After the relative performances of Everton and West Bromwich Albion last weekend, most will be expecting a straightforward home win when the two clubs meet at Goodison Park on Saturday lunchtime. Baggies fans will be hoping that the unpredictability of football produces one of its surprise results as they look to get something on the board in the Premier League this season.
Both sides recorded victories against lower league opposition in the Carabao Cup in midweek with much changed sides, but it is the displays last weekend that most will look at as an indicator for this fixture.
Everton’s trio of debutants last weekend all performed well and seem to have settled in straight away. Allan, Doucouré and superstar James Rodriguez all cost in excess of £20 million which demonstrates the relative financial strength of the two clubs. The Toffees haven’t converted that monetary muscle into results in recent years, but many pundits think that this season may be different with Ancelotti in charge from the off. James is certainly a statement signing and the early signs are promising.
There is no doubt, therefore, that Slaven Bilić’s team will have their work cut out to get anything from this match. The Croat will be pleased to have improved the squad this week with the signings of Branislav Ivanović and Conor Gallagher, but he remains frustrated that Filip Krovinović is yet to re-sign and that Albion’s search for a striker is still ongoing.
Whether either Gallagher or Ivanović will see any action this weekend is unclear. There have been suggestions that the Serb may not be match fit until next month while Gallagher only signed on Thursday so will have had limited opportunity to train with his new teammates. With Albion playing his parent club next weekend, we may not see Gallagher until October either.
That means we may very well see the same eleven line up at Goodison as started the Leicester game. Dara O’Shea did take a knock on Wednesday but completed the match, but any reaction to that could lead to Bilić making a change to the back three.
However, it is not clear who would be brought in. Ahmed Hegazi’s absence from the squad on Wednesday evening has raised questions as to whether he could be on his way out of the Hawthorns. He is a player who would command a reasonable fee and, with the club needing to raise funds to strengthen elsewhere, it does make some sort of sense with Kipré and Peltier also able to play in the middle of defence.
Bilić has said that he was disappointed by the reaction of his team to going behind against Leicester. I felt that the 3-4-3 was working OK defensively and it was individual errors that led to the goals – at this level, errors are normally punished and minimising them will be key to Albion’s survival this season.
In the first half, Albion did play the ball around well but they didn’t create enough. Leicester had a makeshift defence and yet the front three weren’t able to properly exploit that – Everton have some injuries at the back as well, and that could create some opportunities, but can Albion take advantage?
It is, perhaps, in midfield that Albion’s primary concerns surfaced last weekend. Romaine Sawyers looked out of his depth, although I would not write him off after one match, while Jake Livermore’s performance was mixed at best. Having just two in the centre is a risk, partially mitigated by having three at the back, and Everton’s midfield trio of Allan, Gomes and Doucouré will likely be a sterner test than that posed by Leicester. Gallagher would probably represent an upgrade on either Livermore or Sawyers but, as previously stated, Bilić may not want to throw him straight into the side.
There are no easy answers given Albion’s current squad and, while I feel that the Baggies could cause Everton problems should everyone play to their potential, the hosts’ attacking options are likely to prove too much.
Looking at Albion’s Premier League record against the Toffees, it is a surprise that the Baggies have won just one of the last eleven meetings, a 1-0 win at Goodison in February 2016 thanks to a goal from Salomón Rondón.
The Baggies only other win on Toffees’ turf in the Premier League era was in November 2010 when Roberto di Matteo’s side recorded a 4-1 victory thanks to goals from Paul Scharner, Chris Brunt, Somen Tchoyi and Youssouf Mulumbu, although the Congolese was subsequently sent off.
That is Albion’s best ever win at Goodison Park, although they did match that scoreline in their first ever meeting against Everton which took place at Anfield in the first ever Football League season in December 1888. A brace from the legendary Billy Bassett plus goals from Billy Hendry and Walter Perry earned the visitors the points that day.
Everton, of course, left Anfield for Goodison in 1892 following a rent dispute. Anfield’s owners responded by forming a new club called Liverpool FC – what ever happened to them?
The Toffees recorded their best win over the Baggies the following year, in December 1893. It was Albion’s third visit to Goodison Park, having lost the first two including a 4-1 defeat in the FA Cup. It got worse as the hosts ran out 7-1 winners in the Division One fixture with Jack Southworth scoring six of them. It would be another six years before Albion would record their first win at Goodison, a 3-1 win in November 1899.
One memorable game took place in September 1966. The Baggies travelled to Goodison full of confidence having scored 14 goals in their last three games including a 6-1 win over Aston Villa in the first match in defence of their League Cup trophy won earlier that year. Meanwhile Everton, who were just a place above Albion in the bottom half of Division One, had won just once at home that season, although that was the Merseyside derby.
Jeff Astle opened the scoring on seven minutes but goals from Young, Temple and Morrisey put the hosts 3-1 at half time. The game looked to be over when World Cup hero, Alan Ball, scored Everton’s fourth just after the break but the Baggies had other ideas. Doug Fraser quickly reduced the arrears before a Bobby Cram penalty made it 4-3 with 16 minutes left.
John Kaye completed the come back just two minutes later but, as Albion looked for the winner, it was the hosts who got the decisive goal. It was Ball once again who scored from the spot with six minutes left to secure the points for Everton.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
20 Jan 2018 – Premier League
Everton 1 (Niasse)
West Brom 1 (Rodriguez)
13 Feb 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Rondón)
Albion’s Record against Everton
|Premier League Record|