Everton vs West Bromwich Albion

Friday, 19 January, 2018 0comments  |  Jump to last
Match Preview

Theo Walcott is expected to make his debut following a £20m move from Arsenal

For the first time since New Year's Day, the Blues are back at Goodison Park to face West Bromwich Albion, less than a month after the reverse fixture at the Hawthorns produced a dull goalless draw.

While still early in his tenure as Baggies boss, Alan Pardew was unable to oversee a first victory since succeeding Tony Pulis and he had to wait until last Saturday before he could end the longest winless run in the top flight.

Everton, meanwhile, have lost four straight, mustering just two shots on goal in that time and exiting the FA Cup at the Third Round stage. They remain in the ninth place berth they occupied over Christmas coming into this weekend's round of fixtures but have lost ground on the top six while their cushion above the relegation zone has been diminished.

While last weekend's heavy 4-0 defeat to Tottenham, another game where this Everton side failed to test the opposition goalkeeper with an effort on goal, marked the nadir thus far of Sam Allardyce's brief reign, back-to-back home games and the arrival of some fresh attacking options offer hope of another revival in fortunes.

Both Theo Walcott and striker Cenk Tosun are expected to make their home debuts against the Baggies, with the hope being that the presence of pace and goal threat in the final third can spark some attacking life into a team that has been almost completely toothless since beating Swansea 3-1 over a month ago.

Walcott's £20m move from Arsenal was finalised on Wednesday while Tosun will have had a full week's preparation at Finch Farm to familiarise himself with his new team-mates and manager.

The presence of both players puts Allardyce in something of a quandry, however, given his post-match comments at Wembley where he asserted that he might have to be less adventurous and more defensive in his approach going forward — assuming that is possible — than was the case against Spurs an opportunity.

Yet in Walcott, Tosun and Yannick Bolasie, the boss has an intriguing trident at his disposal, one that affords him an attack-as-defence strategy aimed at unsettling a back line that hasn't exactly been a porous despite West Brom's poor but still has the unwanted distinction of having lost 3-1 at Stoke recently.

Allardyce started the game at the Hawthorns with not two but three defensive midfielders on Boxing Day and could yet opt retain at least two players in the holding role in an effort to protect his back line but this would be a game seemingly tailor-made for trying Wayne Rooney alongside either James McCarthy or Idrissa Gueye with Gylfi Sigurdsson centrally in front of them.

In terms of personnel, it remains to be seen how much Allardyce is moved to change things up given what happened at Wembley. The case for Ashley Williams to be re-deployed alongside Mason Holgate as seemingly the best-performing centre-half pairing since it was thrown together against West Ham in November has been made by some supporters but the youngster struggled against Spurs.

Bolasie, meanwhile, showed that he remains very rusty following his long lay-off and he could make way for Walcott if the manager isn't bold enough to go with that attacking trio mentioned above.

Whatever line-up he selects, there will be an expectation of more entertaining fare than has been served up at Goodison over the past month. The new signings can only help in that regard but they will need better service than the aerial route from Jordan Pickford and the back line. Time for Allardyce to earn demonstrate he can fashion some expansive football from this under-performing team.

Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday 20 January, 2018
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Last Time: Everton 3-0 West Brom

Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Kenny, Jagielka, Williams, Martina, Gueye, McCarthy, Sigurdsson, Rooney, Walcott, Tosun

Full details: ToffeeWeb match page

About these ads