The football season is once again upon us; with the Premier League back up and running for the 2023-24 campaign, Everton will be looking to improve after two terribly difficult years. Sean Dyche demanded change for the Toffees after beating Bournemouth on the final day to remain out of the Championship last season, and change has come and continues coming.
Signings are being made. Greater organization and tactical knowledge will have been gained over the summer holiday too, so if the side can stay healthy, there is no reason why a top of the bottom end of the table, or even a bottom of the top end of the table finish is not possible; those ambitions will be tested weekly, starting Saturday morning against Fulham and a familiar face turned foe.
Marco Silva and the Cottagers are looking to build on a really impressive first year back in the Premier League, and they’re not comfortable where they ended up either. They nearly missed out on silverware - if not for an epic meltdown seen from coach and number nine - and might have finished in a European spot with the right fortune.
With Fulham visiting Everton, the weekly clash of ambitions starts anew. Who will win the match? Only time will tell.
RBM: Firstly, happy football season! Fulham were one of last year’s big clubs surprises and stories for much of the season; what has the team done across the summer to improve upon last season’s great Premier League return?
RG: I think the first thing they have done is to hold on to their key players and their manager Marco Silva. Fulham has not buckled to the pressure of selling Mitro, Willian, or Palhinha. They have added two key pieces to the puzzle with Raul Jimenez, who I expect to be a backup striker, and Calvin Bassey, who I believe will be the starting Left Centre-Back. However, Fulham still needs at least 5-6 players to be where they need to be by the end of the window. Overall, right now, the window has been positive.
RBM: How is this side better than the previous iteration of itself? How is this side worse?
RG: I think right now they are better at left centre-back - Calvin Bassey, I expect to be an upgrade over Tim Ream. Right now they are worse with squad depth. As a starting XI all healthy this team could be better than last year’s side but they need reinforcements at winger, in central midfield, and definitely at both full back positions.
RBM: Talk to us more about the transfer window and what might still be procured during the rest of August?
RG: I am expecting Fulham to bring in two wingers, a CM, and two fullbacks. Some will push to start, and others will be backups. I do expect about 5-6 players to come through the door. Fulham are in decent shape, but they need more quality players to add to the mix.
RBM: Other than Aleksandar Mitrovic, who are the dangermen on this new and improved side?
RG: I will start with Willian, as he is a different level of class even as he is in his mid-thirties. Andreas Pereira is another who is very impressive on set pieces and one to watch for his deliveries in the box. Finally, do not sleep on Raul Jimenez. He has fit in very well so far at Fulham and can do a job at the striker position.
RBM: What about former Toffee boss Marco Silva? What is he going to look towards improving as it concerns this team from last year?
RG: Marco Silva is key to everything that Fulham does to be honest. His style of play is to play on the front foot and play with no fear. He needs more players to go along with the squad he currently has, as Fulham is very thin on numbers right now.
RBM: What are the ambitions for this team across all competitions this campaign?
RG: I think it is getting into Europe and building on last season. If you stand still in the Premier League, you can be dead. I know that the ambitions for Fulham are that they not just stay in the Premier League but compete in it too. I am expecting Fulham to build on last season.
RBM: How do you expect Fulham to set up on Saturday? Which of Fulham’s players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?
RG: I expect Fulham to play a 4-2-3-1, and I think the keys to this match will be Fulham’s wingers and fullbacks pushing forward. If Fulham are able to get the ball wide and into the box consistently, I do like their chances at Goodison Park.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for the opening match of the 2023-24 season?
RG: I respect Everton a great deal and want your club to have a successful season. For this match, without Dominic Calvert-Lewin starting and Dwight McNeil out for this match, I do have Fulham winning 2-0, but part of my reasoning is the players I just mentioned with Everton either being limited or out and Mitro being back involved with Fulham gives me hope for this match. Best of luck for the rest of the season!
Our thanks to Russ for his time.