Without jinxing it, Everton are in a period where our players are returning to action in greater numbers than those that are beginning a period of rehab. When Sean Dyche walked into his pre-match news conference there was a significant difference in tone and outlook, both from the manager and even the questions that were being asked.
The team recorded their second win in a row in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday and the big news was the debut for Jack Harrison. His inclusion was one of the high points in a solid performance against a Villa team that has been playing very well. The balance of continuing the time on the pitch and the need to gradually build up fitness is certainly in Dyche’s mind but it looks like he is listening to the player.
“I think it’s a fine line. I spoke to him about playing. There was an Under-21s game on Tuesday night and we wondered whether to get him 90 minutes in that, but he was so clear-minded - he’s been clear-minded in training, he has had a good training period and it was only the games schedule we couldn’t quite guarantee for him.
But I spoke to him and he was absolutely clear - and when players are like that, it’s often the best way of being when they think they can play.”
With Arnaut Danjuma, Dwight McNeil and Jack Harrison sharing the workload out wide, it might be a case of starting two with the plan to bring the third on after 60 or 75 minutes. Of course, the ongoing discussion of attempting to play Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Beto together in a 4-4-2 could also give the opportunity to build up fitness for the midfielders.
As for Calvert-Lewin, the striker has scored in each of the last two matches and continued his impressive play in the Carabao Cup where he has now scored 11 goals in his 11 Carabao Cup matches. Dyche did speak to the continuing improvement in the fitness of the striker.
“I am pleased for him. He has dug in for a long time and we’ve tried to come away from the pressure of just putting him straight back in all the time [after an injury] and, hopefully, that will pay dividends in the longer term for him and for us.
I think he’s looked sharp in the games. We knew we were building him back into first-team football, hence why we got him off at a reasonable stage of the game [against Aston Villa], but, yes, he will only get fitter and sharper.”
The long term absentees; André Gomes (calf), Seamus Coleman (knee) and Dele (groin) all continue to work on their rehab and no timelines for their return was discussed.
Luton arrive at Goodison on the back of a shock 1-0 loss to Exeter in the Carabao Cup. After making 10 changes for the match, Rob Edwards is expected to revert to a side more like the one that drew with Wolves last weekend.
On the Injury front for Luton, Albert Sambi Lokonga is facing an extended rehab with a hamstring injury, and he will join Gabriel Osho, Jordan Clark and Dan Potts on the sidelines. Former Everton midfielder Ross Barkley won’t be in contention to play after missing the last three games with a thigh problem.