Wolves v Everton: Inside track on the Toffees
Wolves host Everton this weekend, hoping to turn around their form after two successive defeats in the top flight.
We spoke with Rodger Armstrong, host of the Blue Half podcast, and Lyndon Lloyd, from Toffee Web, to get an expert take on the Toffees.
See what he had to say here...
How has the restart treated Everton, have they come back in good form?
RA: Everton have been consistently inconsistent.
We had a decent draw v Liverpool and a good win v Leicester, but then were very poor away to Spurs and outplayed by Southampton at home most recently.
LL: Initially it appeared as though they had come back in good form, with a decent result from the Merseyside derby, even it was a bit of a tepid goalless draw, and wins over Norwich and Leicester but the last two games have been pretty dreadful.
We lost at Spurs and were lucky to draw with Southampton on Thursday with both performances being pretty dire.
Carlo Ancelotti has blamed it on fatigue which is partially to blame but the severe shortcomings of our midfield are being exposed at the moment.
It also feels to me like the lack of fans, particularly at Goodison Park, means the players are lacking some drive and purpose.
Carlo Ancelotti has obviously had a fair bit of time at the club now, has he got them playing a consistent style now?
RA: Carlo loves 4-4-2 but has not been afraid to change it mid game, most notably at home to Leicester when he went to a back three and we held on for the win.
Carlo has not brought in any of his own players, so still has the pot pourri of other managers' buys.
LL: Ancelotti has instituted the 4-4-2 formation that was put in place by Duncan Ferguson during his spell as interim boss in December and it’s one that gets the best out of Richarlison and, in particular, Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
His adherence to it has been a bit rigid, though, and it’s come at the expense of the form of players like Alex Iwobi and Bernard, both of whom are better in a central, No. 10 role which doesn’t currently exist under Ancelotti.
They’re struggling to find their feet at the club at the moment, which is a shame because they’re both creative types that we could really use.
How do you expect Everton to shape up against Wolves?
RA: I think we'll start with 4-4-2; our problem is the middle of midfield, where we lack legs and bite and creativity.
LL: Given that weakness in midfield, Ancelotti went to a 5-3-2 system in the second half against Southampton that stopped them playing through us and seeing how well Wolves play under Nuno Espirito Santo, I expect he will go for something similar aimed at containment.
We were pretty toothless up front against Saints, however.
Ancelotti appears to have done well at shoring things up in defence but his big challenge is to get us actually playing football through the lines rather than always going direct.
Unfortunately, it looks as though that is going to require better players so Evertonian thoughts have already turned to the transfer window!
Are there any injury worries at Goodison Park at the moment?
RA: Long term absentees are Fabian Delph and Jean-Philippe Gbamin; Theo Walcott has been out since the return, Andre Gomes went off v Southampton, and Mason Holgate (arguably our player of the season) was injured early on v Spurs.
LL: Jean-Philippe Gbamin, a potential solution in central midfield, has been injured since August, first with a thigh tendon problem and now a ruptured Achilles, both of which required surgery so he is out until later this year.
Fabian Delph has also struggled with niggling soft-tissue problems and probably won’t be fit to travel to Molineux.
André Gomes took a knock on Thursday and is a doubt and Mason Holgate, easily one of our best players this season, will also undergo a late fitness test.
Who are the danger men for Wolves to keep an eye on?
RA: Richarlison is undoubtedly the main goal threat; he has pace and is a good finisher; he lacks service though.
LL: Richarlison is far and away our biggest threat. Spurs kicked him all over the park last Sunday and effectively muscled him out of that game but he took his one chance against Southampton brilliantly.
Lucas Digne provided the assist for that one and he and teenager Anthony Gordon are building a really promising understanding down the left flank.
Calvert-Lewin is due a goal but has been disappointing since the post-lockdown restart and while I’d love to say there are more players Wolves should be concerned with, Everton are struggling for invention at the moment, sadly.
What's your predicted XI?
RA: Pickford; Coleman, Mina, Keane, Digne; Sidibe, Sigurdsson, Davies, Gordon; Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison.
LL: Pickford, Sidibé, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne, Davies, Sigurdsson, Gordon, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin
What have you made of Wolves from afar? Do you think they have what it takes to be serious Champions League competitors?
RA: I'm impressed by Wolves.
You have a clear style of play, excellent team spirit and in Adama Traore you have a very exciting talent. I think Top four will be a stretch now with Manchester United and Chelsea in great form.
Fifth may be good enough if City are banned, in which case, Leicester need to drop points too.
LL: As Evertonians, we have watched what has been going on at Wolves with interest because it seems as though they have really got things right in terms of recruiting the right kinds of players for an identified style and then coaching them to play out that strategy.
It’s the kind of joined-up thinking that Everton have lacked when it comes to signings, although it’s an obvious by-product of all the changes of managers and directors of football at the club in recent years. (It’s also been annoying watching Joao Moutinho strutting his stuff in gold and black because he came pretty close to signing for us a few years back!)
Wolves are an attractive team to watch and hard to play against and though it looks as though Champions League qualification might just elude them this season, if they continue in this vein they will be in the hunt next season for sure.
Your match prediction?
RA: Wolves must be favourites, but I'm hopeful we can keep things tight at the back and frustrate your attackers.
In which case we might nick a 1-1.
LL: Wolves 2-1 Everton. I just think Nuno’s men will have too much for our lot on the day.