Roberto Martinez could have both welcome and unwanted selection headaches for the visit of the Hammers
With the last international break of the year out of the way, Everton return to Premier League action once more this weekend as West Ham, one of the surprise packages of the first quarter of the season, come to Goodison Park.
The Blues did not come through the last fortnight unscathed, though. In addition to seeing Gareth Barry and James McCarthy pick up injuries in the draw at Sunderland, Everton received Leighton Baines and Darron Gibson back early from their respective countries' training camps with minor complaints that threaten both players' involvement against the Hammers.
Baines suffered a grade one hamstring strain in training for England, while Gibson complained of pain behind his knee after playing an hour of the Republic of Ireland's narrow Euro2016 defeat against Scotland. McCarthy, meanwhile, didn't train at all with his country and although he has had a week longer to recover from a similar problem to Baines' injury, he is a doubt for Saturday, if only because it's a recurrence of the hamstring issue that sidelined him at the end of September and early October.
With Barry surely the least likely of the four to be available, it leaves Roberto Martinez facing the uncomfortable prospect of being without both of his defensive midfield anchors in what promises to be a difficult match-up with Sam Allardyce's much-improved side. Muhamed Besic would be an automatic replacement for one of them but with Gibson doubtful, the manager will be short-handed for natural defensively-minded midfielders.
Even Baines, whom Martinez earmarked as a potential central midfielder in the mould of Philip Lamm, could miss out, creating a void at left back. With Bryan Oviedo ruled out again, Luke Garbutt is the most likely candidate to deputise there, although, curiously, there has been talk in the past week of Tony Hibbert filling in as an emergency replacement.
In the forward areas, Steven Pienaar will undergo a late fitness test on a knee complaint while there is a chance that Kevin Mirallas could make his much-anticipated return from a hamstring tear of his own. He resumed full training last week but it remains to be seen if he would be risked from the start. Thankfully, Martinez has options in the attacking third, with Samuel Eto'o, Steven Naismith, Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, Aiden McGeady and Christian Atsu all available.
Hammers boss Allardyce survived calls for his resignation last season as his team's form slumped but, on the back of renewed support from chairman David Gold and some astute business in the transfer market, he has overseen a renaissance in his side's fortunes. They start the day in fourth place, four points better off than the Toffees, thanks to home wins over the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City and a five-match unbeaten run since they lost at Old Trafford at the tail end of September.
The key to their success has been the rebirth as a creative force of Stewart Downing and the twin strike threat posed by Enner Valencia and top scorer, Diafra Sakho. Their robust presence up front will make stopping the cross an absolute must for the Blues this weekend. Crosses from deep areas were an Achilles heel for Everton early in the season so keeping Downing quiet and ensuring that Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin shackle the front two will be vital.
At the other end, Martinez will be hoping for a repeat from Romelu Lukaku of the performance he put in in the last home game. The Belgian was excellent against Lille but appeared to lapse into more erratic form at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago and his manager will no doubt be counting on him being fresh seeing as he was unused Belgium in their qualifier against Wales.
The question of whom to play with him is, of course, another dimension for Martinez to consider. Barkley is gaining match sharpness but Eto'o has been superb when played in the number 10 role and Naismith remains top scorer so there are no automatic choices.
Kick off: 3pm
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Full coverage: ToffeeWeb Match Reports
Reader Comments (46)
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1 Posted 21/11/2014 at 17:43:23
Today is 21st November. 20 years ago today we played live on Monday Night Football. We had beaten West Ham at Goodison a couple of weeks earlier, but we were still bottom of the league and Joe Royle had just taken over as manager.
That night, two legends were born.
The first time we saw Ebbrell, Horne and Parkinson play together Â– the Dogs of War. The first time we saw Duncan Ferguson score in the Blue of Everton.
Between them, they battered that lot from the other side of the park and what a wonderful 40th birthday present for me.
Thanks all of the team and staff for the memory of that night Â– and my kids for the video so I never forget it.
2 Posted 21/11/2014 at 18:36:55
Maybe constantly resting players is doing more harm than good.
3 Posted 21/11/2014 at 18:44:55
I remember speaking to a friend who knew Dave Billows. He said after every match v Bolton, the players would come off with cut lips, gums, ripped shirts, broken shin pads. Hopefully we can stand up to Fat Sam, Nolan and their shithouse antics. COYB!!
4 Posted 21/11/2014 at 18:49:53
5 Posted 21/11/2014 at 19:02:39
Coleman Jagielka Distin Garbutt
McGeady Naismith Pienaar
6 Posted 21/11/2014 at 19:00:42
Remember it well, Ablett (RIP Gary) scored the winner against West Ham a header from a corner then Walker was gone, weÂre bottom of the league going into the international break, JoeÂs just been appointed, didnÂt know much about him, I was in fear of where we were heading, in school the Reds were telling me for a fortnight that we were going to take a pasting etc. It was on the cards.
That night itself, my first ever watching a live match on Sky in my uncles (cousin and uncle were reds), Andy Gray and Ian Darke commentating, a battle in the first half, giving nothing away. Then the 2nd half, an endearing image of that scrag McManaman being upended from the front and side by Horne and Parkinson,
Then Ruddock going through the back of Duncan Ferguson in a rough cynical foul. The angry monster within Duncan awoke, he became unplayable after that. Around the 56th minute, Amokachi hits one that deflects narrowly wide... Andy Hinchcliffe sets himself, the crowd are singing "Evvvvverton, Evvvvvvvverton" and Ian Darke utters the immortal unforgettable commentary of "HinchcliffeÂs corner... and a goal by Ferguson, Duncan Ferguson puts Everton in front, itÂs his first, Joe Royle, it doesnÂt show, but he must be full of emotion about that, Goodison goes wild." We know the rest. My only disappointment was that Limpar didnÂt bury the 1-on-1 to make it 3-0 at the end.
A week later, on a Monday night, we buried Leeds 3-0, just as sweet too, we had a real low-life bully in our class, a real waste of oxygen and human life, he supported Leeds. Those two Tuesday mornings were great memories.
Watching Roberto dealing with the Keane issue this week reminded me of the way Royle used to bat off snide remarks from Roy Evans about our style of play. Roberto was great this week, even Kenwright put a smile on my face.
And Phil, a year later on 18 November 1995, Andrei Kanchelskis gave me one of the best birthday presents ever, a double at the Kop End (the sight of the Evertonians dancing deliriously in The Kop End warms the heart), I can still see Ian Rush crying on Match Of The Day that night "We arenÂt direct enough, we need to be more direct like Everton were." Take that, you Redshite Spice Boys!
I would love 3 points tomorrow, especially as I canÂt stand Allardyce (aka Fat Cow Head, as my friend calls him).
7 Posted 21/11/2014 at 20:00:13
8 Posted 21/11/2014 at 19:44:45
Of course, Keano may be right after all and Coleman and McCarthy may rise from the grave as it were.
9 Posted 21/11/2014 at 20:12:39
10 Posted 21/11/2014 at 20:12:45
11 Posted 21/11/2014 at 20:28:37
Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Garbutt, McCarthy, Besic, Coleman, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku. A 4-2-3-1.
I wouldnÂt mind EtoÂo in RomeluÂs spot. Coleman moves up to the wing instead of AM.
12 Posted 21/11/2014 at 20:57:15
Bobby, settle on our best team and stick with it until forced to change. That team in my opinion is:
Coleman Jagielka Distin (Stones when fit) Baines
Besic (Barry when fit) McCarthy
Mirralas Barkley Pienaar (?)
To the lucky fans going tomorrow Â– get behind the lads!!
13 Posted 21/11/2014 at 20:53:13
This game, I suspect, will be quite a physical battle; without McCarthy or Barry in the side, I would go with Naismith for his hard work and battling qualities.
I would be really disappointed to see Hibbert start at left-back. This would really be demoralising for Garbutt. If young Luke canÂt get a game in the absence of Baines and Oviedo, then they really is no hope for the lad. Might as well be out on loan gaining first team experience; heÂs 21 now and at an age when he needs to be playing more competitive games.
14 Posted 21/11/2014 at 21:20:02
15 Posted 21/11/2014 at 21:23:57
16 Posted 21/11/2014 at 21:31:30
Going forward, he was impressive in both games, passing and moving at pace before crossing with power. If we play the lad, he should be fine with senior team-mates in attendance.
17 Posted 21/11/2014 at 22:03:53
18 Posted 21/11/2014 at 22:33:39
You can't get experience watching; you have to play... so, as spectators, we have to encourage young players and not scream at them if they make mistakes. There is not a player in the Premier League who has not made a mistake and the good ones learn by them.
We are not a club that can pay out for two or three top players every year so we have to rely on youth coming up through the ranks; having a manager that believes in youth, I hope he is willing to give them a chance when the opportunity comes along.
19 Posted 21/11/2014 at 22:56:11
I cannot see why RM cannot give a game to either Garbutt or Browning at home to West Ham. If he plays Hibbert, then I think all his talk about trusting the kids is just that Â— "All talk"!
20 Posted 21/11/2014 at 22:51:11
Everton are not yet one of those clubs although they do have some useful youngsters chomping at the bit to make a breakthrough. At the moment, it would seem that RM is reluctant to pursue that option at the expense of going with the old brigade as long as there is still something to aim for.
Too many injuries at once upsets whatever cohesion the team has and it seems like they are in that unfortunate position right now. They will need big games from the back four tomorrow as we know the Hammers will attempt the high ball a lot, much like Everton did when Big Dunc. was around. ThatÂs where good tackling and closing down will be required by the midfielders in general and if that doesnÂt happen then they will be asking for trouble.
Hopefully Osman wonÂt be called upon until itÂs safe.
21 Posted 22/11/2014 at 02:15:08
West Ham at home should always be 3pts for Everton or trouble is brewing.
22 Posted 22/11/2014 at 02:08:13
I agree with Phil that Hibbo will probably get the nod ahead of Garbutt, but I hope Martinez is bold and plays a proper left-back.
To be honest, I've got a bad feeling about tomorrows game. West Ham haven't looked this good since the days of Cottee & McAvennie. Normally this game is a formality but I can see them breaking their hoodoo on their current form and our list of injuries.
23 Posted 22/11/2014 at 01:03:31
Barkley needs to start. His reputation has suffered a bit of late but we know he usually plays well against the Hammers. Run right at them, Ross. They don't like it.
Injuries or no injuries, Martinez will have a plan and I hope the lads can carry it through. The whole squad is very talented and whoever is brought in will do a job. One or two key players need to improve their form but we remain a strong outfit.
24 Posted 22/11/2014 at 03:03:05
I can see the game as a serious test of the defence, balloonhead Allardyce (another twat) seems to have turned his team around and they are playing something more than his decades-old "hoof it long and run" game.
Ironically, Lahm is also out with an injury, so it's not just Everton that's feeling the pain of a decent player out.
25 Posted 22/11/2014 at 04:55:50
Much as I like him, playing Hibbo at left-back would be a backward step for all concerned... unless he has a blinder, then it will be an inspired masterstroke.
But in real terms, what sort of message is it sending to the younger fringe players?
To me, the different proportions and values of the pros and cons of playing Hibbert or Garbutt, will, in total, add up to the same overall percentage, swings and roundabouts, etc. The crowd and the players will be able to carry either of them through it.
So give the younger kid his chance, tell him at the last possible moment by all means, but get him on the field, to sink or swim.
Sin Miedo, Bobby, Sin Miedo.
26 Posted 22/11/2014 at 05:16:38
One player I dislike immensely is Nolan (for what he did to Victor Anichebe). I would put Besic on him Â– no explanation needed.
I would start this game with a mixture of "Dogs of War" and footballing heads and experience. Therefore, in my view, given the injury situation, Hibbert, Osman and Pienaar could all have a part to play in this one. Eto'o must start.
Of all the doubtful starters, McCarthy is the one I am hoping will play Â– this is a game tailor-made for his particular set of skills.
This is a six-pointer Â– if we win this one we won't look back.
27 Posted 22/11/2014 at 05:48:37
28 Posted 22/11/2014 at 08:57:42
29 Posted 22/11/2014 at 08:36:26
30 Posted 22/11/2014 at 08:35:28
This is one of those fixtures where the three points are almost expected and as such, it's all set up for disappointment !!
I think Barkley has to start today my team would be:
COLEMAN JAGIELKA DISTIN GARBUTT
Injuries permitting of course!! ;-)
I don't think they will score today. I think if we score early it will be 3-0 or 4-0. I hope Besic does a job on Nolan today.
31 Posted 22/11/2014 at 09:09:23
32 Posted 22/11/2014 at 09:16:36
Looking at our fixtures for the next six weeks or so I'd say don't risk anyone who isn't 100% fit. We have two games a week through til January and there's no way we're going to be able to keep the same XI in that time. If anyone plays today and aggravates an injury they're probably looking at missing a minimum of 4 or 5 games and and six week lay off will mean around 12 games.
Therefore I'd go with:
Hibbert - Jagielka - Distin - Garbutt/Oviedo
Besic - Barkley
McGeady - Eto'o - Pienaar
Maybe some of the 'doubtfuls' could be on the bench, as 20-30 mins would be unlikely to harm them, but I'd be looking at the bigger picture here.
34 Posted 22/11/2014 at 10:29:55
35 Posted 22/11/2014 at 09:45:08
Think RM will be watching training and seeing who is up for it ..
May get a surprise selection eg Atsu who may have clicked in training
Or Mirallas is firing on all cylinders already
36 Posted 22/11/2014 at 10:46:43
Barkley (has to be central)
37 Posted 22/11/2014 at 10:52:05
38 Posted 22/11/2014 at 10:49:54
39 Posted 22/11/2014 at 11:07:15
40 Posted 22/11/2014 at 11:10:35
Moving onto today, theyÂre in a rich scoring vein of form so I cannot see us keep a clean sheet, IÂll go for a 2-1 or 3-2.
41 Posted 22/11/2014 at 11:24:20
Our season needs to start soon.
42 Posted 22/11/2014 at 11:35:55
Too bad we are missing so many... but we should still get this win. Gotta start winning more home matches. 2-0 Toffees. Up to 7th by Tuesday. Party.
44 Posted 22/11/2014 at 12:36:01
The bench would have:
Osman, Atsu, Naismith, Browning, Ledson (maybe), Long (maybe), Robles
But I have a sneaky feeling that we will see some of so called 'injured' players playing Â– Coleman, Mirallas ?
45 Posted 22/11/2014 at 13:08:50
Howard, Browning, Jagielka, Distin, Oveido, McGeady, Besic, Barkley, Pienaar, Naismith and Lukaku. Barkley and Besic in central midfield.
I am presuming that Coleman, McCarthy and Baines won't be fit. If each player does their job then a win is on the cards, tight win but a win all the same. COYB.
46 Posted 22/11/2014 at 13:21:47
47 Posted 22/11/2014 at 13:26:31
48 Posted 22/11/2014 at 14:10:49
Not sure if Osman's playing deep midfield or whether Ross will be tried out there...
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