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Everton vs Fulham: Opposition Analysis | Has the Season Come Too Soon?

With reinforcements slow to arrive, are the Blues ready for the season’s start?

Everton FC v Fulham FC - Premier League
Will Keane be in the lineup today?
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Almost eleven weeks have elapsed since Everton’s final day escape act against Bournemouth, courtesy of a fabulous Abdoulaye Doucoure strike. During that time much has occurred on the Blue half of Merseyside, much of it behind the scenes involving investment and changes at boardroom level.

By comparison, changes to the side that will take to the Goodison pitch for Saturday afternoon’s traditional three o’clock kickoff (good luck tuning in for domestic-based fans not in attendance) have been frustratingly limited. The squad has lost its best central defender (when fit) in Yerry Mina, along with the on-loan Conor Coady and has so far only added veteran Ashley Young, attacker Arnaut Danjuma and 19-year old striker Youseff Chermiti to the mix.

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s limited availability during preseason, injury to Dwight McNeil and questions over the defence and wing options, amid the club’s necessarily slow recruitment during the summer, the question exists as to whether Sean Dyche’s side is ready to kick off the campaign.

Arriving at Goodison to put that readiness to the test is ex-Blues boss Marco Silva’s Fulham.


Following a bruising 18-months in the Everton dugout, which ended in his removal back in December 2019, Silva took a break from management, before returning to helm the Cottagers in July 2021. Since, he’s rebuilt his reputation by first bringing the West Londoners back up to the top tier at the first time of asking, taking the Championship title en route to scoring an astonishing 106 goals. Impressive enough, but he capped that achievement by guiding the club to an unexpectedly high 10th-place finish in the Premier League last term.

Powered by some shrewd signings, such as the rejuvenated Willian, midfield anchorman Joao Palhinha, Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno and Manchester United nearly-man Andreas Pereira, Fulham were in a decent position for a push towards qualifying for European competition before losing form during the spring. Amidst that run of poor form however, Silva’s side still managed to inflict a humbling 3-1 Goodison Park defeat on Dyche’s outfit.

The summer has been a strange one for Fulham, who have seen key players in Aleksandar Mitrovic, Willian - and even Silva himself - caught up in the sudden emergence of the Saudi Arabian league as big players in the transfer market. This has no doubt disrupted preparations for the new campaign, although the club have managed to so far avoid losing anybody significant (except for the on-loan Manor Solomon, who has signed permanently for Tottenham Hotspur). Additions in the form of defender Calvin Bassey, whose sole season at Ajax following a move from Rangers was mixed and Wolves striker Raul Jimenez, who failed to score a league goal last season, do not appear game-changers.

Everton FC v Fulham FC - Premier League
It was havoc at the back for Everton the last time the two sides went at it
Photo by Mike Morese/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Style of Play

Blues fans will be very familiar with the way Silva likes to play, based off his time at the club. He likes to control possession, encouraging his side to get on the ball and dictate with intelligent use of it, based on a 4-2-3-1 formation. Known as a real training ground coach, rather than a delegator, the Portuguese instils a confidence in his team to play good, attractive football which, when it works can be an impressive watch. Still a relatively young manager, at 46, he’s definitely learned from his time at Everton and away from the game and returned as a more complete package, as shown by the two Manager of the Month accolades he collected last term.

The Cottagers play with width, in order to stretch out defences and create space which can be exploited by clever movement outside to inside and vice-versa. This can make it pretty tough for the opposition to track runners, as we saw during Fulham’s comfortable win over the Blues back in April, when the statuesque home defence were left looking static and clumsy by the likes of Dan James and Harry Wilson. In addition, with Mitrovic likely to start, they have the option to go more direct and to fire in crosses from the flanks.

Defensively, they are set up competently, anchored by the impressive Pahlinha (who will be missing today) in front of the back four. They don’t push up high, particularly, but sit in their shape and look for pressing triggers in order to win back the ball in midfield and to then shift onto the front foot. They can be tough to break down and will not overextend, losing structure and allowing themselves to be exposed on the counterattack.

Player Assessment

Obviously, Mitrovic is Fulham’s star man. The Serb netted 14 league goals last season and a lengthy suspension for manhandling a match official in the club’s FA Cup Quarter-Final defeat to Manchester United in March played a major part in their loss of momentum. The big forward is a classic old-school number nine, strong and powerful in the air, a bit slow but intelligent in his movement in the box.

In the absence of Pahlinha, Harrison Reed will bear the brunt of responsibility in midfield. An ever-present last term, the 27-year old is an underrated performer who possesses a decent range of passing and can keep the team ticking over.

Stoke City v Everton - Pre-Season Friendly
The Blues could do with new signing Danjuma being available
Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images


On paper and despite Fulham being a stand out side last season in performing wildly above expectations, this should have been a close to ideal game for the Blues to kick off the new campaign, given the troubles the visitors have experienced over the summer. Unfortunately for Everton - whilst enjoying comparative stability on the playing side of things - it’s fair to say the club are behind schedule when it comes to their own attempts at squad building.

Whereas the players signed so far are, in my opinion, all shrewd acquisitions, it’s been one step forward and one back for Everton in the attacking areas, which desperately required a serious upgrade. Calvert-Lewin is a major doubt for the season opener, Chermiti -announced only yesterday - is unlikely to feature and it is uncertain whether Danjuma will be ready to start, so the home side could be in the unfortunate position of fielding Neal Maupay up top once again.

Where the goals are going to be coming from today is anyone’s guess.

Structurally, the side looks solid enough, with Young adding veteran savvy and the midfield enjoying plenty of options. Centre half is a worry, however with young Jarrad Brathwaite the clear fan choice to partner stalwart James Tarkowski, but with ex-Burnley man Michael Keane possibly favoured by Dyche. An Everton starting side deploying both Maupay and Keane will not go over well with the home crowd.

The visitors could be off-key and vulnerable, but whether Everton have the tools to take advantage is doubtful. Their best bet may be to attempt to outwork Fulham in midfield, pressure their defence into coughing up the ball and get bodies forward in order to capitalize, but it promises to be a bit rough and tumble and with slim pickings in the flair and creativity stakes.

Prediction: Everton 1-1 Fulham

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