Everton v Brighton. The Everton Forum preview

I’d love to know what Sam Allardyce told his Everton charges at half time last Saturday.

For the first time in just under 3 months, the blues held the lead away from Goodison Park at the break. They weren’t looking especially rock-solid at the back but had a goalkeeper in fine form and going forward, looked like they could easily add to their lead.

The opposition, Burnley, hadn’t won a match in their last 12 and had never won from behind in the Premier League under Sean Dyche (53 games).

Yet, despite all those good omens, the half that followed was utterly ridiculous from an Everton point of view.

For the second week in a row, the football management 101 tactic of ‘let’s just throw another striker on and go direct’ reaped dividends against Everton and from such a position of strength at half time, the blues collapsed to lose the game, conceding 2 really poor goals.

The defeat took Everton’s tally to 6 consecutive away defeats in all competitions, meaning the blues are yet to win a single point away from home in 2018.

This weekend the blues will be pleased to return to home comforts of Goodison Park, where they’ll face Brighton and Hove Albion (a 3pm kick off).

However, with such poor recent results seeing the team’s league position slide worryingly, you feel a defeat here could really cause the atmosphere turn toxic on an already unpopular manager.

The Seagulls

Saturday’s guests from the South coast are certain to arrive at L4 in great spirits having been on an excellent run of form that’s seen them reach the heights of 10th (above Everton).

Their headline-grabbing 2-1 win against Arsenal last weekend might well have been the result that got people talking, but really all of their results over the last 6 weeks or so have been decent…

Comfortable home wins of 4-1 against Swansea and 3-1 against West Ham were consolidated with respectable away draws against Stoke and Southampton and what’s more, the seagulls remain in the FA Cup at the Quarter Final stage.

34 points with 9 games to go is surely well above expectations for a promoted side like Brighton, so we should really commend Chris Hughton for the fantastic job he’s done so far this season with limited resources compared with other more established teams.

As is the case with most promoted teams who retain the core of players who got them up in the first place, with Brighton you’ll see a group of players who really fight for each other. There’s clearly a real togetherness about them and when new players arrive to see that hard work element, often you’ll notice they’re driven to match those standards.

Obviously, they don’t have a team of individual world beaters, but Brighton do have a lot of the basics you need to at least stay in this league. For instance; they can defend as a unit, they can out-work teams in midfield, they have pace out wide, athletic full backs, strikers that can occupy defenders and presence in the box from set plays.

In terms of Hughton’s preferred system, typically he tends to go with 2 banks of 4, a floating number 10 and an old-fashioned number 9 played through the middle.

At the back, Matt Ryan’s goal is likely to be defended by a back 4 which looks set to include the no-nonsense central defensive duo of former-blue Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk and the leggy full backs, Ezequil Schelotto and Gaetan Bong, who’ll provide good legs to get up and down to help supplement attacks.

In midfield, the hard-working duo of Davy Propper and Dale Stephens look to be destructive in the middle, while Anthony Knockhaert and Jose Izquierdo both have pace and quality from the wider areas.

The fan-favourite Pascal Gross plays in a free role in between the midfield and attack. Having scored 8 and created 8 of Brighton’s 28 goals, the German is a canny operator who represents excellent value, having arrived at the club for just £2m in the summer.

As the stats suggest, Gross is capable of both scoring and creating goals, so will need to be carefully watched as he looks to find space to exploit behind Everton’s midfield.

Leading the line will be the evergreen Glenn Murray. A classic English-style centre forward, Murray will look to compete physically with the Everton centre halves and then get himself on the end of things in the penalty area.

The striker has scored 11 Premier League goals this season and arrives in great form having scored 5 goals in last 5 starts.

Looking at their style of play, the blues can certainly expect Brighton to be physical in the middle of the pitch, dangerous down the flanks (where they tend to attack from) and strong from set plays, where the two centre halves along with Murray are certainly capable of attacking crossed deliveries to good affect.

However, with this match being away from home, I think we’ll see Brighton do what they usually do away from the Amex and seek the point. Therefore, I expect they’ll come and try to frustrate Everton on a day the blues really need to win to settle some nerves among the home supporters.

Although the seagulls don’t win many away from home (2 wins from 14 matches with 4 draws), they do have the best defence outside of the top 6 when it comes to away games, having only conceded 17 on the road, so I expect them to keep things tight first and foremost.

Yet, with strong recent results already achieved, I wonder if Chris Hughton might let his team off the leash to have a go at an Everton team low in confidence that will probably be there for the taking.

The Blues

While everybody at Everton, notably Sam Allardyce, seem to be blaming the poor season the blues are having on the away form, I’m afraid it’s not quite that simple.

Yes. We are god awful away from home, that’s plain as day. However, what people seem to be glossing over is the simple fact that Everton are the 3rd worst team in the league over the past 10 games.

8 points we’ve taken from our last 10 games, scoring 9 and conceding 19.

If we were to replicate that over the course of a season, we’d be comfortably relegated and when you consider those 10 games make up 75% of Sam Allardyce’s Everton reign, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture for his long-term prospects in the job.

But anyway, back to Brighton at home. A game which, let’s face it, should be a home banker for Everton but suddenly feels like a huge banana skin.

First thing’s first, Michael Keane needs to be joining the disgrace that is Ashley Williams in missing this game.

If ever there was a one step forward, two steps back footballer, it’s this lad. You think he’s finally getting somewhere after a couple of average performances but then he trots out a car crash like his ‘performance’ at Burnley.

He must’ve been delighted that Williams got himself sent off to take the heat off him, but I’m not letting him off that easily. He was absolutely atrocious…

He loses more headers than he wins, his positioning is terrible, his awareness is poor, his pace is non-existent, his bravery is lacking and I’m just sick of it. I hope he proves me wrong and comes back strong, but the signs really aren’t good, he looks a dud.

Then there’s his partner in crime, Ashley Williams.

A man we signed because of Wales performances at Euro 2016 and his all-important Premier League experience with perennial strugglers, Swansea City.

A man we signed because he’s a ‘proven leader’, he puts his head in where it hurts, he competes physically, he’s a threat in the box and he can play out a bit – yet, not one of those statements are true.

All I see in Williams is a man who was once an average centre half that can’t do it anymore. There’s no pace, there’s sloppy mistakes, questionable concentration, issues with misplaced aggression and if anything, a lack of leadership by example.

I ask myself, how can this guy be Everton captain? It’s meant to mean something to wear the armband of this great club and it seems he, as well as the person giving it to him, don’t know the half of it.

Arguably, what’s worse than the two of them individually, is the fact they’re paired together so many times. It simply does not work and anybody can see that.

As everyone knows, a partnership should have a certain blend. For instance; if one is slow the other one should have recovery pace, at least one should be able to expertly deal with a big man in the air, one should be left footed and one right etc.. yet those 2 don’t compliment each other at all, they’re thrown together and I don’t understand why.

I did the rough numbers on Monday morning and concluded, in the 14 league games they’ve started together (either as part of a 2 or a 3) we’ve shipped 30 goals and won 1 match. So on that basis alone, you have to question, why are they being picked when quite clearly, the proof is in the pudding – they’re a dreadful combination.

My choice for centre backs against Brighton are Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori.

I know Funes Mori has his doubters and I’ve seen plenty of ‘people have forgotten how bad Funes Mori is’ shouts, but he can’t do worse than the 2 clowns we saw last week.

I’d back both Funes Mori and Jagielka to compete physically with Glenn Murray and with a left footer back in there, we might see something like balance.

Talking of left footers, Leighton Baines is fit and must return at left back. Fair play to Cuco Martina for trying his best out of position, but frankly, so would anyone athletic and under 35 hand picked out of the stands. Enough of the nonsense now, Everton’s first choice left back is back fit so he has to play.

Seamus Coleman got 90 minutes under his belt last week so will continue at right back. I felt he was quite restrained at Burnley, so hopefully he’s allowed to get forward at home where he can actually help us as an attacking force like he did against Leicester last month.

Moving into midfield, I’d continue with the Davies and Gana partnership, however I’d recall Rooney to the starting 11 for this one.

Again, I know people have their issues with Rooney starting in midfield as he can be careless in possession, but personally, I think back to West Ham, Huddersfield, Leicester and Crystal Palace – 4 high pressure home games and every time that midfield trio worked nicely for us.

I think Gyfli Sigurdsson should come in for Dominic Calvert-Lewin on the left.

I can’t really figure out what the thinking was in starting and leaving Calvert-Lewin on the left against Burnley. I presume Allardyce wanted us to play diagonals to him or for us to use his height coming in at the back post, but I can’t think of a single time we did that.

All that happened was Calvert-Lewin completely exposed Cuco Martina and like every team would, Burnley and Aaron Lennon had a field day down there. For me it was blatantly obvious Calvert-Lewin should’ve been the first to come off, but the tactical genius that is Allardyce thought otherwise.

Sigurdsson was our best and liveliest player on the day, yet when we needed a goal, he was dragged off – presumably as a punishment for the chance Gylfi missed with his left foot – a chance he made for himself.

On the opposite flank, Theo Walcott will almost certainly continue.

I’ve been glowing with praise when speaking about Walcott since he arrived in January and he certainly gives us a very good option on the counter attack, but I have to say, I thought he was especially wasteful at Burnley.

3 key chances fell Theo’s way, but he failed to even force a save of note from Nick Pope in the Burnley goal. He won’t need reminding, but when we struggle like we do this season, we simply can’t afford poor finishing.

Finally, up front it’s got to be Cenk Tosun. It was a fantastic header from him last weekend to open his Everton account, so now we’ve got to hope he goes on a goalscoring run and spearhead’s the attack like we hoped he would.

I’m sure Cenk will be keen to show the Goodison faithful what he’s all about, so hopefully the likes of Sigurdsson, Rooney, Coleman, Baines and Walcott can get some quality service to him.

So here’s my predicted side…

If things aren’t going our way, I’d like to see Allardyce revert to 4-4-2 quite quickly by throwing Oumar Niasse or Dominic Calvert-Lewin on to partner Cenk.

Aside from those 2, the likes of Bolasie, Vlasic, Schneiderlin, Martina and Holgate should all be available form the bench and who knows, Davy Klaassen, fresh from an under 23 appearance last week could find his way into a match day squad for the first time in 3 months.

Overall, this is a game that we should really be winning, but one which we’ve put ourselves under unnecessary pressure for. Losing simply isn’t an option here, not with Stoke away, Man City and Liverpool as our next 3 games. We’d be right in a dogfight.

Referee for this one is Roger East, who was last vaguely seen by Evertonians when we slept our way through a 0-0 at West Brom on Boxing Day.

Not the most controversial of refs, East has given just 1 penalty and 1 red card so far this season, with an average of under 4 yellows shown per game.

Anyway, that’s another preview in the can. Now, let’s just get 3 points please!!

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As always, thanks for taking the time to have a read.

I post on TEF as bluerinse or you can find my other Everton rabmlings mixed with general life bits on my twitter @gigHaWatt so feel free to follow me.

COYB!!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Never thought that this day would come, that I hope Everton LOSE, so that it will hasten the FATMAN’s exit from our club

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