boss that has walked through the doors up on Merseyside since he began writing about them.
Dyche however was right several weeks ago. He has kept worse teams up than these Toffees. He will, however, have a tough test once again this week as he must face Unai Emery, a quietly loaded squad, and a hungry, much more cohesive Aston Villa side, before facing the Arsenal once again in a match that they will surely be sore to claim victory in after the first meeting just weeks ago.
One step at a time could see Everton improve their current position and possible final table position quite noticeably in such a short span, but a loss here followed by another to former Toffee Mikel Arteta could set the progress at Finch Farm and Goodison back a bit.
Ahead of Saturday’s game, we spoke to Phil Vogel, from SB Nation’s dedicated Villa blog, 7500 to Holte:
RBM: First off, what is the mood around Villa Park and amongst supporters right now after Unai Emery’s appointment and the uptick in form that has largely come with it?
The mood is odd right now among the Villa faithful. Most, if not all, believe in what Unai Emery is doing. But there is also some real frustration over mistakes leading to goals - because they have.
I’m not going to pretend to speak for everyone, but I’m excited for the future. Emery has a plan, the players seem to understand it and it has resulted (as you mention) to an uptick in form.
This summer will be important for the future of the club and many fans are already turning their attention toward the window with Villa looking like a comfortable midtable team looking at a 10-12 finishing spot.
RBM: What is Unai Emery getting from these players - or asking them to do - that is so different or more effective than what Steven Gerrard got at the end of his of time in charge?
The team seems to have a plan. Some of the quick details are the fullbacks are much more disciplined, and Watkins has been playing with a partner up front. Also the team is much more narrow with shorter passes. In terms of personnel, Gerrard insisted on continuing with Coutinho and that experiment didn’t work.
RBM: Who has shown more under the new regime than under the previous? Ollie Watkins is an obvious choice, but is there anyone else?
Yes, Ollie Watkins is the answer. But Emi Buendia has been allowed to show just how good he can be. He is the player that is looking for different passes than most of the other players.
I’m guessing Buendia and Coutinho have similar ways of seeing the pitch, and I think the veteran has likely helped the young Argentinian along the way.
RBM: What are the renewed expectations of Aston Villa Football Club for the rest of the season?
I think 10-12 is the likely finish point. I would love to have the hope to go higher but I just don’t see it. The team isn’t disciplined enough. And not enough of the players appear to fit into the Emery plan. That isn’t to say they can’t in time, though.
RBM: What will the club look to address in the summer with their new boss?
The first challenge will be holding on to players that are good enough to play in the Champions League. Emi Martinez and Boubacar Kamara are going to be tough to keep at Villa. But they are both on long contracts and the team will set a price and demand it get met.
In terms of incoming, I have to trust in Emery. I think the rest of this year will be him looking at the role players at Villa and deciding if they are good enough. Tyrone Mings just signed a new deal so that tells me he is good enough.
Matty Cash, John McGinn, Leon Bailey have struggled at times (and been hit with injuries). They have worked to do and those positions could be up for grabs.
Without a doubt I expect a high-quality midfielder and a winger or two (since Gerrard didn’t play with them, we sold them all out)
RBM: How do you expect Villa to set up on Saturday, and which of those names do you think could cause Everton the most trouble?
Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Alex Moreno, Kamara, Luiz, McGinn, Buendia, Bailey, Watkins
Watkins is in flying form. Look for some long passes along the ground to him from Buendia. Bailey, on his day, can turn over anyone… but he isn’t consistent (much like every winger)
IF – and this is a huge IF – Bertrand Traore is healthy and he starts or comes off the bench he is another chaos agent.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s affair?
0-1 to the Villa.
Sean Dyche teams are hard to beat but hoping Villa can find a way to win - and hold on to the lead they currently possess.
Our thanks to Phil for his time.