As we return to a more separated game schedule, the Blues continue at home to face a Norwich side that hasn’t won in 5 Premier League games. Last time out in the league, both sides saw a 1-1 draw against Stoke and Crystal Palace respectively.
The draw at Stoke was a tough one to take. Usually when a last minute penalty saves a point, it feels like a point gained and has a feeling of a win. This time however, it feels like points dropped as Everton dominated the game, hit the bar twice and Stoke scored with one of their very few attempts. Since then the FA Cup has begun, and the Blues recorded the most comfortable 4-0 win over QPR, and confidence is back up.
Following the Jagielka and Distin injuries, Stones and Alcaraz have shown that they are just as dependable and have shown a lot in their performances, especially on the ball. They will remain in defence for this one. Baines was pulled from the squad in the win over QPR with a back injury but has returned to training this week, however Oviedo came in and again provided 2 assists and should have had 3. The Costa Rican could have given another case to his inclusion while Baines gets back to fitness. No other injuries have been picked up, and more long term absentees Gerard Deulofeu, Arouna Kone and Darron Gibson remain sidelined.
Without a win in 5, but without a loss in 3 league away games. The Canaries are languishing near the bottom of the table in 15th place, only 6 points from 20th. This is down to conceding the joint second most in the league alongside Sunderland and scoring the third least. They have only beaten one top ten side all season, inflicting a 1-0 defeat on Southampton.
Chris Hughton’s squad is currently going through a tough run with injuries. 9 senior players missed their recent 1-1 draw in the FA Cup. Two are expected to return for the trip to Goodison. Bassong, the player that scored in this fixture last season, and Bradley Johnson should be returning from knocks. Hoolahan and Howson could return but are thought to be missing alongside longer absentees Tettey, Bennett and Pilkington. Ricky Van Wolfswinkel has been selected on the substitutes bench recently although started in the FA Cup game, but you’d expect Hughton to stick as close as possible to the side unbeaten in 3 away from home.
Time to go direct – or not?
Over the course of the season so far, Norwich have won the least aerial duels of anyone away from home. This could then suggest that we could go more direct and use Lukaku a lot earlier. However, with Michael Turner most likely out, Ryan Bennett is his likely replacement and he is Norwich’s best header of the ball, winning 3 per game which is higher than any other member of their squad. So this could play into our more natural hands to play along the floor and attack Bennett on the ground. While Bennett makes the most successful tackles in the squad (4 per game), he is also the most dribbled past (2 per game) and this is very favourable for Barkley (2.8 successful dribbles per game), Mirallas (1.5), Lukaku (1.3) and Coleman(2) who could all be running at the centre-back at some stage in this fixture.
Norwich’s midfield really isn’t bad at all. They mostly attack down the right (42%), with Robert Snodgrass the main man in an attacking sense. The Scotsman offers 2.8 key passes per game, which is fourth best in the league, only behind Silva, Suarez and Ozil. The closest an Everton squad member can get is in Mirallas, at 1.8. Snodgrass is also the fourth most fouled player per game, only behind Januzaj, Barkley and Hazard. Finally, the right winger is the most dispossessed in the league, so Everton will need to be aware of this and look to get in behind quickly when he does lose it.
To back Snodgrass up, left-winger Redmond, a previous Everton target, has a strong dribbling rate standing at 1.8 successful dribbles per game. The tricky winger likes to back up his attacks with shots, having 2.6 per game which is the highest of their squad and is in the top 20 in the league.
Last but not least are the two central midfielders. Leroy Fer, the man that nearly signed for Everton this time last year, makes a strong 3.2 tackles per game which is high among the regular starters in the league. This leads to Fer making 1.9 fouls per game however, which is 6th highest in the league. Bradley Johnson also makes 1.7 fouls and is also one of the highest players to be dribbled past (1.5 pg), so it’s fair to say that these two can be ‘got at’.
Norwich have a defiant record against Everton since their return to the Premier League, drawing 4 games and losing 1. It seems they always enjoy their trip to Goodison, the opposite of Anfield where they always capitulate. It is vital that Everton improve that record, starting with Saturday where a win is needed as ever to stay in touch with the Champions League places. COYB.