After the FA Cup exploits at the Bridge the focus shifts back to the league this weekend as Everton welcome Sunderland to Goodison on Saturday in a game which could prove pivotal in terms of the rest of the season…….
Clearly, Chelsea was a great day last week at the Bridge. It reminded me of what had been the core attributes of an Everton display under Moyes; what we sometimes lack in technical ability we bridge by commitment, togetherness and at times shear belligerence. We can also play too, and in the first game at Goodison we comfortably played the better expansive football. Back to the league now though, and points need to be put on the board quickly to move us up the table. This season’s trend has been one good result followed by a poor one, indeed we have only put back to back wins together in the league once, back in October.
Last time out.
A very exciting game at Stadium of Light, with Everton playing the more enterprising football but Sunderland looking much more dangerous when in attack. The Mackems fitness and athleticism is such that they are more than capable of playing a high pressing game high up the pitch all day long and have no worries about not being in possession. Welbeck was the star man on the night, bagging both Sunderland goals in a 2-2 draw in a game which again highlighted Everton’s strength and weakness down the left flank. Baines superb delivery for Cahill’s opening goal was undone by slack defending by him and Pienaar for Welbeck’s first.Overall, a 2-2 draw was a fair result although Everton should have won it at the death when Beckford fluffed a one on one when put clean through.
I have been impressed with the Mackems this season. Like most Bruce teams they have built from a solid foundation defensively. They press really well and have shown real steel in their defensive approach this season with 11 clean sheets. I would expect them to line up 4-5-1 with Gyan the lone striker closely supported by Richardson behind and newboy Sessegnon from the right.
Offensively, with their speed and athleticism they are setup to counter attack and Henderson is their most creative player, ranked 5th in the league for chance creation, making 54 key passes this campaign an average of 2.1 per game. Gyan is their main goal threat with 9 goals and 4 assists in just 15 Premier League matches. They have struggled in recent games though with Cattermole their fulcrum anchor man out through injury and this coupled with personnel changes in the centre back spots with the ongoing absence of Turner have left them often vulnerable to crosses. Stoke recently exploited this 3 times in one game despite the Mackems playing 3 centre backs to combat the Stoke aerial bombardment. Indeed, they have now lost 3 games on the bounce. Keeper Gordon has also been shaky of late, and reports in Sunderland are that he is touch and go for this game because of injury with Mignolet on standby to deputise.
I wouldn’t expect anything too different tactically from the Blues in a 4-4-1-1 setup. Sunderland ’s 4-5-1 will mean Marouanne Fellaini will play a bit deeper than he would against a 4-4-2 to pick up Richardson’s runs from midfield. Seamus Coleman really struggled physically against Bardsley last time out although I would expect him to continue on the right with Osman probably keeping his place on the left drifting inside. The key change could come upfront with Louis Saha rumored to be back in contention following injury, but with his injury record I would expect Beckford to at least start the game.
Sunderland have had a really impressive campaign but I think this could be a decent time to play them with results on the wane and key personnel out. With their vulnerability from crosses into the box and with our superb exponent of deliveries Leighton Baines on song I’m going for a narrow Blues victory, 1-0.