Everton’s up-and-down season has continued to what feels like the death once again. Last year, Crystal Palace fell prey to the spirit of the Blues at home; this year, the Toffees will need a bit of road magic to secure their spot in the Premier League for another campaign going forward.
They might find some at Wolves, however. While that side is no longer in relegation danger, they have not been stalwarts either. Three points puts the Blues in a really good position relative to Leeds, Leicester and Nottingham Forest, with still another winnable - or at least, drawable - match versus the Cherries next Sunday.
The performances against Leicester and Brighton are comforting, while the loss to Manchester City cannot be considered too great a surprise; the team is in good form all things considered, and ending the Premier League season on two high notes would create momentum going into next year. Sean Dyche is not Frank Lampard, and he will continue building on whatever success we find in the final two matches of this unprecedented Premier League campaign.
RBM: First off, Wolves have been up and down all season, but appear safe to fight in the Premier League for another season; what are the feelings like around the supporters, around the training grounds, and around Molineux right now?
Above all else, relief. We were bottom at Christmas and looked destined for relegation. The supporters are also optimistic about our prospects because the manager has lifted morale and there’s the belief that we can do much better next season if we do smart business over the summer.
RBM: How has Julen Lopetegui gotten more out of this side than his predecessor?
Well, it certainly helped that we brought in 6 players in January and all of them have played a key role in keeping us up. I don’t think Bruno Lage was ever given a proper squad to work with so I have a degree of sympathy for him in that respect. But Lopetegui is a more experienced coach and also seems like a good man-manager. The fans like him better too so the whole club feels more unified since his arrival.
RBM: Who has shone as the team has been performing a bit better?
Craig Dawson has been a sensational signing. Without him, I think we’d be a few points worse off and consequently still in the relegation scrap. Mario Lemina has also given us something different in midfield, while Diego Costa’s form has gradually picked up too. It’s generally been more of a team effort though, than one or two players stepping up.
RBM: What does the team still struggle with?
Scoring goals. We’ve got the fewest in the Premier League and that has to improve next season if we want to progress up the table and not get sucked back down.
RBM: How will the side look to improve this team over the summer to better suit what Lopetegui wants to do?
I think the manager knows we need some more robust, physically powerful players. There are a lot of good technical players at the club but we need more fighters. A centre-forward would be top of my shopping list for obvious reasons and we need some better options at full-back and probably in midfield if Ruben Neves and Moutinho both leave as expected.
RBM: How do you expect Wolves to set up on Saturday, and which of the side’s players do you think could cause the Toffees the greatest issues?
The most likely team is the lop-sided 4-4-2 that’s worked out well for us at home lately, consisting of Sa, Semedo, Dawson, Kilman, Toti, Lemina, Neves, Nunes, Neto, Cunha & Costa.
But Lopetegui might make some changes as we have little to play for and a large squad to utilise. In recent home wins, Costa has played an important role so he could be the man to make a difference again.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?
We’ve done very well at Molineux lately and kept a lot of clean sheets so I hope the team still have the desire to put in the graft and sign off with a good result. However, I think Everton might win. You obviously need the result a lot more than us, and I can see you forcing the issue. We had a lot of problems against Dyche’s Burnley, and I think your style of play will make it tough for us.
We thank Tom for his time as always!