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Everton vs Brentford: Opposition Analysis | Running Out of Chances

The Blues are entering the home straight and have to start picking up the pace urgently, with the finish line almost within sight

Brentford FC v Everton FC - Premier League
Will McNeil continue his improved form under Sean Dyche at the weekend?
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Everton departed the City Ground on Sunday with a hard-fought point which, prior to kickoff would have seemed like a decent result. However, the way the game played out, with the Blues twice squandering a lead, it left a sour taste in the mouth and made one think of the points dropped, rather than gained.

Conceding two goals to Nottingham Forest was particularly galling, considering the home side are one of the lowest scorers in the league. along with Sean Dyche’s reputation as someone whose major selling point was an ability to see out games. Despite Forest enjoying a lengthy home unbeaten run in the league, they appeared a weak outfit and it’s tough to see Everton’s last match as anything but a missed opportunity.

Now the Blues sit once more in the relegation zone, in 18th spot having played a game more than every team battling the drop, except for Wolverhampton Wanderers and with matches running out.

Back at home following consecutive road matches, the Toffees entertain Brentford in a three o’clock local time kickoff on Saturday.


Thomas Frank guided Brentford to an impressive 13th place finish in the table last season - the London club’s first appearance in the top flight since 1947; quite an accomplishment and one aided by the shrewd gamble on January free agent signing Christian Eriksen. The Bees lost Eriksen in the summer upon the expiry of his six-month contract, but spent around €47m on fresh reinforcements, targeting young talent in addition to veteran Burnley centre half Ben Mee.

Fresh off their inaugural campaign in the Premier League, the West London outfit immediately began proving they would be no one-season fluke as they lost just once from their opening six matches: 3-2 to Fulham, courtesy of a 90th minute Aleksandar Mitrović strike. Included in that run of matches were 4-0 and 5-2 demolitions of Manchester United and Leeds United, respectively, in addition to a 1-1 home draw with Frank Lampard's Everton.

An Autumn blip followed: heavy defeats to Arsenal and Newcastle United, sandwiched around a goalless tie with struggling Bournemouth. A win over Brighton & Hove Albion and a goalless draw with Chelsea steadied the ship, before they unexpectedly suffered a big loss at an Aston Villa side helmed by caretaker Aaron Danks, post the Steven Gerrard era; that was Brentford’s last league defeat to date, all the way back in October.

Since that setback, the Bees have gone on a run of 12 undefeated, losing only in the EFL and FA Cup competitions. The scalps taken include Manchester City, Liverpool and - last time out - Fulham. The visitors arrive at Goodison Park in ninth position in the table, on 38 points.

Brentford FC v Fulham FC - Premier League
Jensen scores against Fulham last weekend
Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

Style of Play

Frank switched from a 3-5-2 formation to a 4-3-3 midway through the last campaign, in order to make a space for playmaker Eriksen and started the new season in similar fashion, switching back to a back three system for (on paper) tougher games, against the likes of Man United, Arsenal, Newcastle and Chelsea. Starting just before the World Cup break and subsequent to it, he’s flipped between the two formations seemingly at will. Though the side has lined up in a 4-3-3 in the last two matches, for the past four away games Frank has gone with the 3-5-2.

Offensively, the team are quite capable of playing it out from the back, but are actually the most direct in the league, with 16.9% of their passes going long. They can be a rugged side, but pick up few bookings: just 33 to date. Interestingly, Everton have the second-worst disciplinary record in the Premier League, collecting 60 yellow cards, including an amazing eleven for “unprofessional reasons”. Given the frequent flare-ups since Dyche came in it’s hard to see that total going down anytime soon!

Brentford are comfortable playing without the ball, as demonstrated by an average 43.0% possession share and their passing accuracy is dead bottom, eclipsing Forest last weekend by posting a terrible 65% completion rate against Fulham; across the season they now sit at 73.9%, about 5% lower than the Blues. They don’t generate a lot of shots, just 10.5 per game, but are relatively accurate with them: they’ve scored 40 goals from an xG (Expected Goals) total of 34.6, showing their efficiency. The Bees can be dangerous in transition, having scored five times from counterattacks this season, a concern for an Everton side that continues to look shaky in transition.

Defensively the Londoners play a low block, looking to break up opposition possession play and launch it directly to their quick, athletic forwards. They do give up a lot of attempts at goal - a league high 16.9 per match. They’ve conceded 32 goals from an xGA (Expected Goals Allowed) of 30.3. The Bees are the league’s dominant aerial side, winning 17.4 per 90 minutes. They rarely overcommit, as evidenced by the fact the team has conceded no counterattacking goals this campaign.

Player Assessment

There’s no dispute that the danger man is the talismanic Ivan Toney. Unquestionably one of the most effective front men in England currently, the 26-year old scored last time out and has 15 league goals already this term, including seven since the World Cup ended. Quick, strong, intelligent and clinical, Toney is adept at finding himself in position to get off shots and as well as being a ruthless penalty taker, is also very shrewd in winning fouls (as Jordan Pickford and Jarrad Branthwaite very well know).

Mathias Jensen is probably the most effective of Brentford’s midfielders. The team’s dead-ball specialist, he leads them in progressive passing, with 4.42 per 90 and also in key passes (those leading to a shot) with 1.41 per match. An all-rounder he also posts an impressive 3.5 combined tackles and interceptions, in addition to blocking 1.70 passes per game.

Everton v Brentford: The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round
Toney wins a penalty from Jordan Pickford last season
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images


Brentford are playing very well, having lost only four times in the league this campaign, just one behind Newcastle and leaders, Arsenal. They have lost just the two cup matches in more than four months which, even including a six-week break for the World Cup is an impressive achievement, one which speaks of organisation, belief and the tactical acumen of Frank. Away from home, they have won only twice this season, with six draws and three losses, so whilst tough are hardly unbeatable.

Everton are running out of opportunities to break away from the relegation zone and - given they’ve so far shown no ability to win on the road - must maximise their points tally at Goodison. If Forest were beatable at the City Ground - and they were - then we have to believe that the Bees are also, away from the Gtech Community Stadium. What they have is Frank’s tactical knowhow, Toney, pace in wide attacking areas and a solid, resolute structure to their team.

Whilst Everton managed to score twice last time out, for the first time since hitting three against Crystal Palace back in October, once again both goals were from set-piece situations. The Blues have only ten goals from open-play all season and none under Dyche, though they are generating an improved number of opportunities, just failing to take them.

It’s quite likely that the Bees will set up in a 3-5-2 formation; if Dominic Calvert-Lewin is again unavailable, as appears likely then the Toffees have nobody to directly challenge a sturdy opposition backline, so going with a false nine, or mobile forward in Demarai Gray may serve better than Neal Maupay, who Frank knows well from his time at Brentford. The idea of Michael Keane or Conor Coady going up against Toney frightens me, so I’d hope that Yerry Mina may at last be dusted off and deployed by Dyche, as he’d relish a battle with the Bees striker. Sadly, I doubt this will happen.

Everton’s best chance is to play with intensity and to try to get midfield runners in to offer a forward threat in the opposition box, whilst not giving up cheap fouls, especially to Toney who is very clever at arranging contact. Dwight McNeil, whilst hardly a goal machine, has shown the ability to cut inside and let fly in the last couple of games and - other than Gray - at least offers the possibility of a goal from range.

I see the Blues putting in an energetic performance and troubling Brentford with set-piece routines and perhaps some surprisingly fluid attacks, possibly enough to register a much-needed victory.

Everton v Brentford: The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round
Could we at last see Big Yerry causing havoc in the Brentford defence on Saturday?
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Prediction: Everton 1-0 Brentford

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