Uncertainty and confusion may reign off the pitch at Everton football club, but on it their task is crystal clear – points, and fast.
Last weekend’s drab defeat to Arsenal made it five games without a win to start the campaign, with just the solitary point leaving the club in the Premier League relegation zone.
If you told fans before the game that Everton would lose 1-0, most would have understood. Arsenal are a very good side destined to challenge at the top of the Premier League again this season. But the sheer lack of attacking ambition is what frustrated a lot of supporters. Being too reckless would have left them exposed of course, but many felt there was a middle ground that could have seen the Toffees be more of an offensive threat.
Again, in isolation it is not disastrous, but combined it with those poor August results and some are already getting fearful and restless, with another season of struggle on the horizon.
Evertonian nerves have not been helped either by matters off the pitch, with news of the proposed 777 takeover causing a heady mix of confusion, fear, consternation, and fury.
Social media has gone into overdrive with talk of administration, players being sold, the stadium move collapsing and other doomsday scenarios. The truth is, we don’t know all the details so those making concrete assertions are speculating to varying degrees.
What is certain is 777 need to do a lot to convince a fanbase who are understandably sceptical of their intentions given their recent track record. Talk of meetings with key fan groups is welcome in that respect.
They also need to back up their talk with action and (let’s face it) cold hard cash to finally bring some stability to a club that has felt permanently in crisis for the last two years.
The contrast between well run clubs and badly run clubs is rarely starker than when comparing Everton and Brentford.
The Bees, along with Brighton, are the model any team outside the established top six aspire to, rising through the divisions thanks to some brilliant managerial appointments, fantastic recruitment and a unified structure from top to bottom.
That said, there will be some frustration that they have not got more points on the board. They have only lost once in five games – away at Newcastle last time out – but three successive draws at home will irk.
Everton also took a credible point last season in what was just their second top-flight match away at Brentford since 1946. Their only victory in 11 away games against Brentford in all competitions was by 4-2 in the old Second Division on 20 September 1952.
Everton 1-0 Brentford, March 11, 2023
A spectacular goal inside the opening minute from Dwight McNeil gave Everton a precious win in their fight against the drop when they last took on Brentford at the start of March. The Toffees have won just twice in the league since.
Sean Dyche says Jack Harrison is not yet ready to start despite returning to training after several months out with a hip injury.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Dwight McNeil, who made their comebacks from injury against Arsenal last week, have trained well this week so should be closer to full sharpness.
Seamus Coleman, Andre Gomes and Dele Alli are still unavailable.
What they said
Everton boss Sean Dyche: “I thought the second half against Arsenal we lost our way - we defended well but the other side of the game we never got to grips with the game at all. “We never dealt with the ball, never played our part in the game with possession.
“In the other games - aside from the Aston Villa one - I think they’ve been good performances. The margins are tight and the details are so, so important at both ends of the pitch.
“There is a lot of good in it but the facts are the facts and the league table doesn’t lie. The underlying story is better than the league table represents but, at the end of the day, we’ve got to change that - we’re the only ones who can change it: myself, the staff, the players.
“I can assure you I’m under no illusion that we have to change that part of it and sometimes by hook or by crook.”
Brentford boss Thomas Frank: Sean Dyche is very experienced. He’s a very good manager and I like him as a person. He’s not shaken, he believes in what he’s doing. I am convinced that he’ll find a way. Looking at performances, it looks like they are still in a fine place.
“Everton play with high intensity – they play direct, and we need to be aware of the second balls and close down crosses well. On the flip side, we need to be very good in the final third, in terms of the final pass and attacking the gaps in the box”
Given Everton’s poor start expectations are understandably low as they head to west London. Anything they take from this game will be a bonus, with huge home matches against Luton and Bournemouth looming into view.