Everton v Leicester City. The Everton Forum Preview with added Seamus Coleman
How nice was it to have a weekend without this lot to bring you down? I don’t know about you but I was perfectly relaxed, chilling around the house, watching football on the TV and not for 1 moment did I think ‘I really wish Everton had a game today’.
Obviously, that’s quite sad, I love watching the blues, but that’s just where I am with this season, these players, this manager… it’s grim, I can’t sugarcoat it. The season has been a nightmare.
And our last match, West Brom at home, a match I thought we’d win quite comfortably just showed me, we’re right in the scrap – make no mistake about it. We should’ve lost quite comfortably that day and afterwards the manager actually said something I agreed with – the only positive was the point we picked up.
11 days later, on Wednesday night at 7.45pm we return to action at Goodison Park and this time our guests are Leicester City.
The first FA Cup match I watched over the weekend was Leicester’s trip to Peterborough United and even though it was against lower league opposition, I was impressed by what I saw from Leicester.
Despite Claude Puel opting to field a much-changed starting 11, the foxes strolled to a resounding 1-5 victory, with new-signing Fousseni Diabate playing a starring role with 2 goals on his debut.
Predictably many in the media were critical of Puel ‘not taking the cup seriously’ (yawn) when the teamsheet came out, but Leicester’s fringe players did exactly what the Frenchman would’ve demanded and surely, as they approach this match, some of them will be in Puel’s mind.
In Leicester’s last Premier League game, the East-Midlanders saw off Watford by a score of 2-0, in what proved to be one-time Everton managerial target Marco Silva’s last match in charge of the hornets.
I won’t pretend like I’ve watched that game back in full, but I understand it was quite an even game, which Watford could’ve got a result from if they were more clinical, however, a penalty scored and won by Jamie Vardy and an injury time second from Riyad Mahrez secured the points for the home side.
That result took Leicester to 8 points from their last 6 matches, which is actually a worse run of form than I thought, however, it’s nowhere near as bad as our pathetic haul of 3 points over the same 6 match period.
What concerns me from an Everton point-of-view is Leicester’s pace and how quickly they’re able to go from front to back. I know it’s no secret to anybody, after they pulled off the shock of the century by winning the Premier League playing the way they do, but still it frightens me to think of our defenders trying to cope on Wednesday.
Without wanting to sound critical of them, there’s quite a nice predictability about Leicester…
We all know Jamie Vardy will be a pest. We know he’ll look to run at defenders at pace, he’ll look to run in behind at pace and he won’t give defenders a moments rest.
Should he play, amidst his apparent transfer request, we all know that Riyad Mahrez is a class act and he’ll look to use his left foot whenever he can. We know he’s got the ability to win a match on his own and whether he goes down 1 flank or the other, he can beat the full back and provide quality end product.
Yet, there is a lot more to Leicester than their 2 star men and like I say, what I like about it is it’s simplicity; they’ll be solid at the back, they’ll work hard for each other and they’ll keep things nice and simple in possession.
Certain Leicester players like Marc Alrbrighton, Matty James and Shinji Okazaki will simply work their socks off for the team. Of course, that’s not to say any of them are bad footballers and I’d personally love Okazaki at Everton, but I get the impression they’re picked because they’re standard bearers for Leicester, and whilst they might not all have the quality of other options they have in their squad, when they don’t play, Leicester usually miss them.
In terms of the system I’d expect to see from Leicester on Wednesday night, I think we’ll see Puel select his usual 442 come 4231.
At the back, I suspect Kaspar Schmeichel’s goal will be protected by a centre back duo of Dragovic and Maguire with Chilwell and Simpson on the defensive flanks.
Recently the Austrian, Aleksandar Dragovic has been operating at right back, but with foxes captain Wes Morgan ruled out of this one and Danny Simpson available again, I think the long-term right back will slot back in, allowing Dragovic to come inside to his natural position.
Moving into midfield, Matty James and Wilfied N’Didi have been Puel’s preferred partnership in recent weeks so I suspect they’ll remain in force, leaving the more glamorous Iberian names of Andre Silva and Vicente Iborra in reserve.
In the attacking positions, Marc Albrighton is typically selected on 1 flank with Riyad Mahrez on the opposite whilst Jamie Vardy plays through the middle, with Okazaki as his usual foil.
With the transfer speculation surrounding the talented Algerian, Mahrez, it’s possible that Puel could reward their new signing Diabate with a Premier League opportunity here, however if Mahrez isn’t available, I’d expect the pacey Demarai Gray.
Away from those 2 options, Iheanacho and Slimani are a couple of other options available to Puel who could cause a suspect Everton defence problems.
Overall, I’d say Leicester are basically what we were last season – the best of the rest, by quite a distance. I don’t think they’re unbeatable by any means, but with the way we’ve been playing the past month or so and their style of play, I think we’re almost a perfect opposition for them.
Still, at least if Mahrez does miss it, that’s something.
I’m probably clutching at straws here, but I’d like to think the extended break between games would’ve done this Everton squad some good.
West Brom at home, despite being played in mid-January was our 37th match of the 2017/18 campaign and in among all those matches, the fatigue, the travel, the injuries, the changes of manager and coaches, the changes of playing personnel – we haven’t really had a period of free time at home to really take a step back, take stock and discuss how we can end this slump.
You’d think, we have the perfect man to do that. I’m not going to pretend like I’m a big fan of Sam Allardyce, but typically this manager does not get teams relegated. He should have been telling the squad to forget the past, forget the matches we’ve lost and just focus on each match one-by-one beginning at home, under the lights on Wednesday.
Allardyce should’ve been drilling the defence on how to stop some of the elementary mistakes that have crept in recently, and in recent Leicester employees Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh, you’d think the brains trust there might just be able to come up with a plan to deal with Leicester (Not holding your breath? Me neither).
Perhaps the boost we all need, after a dismal display and a horrific double leg break for James McCarthy (who everybody at The Everton Forum wishes well in recovery) against West Brom, will come in the form of a return to fitness from a similar injury. A return for the man I believe deserves to be captain of this football club – Seamus Coleman.
There’s little doubt that Coleman has been missed massively. Both Mason Holgate and Jonjoe Kenny have shown little glimpses trying to fill his shoes, but let’s be frank, neither are anywhere near his level.
Coleman was a significant attacking threat down our right hand side. He’d often provide our width and whilst sometimes his crossing might not have been the best, he scored more than his fair share of goals – which from right back shouldn’t be scoffed at – ask Tony Hibbert.
Seamus plays with his heart on his sleeve, he sets the standard, he doesn’t shy away from challenges and I feel his character around the dressing room has been missed too. To me, it’s no coincidence that our form went to pot after Coleman’s injury last season, so the hope has to be he hits the ground running, starting Wednesday.
And if it were up to me, even if just for 1 match as a gesture, I’d give Coleman the captain’s armband the next time he starts a game. Nobody in the squad would begrudge him the honour, the fans would be delighted to see him lead the team out and he wouldn’t anyone down.
Anyway, focusing back on the match, I have a feeling we will see quite a changed side on Wednesday. For too long we’ve seen the same old players going through the motions, so I think the manager might really look to freshen things up with 5 or 6 changes.
If I were to have a guess, I’d have a total stab in the dark that Jordan Pickford would have a back 4 of Coleman, Holgate, Jagielka and Garbutt for this.
I’m sure many will feel it’s too early to bring Coleman back into the starting 11 (after just 1 under 23 appearance) and truth be told, I think he needs longer with the under 23s, however, I can see the manager throwing him back in out of desperation.
In midfield, I reckon we’ll see Gana recalled to the team in place of the injured McCarthy, Davies in place of the struggling Schneiderlin and Wayne Rooney back into the side at the expense of Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Then an attacking front 3 of Lookman, in ahead of Vlasic and the two January new boys, Theo Walcott and Cenk Tuson.
Meaning the team could look like this –
This would leave the likes of Bolasie, Sigurdsson, Schneiderlin, Niasse, Calvert-Lewin and Vlasic in reserve plus defensive options in Williams, Kenny and Keane (again I’m not even going to mention Klaassen and Sandro, what’s the point!?).
One other option for Wednesday night would be to go with 2 strikers from the start as Leicester are likely to play with just the 2 in central midfield.
Personally, I’m not against the idea as we’ve been awful at keeping the ball and I think Niasse (who can score but do little else) alongside a partner capable of holding it up could work, however I don’t see Sam Allardyce doing it when he wouldn’t even do it at 0-1 against West Brom (who also played 2 in midfield).
If I was looking to one area I’d fancy us to trouble Leicester, it would be on the flanks. If we can get the likes of Walcott, Lookman or Bolasie running at the Leicester full backs, I think we can get some joy and without their captain at the heart of the defence, maybe there will be some uncertainty in their penalty area if we keep supplying the service.
However we play it, we will need to match Leicester’s appetite for the fight, be careful of their speed in behind and double cover the full back that is trying to deal with Mahrez.
The match really reminds me of West Ham at home earlier in the season. We were in a dreadful trot having just been hammered at Southampton, we came into a home night game needing to win and that night we made it happen. Let’s hope we pull another one out of the bag on Wednesday.
The referee for this one is Chris Kavanagh, a man who has taken charge of us just once, the 2-0 victory against Huddersfield. He’s new to the Premier League so maybe the Goodison crowd on a night game could be ‘persuasive’.
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