Everton vs Fulham
Venue: Goodison Park
Referee: Roger East
Everton and Fulham meet at Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon with the two sides only a point apart coming into this encounter.
After such a promising beginning to the season for Everton, which oversaw an excellent point away at Wolverhampton Wanderers with ten men followed by a battling win against Southampton at home, the armour of Marco Silva’s team has since revealed itself to be substantially cracked.
That win against Southampton remains their only league win of the season out of six games, and although performances like last weeks unfortunate and possibly undeserved defeat away at Arsenal give hope for the coming weeks, the previous 3-1 defeat at home to West Ham only served to highlight the flaws of this team in dramatic detail.
The sending off of summer signing Richarlison in the 2-2 draw against Bournemouth began a sequence of bad results without his presence, and although he returned in the Arsenal game and looked bright, without him his team has begun to make losing a concerning habit.
The most concerning and most obvious problem is that, although the performances in both of those games could not have been more different in their attacking and defensive qualities, the fact remains that they lost the two games regardless. This weekend’s game against Fulham represents an excellent opportunity for Everton to put more points on the board, and try to reaffirm the optimism that has been lacking in recent weeks.
Although Fulham sit one point and three places below Everton, as a newly promoted side their optimism is naturally higher and their encouraging performances so far this season have been in-line with what their fans expect. There have definitely been results that will reflect missed opportunities for the Lilywhites – the comeback of Brighton in that 2-2 draw may haunt Fulham if the season starts to take a turn for the worse. Alongside this, there were opportunities to win against Watford last week as well, although a draw in that match was hardly an unfair result.
For all of their big-name signings in the summer, most notably one-time Barcelona touted Jean Michaël Seri, it is that familiar figure for Premier League fans, Aleksander Mitrovic, that is bringing in the points for Fulham week after week. Without the Serbian forward, who has scored five goals in six Premier League games, you can realistically cut down their five-point haul so far to a measly one, which although represents an excellent signing, also highlights a problem with diversity of goal-scoring options. If Mitrovic were to injure himself the only natural choice to replace him would be Aboubakar Kamara, who, in getting seven goals in 32 Championship appearances for Fulham, would be under pressure to replicate Mitrovic’s excellent goal-scoring figures.
This game may signal the long-awaited and much-anticipated debut of Everton’s centre-back signing Yerry Mina from Barcelona; the defender has been injured with a foot injury sustained before signing for the club and is yet to appear for the Toffees.
Although he failed to make his mark at Barcelona in a meaningful way, he is a strong and mostly reliable presence at the back, who also exhibited an eye for a goal as well in the World Cup, as England fans, in particular, will remember.
This was also a much-fancied year for Everton striker Cenk Tosun but his record of six games, two assists and no goals so far this campaign led to him being dropped against Arsenal, and he may now have to impress from the bench in order to regain that starting spot.
Fulham have shaken off an early season injury crisis and now have a fully fit squad available to them. The more pressing concerns in terms of selection now centres around the way in which the defence is set-up – the signing of Alfie Mawson was supposed to give Premier League experience and leadership, but his half-time substitution signalled the end of a personally abysmal half for the ex-Swansea City player. Whether he gets another chance this weekend is purely up to Slaviša Jokanović, who saw Denis Odoi come off the bench to play in Mawson’s position and play well.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Mina, Keane, Digne; Davies, Gueye; Richarlison Walcott, Sigurðsson; Calvert-Lewin
Fulham: Bettinelli; Fosu-Mensah, Odio, Chambers, Bryan; Anguissa, Seri, McDonald; Vietto, Schürrle, Mitrovic.
Prediction: Everton 2 Fulham 2
Two of Fulham’s last three away trips in the Premier League have ended in a 2-2 draw and it is entirely plausible to see that happening again here against an Everton team that shipped three to West Ham last time they played at Goodison Park.
Both teams have bright and energetic attacks, with Mitrovic and Richarlison the ones to watch for their respective sides, but neither team has kept a clean sheet in the Premier League this season and that represents a major problem going forward. If either side are to take maximum points at Goodison Park this weekend, they will need to find some much-needed stability and composure in their defensive assets.