Everton v Bournemouth. The Everton Forum preview
After a morale boosting league cup triumph over Sunderland, Everton come into Saturday’s match against Bournemouth (a 3pm kick off) knowing that they need to win to continue building some much-needed momentum.
Although our visitors on Saturday don’t rank as highly as our four previous Premier League opponents, AFC Bournemouth will be no pushover and I’d even go so far as to file them under ‘dangerous’.
Yet, for Everton and especially those senior players who didn’t feature in the 3-0 win on Wednesday, this will be a match that’s about getting the victory first and foremost as they look to springboard their season into life.
Like our blues, Bournemouth arrive at Goodison on Saturday hoping that the recent taste of victory over a lesser side will kick-start their season after a poor start.
Indeed, prior to Bournemouth’s back-to-back home victories over Brighton and Hove Albion (one in the League Cup) they’d managed 0 points from 4 games – conceding 8 and scoring just once.
Personally, I think it’s still too early to be paying too much attention to home and away league form with such a small sample size to analyze, but for those who are interested, Bournemouth are yet to score away from home and have 0 points on the road (yes, here comes Dr. Everton etc etc).
So what’s gone wrong with Bournemouth this season?
To be honest, I’m not sure much has gone wrong apart from the odd collective poor performance (the home defeat against Watford for instance) mixed in with some unfortunate fixtures (City, Arsenal and even West Brom away) plus a bit of bad luck for good measure (eg. to concede so late against City having played well).
The thing is with Bournemouth, whilst they do play some lovely free-flowing and admirable football, you always feel like you have a chance as their opponent. So whilst sometimes they’ll pick up some great results with it, they’ll also go on these poor runs of form.
Bournemouth manager and boyhood Evertonian, Eddie Howe instills a confidence in his team to have a go, home or away, against any opposition and naturally, that does leave them exposed from time-to-time, particularly when the opposition have the level of attacking quality of a side like City or Arsenal.
Howe tries to mix up his playing system depending on who his team are playing, whilst still maintaining his front-foot ethos. For instance, for the win over Brighton last Friday, the Cherries’ boss went with a traditional 4-4-2 formation whereas against Manchester City and Arsenal a back 3 with wing backs was deployed to try and stiffen the defence.
Last season at Goodison, in the unforgettable 6-3 thriller, Howe initially went with a 4-5-1 formation to try and crowd the midfield from the outset, before later changing to a more attacking system to try and get Bournemouth back in the game (which we shouldn’t forget worked well for them for a while).
This time around, with Everton in a poor run of form, I’d expect Howe to continue with the 4-4-2 that picked up Bournemouth’s first league win.
Should he do so, the strike partnership of Josh King and Jermain Defoe would likely be unleashed. Although they’re yet to hit the ground running together (despite Defoe’s smart finish last week) they’re a duo that ought to compliment each other quite well.
King, Bournemouth’s top scorer from last season, offers plenty of pace and running whereas the veteran Defoe remains the poacher supreme, brilliant at finding space in the area to get shots away and get himself on the end of things.
Both have had good days against Everton in the past so should be buoyed by that, especially when they look at the present state of Everton’s creaking and unsettled rearguard.
Behind the strikers, the scrapping midfield duo of Surman and Arter seem nailed on to play having started every match this season. The flanks have seen the most rotation for Bournemouth this season but former Liverpool man, Jordan Ibe must be in line for a chance having set up Bournemouth’s two goals from the bench in their league win over Brighton.
It’s at the back where Bournemouth have visibly strengthened most over the summer. Artur Boruc, who personally I thought was way below Premier League standard, has been replaced by Asmir Begovic and Nathan Ake, the former Chelsea loanee was signed permanently for considerable money.
Should Bournemouth go with a back 4, Ake will be partnered by Francis or Cook, who’ll have Charlie Daniels and Adam Smith as their full backs.
If Eddie Howe would prefer to go with a back 3 (perhaps having seen our consistent struggles against this system numerous times already this season) Bournemouth could easily bring in a third centre half to make this happen, allowing their adventurous wing backs to get forward as much as possible.
Regardless of the system Howe employs, his players will be instructed to have a real go at what he’ll see as a wounded animal of an Everton team. I wouldn’t expect them to show any fear whatsoever and they’ll be confident they can pick up the three points.
As always with Bournemouth, they’ll look to dominate the middle of the park through their feisty work-rate and ability to scrap for the ball. The two in there, Arter and Surman, whilst not the most glamorous names in the league, really set the tone for the whole side.
Although it was sweet to taste victory again on Wednesday, it’s most certainly this match and our next league match against Burnley that seem to matter most in the context of our season and Ronald Koeman’s reign as Everton manager.
Of course, putting the fact Everton won a game to one side for a moment, it was just nice just to see Everton score some goals. Recently we’ve been shot-shy to say the least and when we have got into positions to score, such as against Manchester United, we’ve massively fluffed our lines.
So with that in mind, surely Wednesday’s two goalscorers will find their way into Saturday’s match day squad and in the case of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the starting line up.
Plenty have rightly been banging the drum for the young Yorkshireman to be given the chance to lead the line and now, with that rare commodity of confidence in his grasp, he must surely be best option for us until January at least.
If Calvert-Lewin isn’t given the start and Wayne Rooney is again asked to spearhead our attack, I dread to think of the Saturday 2pm fume on twitter directed towards Koeman.
Aside from ‘DCL’, the other two fringe players who really impressed on Wednesday were Tom Davies and Nikola Vlašić.
Whilst personally I’d be pleasantly surprised to see the young Croat in Saturday’s starting 11 (purely due to the calibre of players he’s competing with for a spot), I’d like to see Tom Davies given a run in the team now.
I thought the shaggy-haired scouser was the wrong substitution on Sunday at Old Trafford (where he was up there with our best players on the day) and his second good performance in the space of a few days tells me he’s ready to put a poor individual start to the season behind him.
I know plenty have had their doubts about Gana Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin as a midfield duo, but I think the addition of Davies really rejuvenates them both.
When he’s on his game, the youngster sets the tone with his energy and exuberance which allows him to dovetail nicely with the energetic Gueye, particularly when it comes to winning the ball back. I mentioned above that Bournemouth’s midfield duo set the standard for them, so playing this trio ought to see the blue boys edge the battle on Saturday.
In addition to Rooney and DCL, I think Ronald Koeman will go back to his £45m man, Gylfi Sigurdsson for this match. Whilst the Icelander has undoubtedly found things tricky since his Hajduk Split wonderstrike, I maintain a level of confidence that the player will come good and needs games to find his feet.
Hopefully though, if Gylfi struggles again, some young and hungry blood (in the form of Lookman or Vlašić) will be on the bench ready to replace him after an hour, giving us some semblance of width to our play.
Moving backwards and looking at the Everton defence, I’d hope that Michael Keane and Ashley Williams both take some confidence from the clean sheet against Sunderland after a tricky month or so. Although I’m not the biggest fan of Ashley Williams, I don’t agree with constant changes among centre backs so I’d keep Wednesday’s pairing together for this match and those to follow.
Mason Holgate, asked to play at left back on Wednesday, didn’t stand out as looking miles out of place so maybe he’s somebody to consider for left back emergencies moving forward, however, a nicely rested Leighton Baines will rightfully come straight back in.
The right back selection remains a worry for me, Jonjoe Kenny received mixed reviews on Wednesday and the other two options, Holgate and Martina have both been regularly criticised by Evertonians.
Holgate, the better defender of the two – without a shadow of doubt, doesn’t offer enough going forwards (which you need to do with no wingers in front of you) and Martina just doesn’t seem up to the basics of defending (which you need to be to play in a back 4).
If it were up to me, I’d give Kenny more opportunities for the next two games at least. Even though not everybody was convinced against Sunderland, it’s possible he was nervous on a big night for him and it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was part of an Everton defence that kept a clean sheet.
So my Everton 11 for this match would be –
The problem is, I feel like Koeman trusts his man Martina to play so will select him, which in a back 4, as we saw against Spurs, can have disastrous consequences.
Other options that I haven’t discussed include Davy Klaassen (not great against Sunderland), Sandro Ramirez (up and down against Sunderland), Mo Besic (woeful against Sunderland), Phil Jagielka, Kevin Mirallas and Aaron Lennon.
I’d expect the majority of those to make the bench for the Bournemouth game but to be honest, none of them jump out as immediately improving the 11 I’d like to see.
Going back to last season when we put 6 past Bournemouth, it’s worth pointing out that all 6 of those goals were scored by players (Lukaku x4, Barkley, McCarthy) who won’t be on the pitch on Saturday.
Overall, this is one of those games that I expect Everton to win without excuses.
I know Bournemouth will rock up thinking they can win and they’ll definitely give it a good go, but if Everton want to threaten the top 7 (let alone higher) they must win this game.
I feel like the first goal in this match will be huge on Saturday afternoon. If Bournemouth get it, the smidge of feel good-factor from Wednesday will evaporate immediately and it won’t take long for the atmosphere to turn toxic towards the boys in blue.
If Everton get the first goal, hopefully they can start to play like the team we hope they can be (even if Bournemouth did win from behind last week).
The referee for this one is the experienced Martin Atkinson. Just the 2 Premier League games for Atkinson so far this season, with 1 red card showed already, for a flailing arm (Hal Robson-Kanu of WBA at Burnley).
That’ll do for this preview, hopefully the boys can take their next step to getting back on track. God forbid my mood if they don’t.