The Blues will probably line up in a 4-2-3-1 with Saha supported by Anichebe on the right, Cahill central & Osman from the left occupying the 3 attacking midfield berths with Fellaini (anchor) and Arteta (deep lying playmaker) . It will be interesting to see where Arteta is positioned. The Spaniard started last season as a deep lying playmaker before switching back to the flanks. notably so against Newcastle at St James. With Gueye, Billy & Coleman all unavailable, Moyes will be tempted to use him out wide as in a 4-2-3-1 it puts his most creative player much closer to the opposition goal where he can be more incisive. I like seeing Osman centrally but he put in some tidy games last year wide left where he can use his cunning in more advanced areas and with Baines as a decoy – on the right he is wasted as there is less license to roam in our strategy (defensive right balances out attacking left)
I would expect Barkley to figure at some stage but from the bench. The lack of transfer activity will mean there will be little variation in terms of tactics and strategy to how we finished the campaign. I would expect us to continue the more direct game plan that secured us a storming finish last season with Baines playing pretty much as an extra midfielder when we are in possession, whipping in crosses at every opportunity. Last year’s Player of The Year will fancy his chances if pitted against Bradley Orr; a distinctly average Liverpool born player who once head butted his own captain in a match in the same week as being sent to prison for a nightclub altercation.
Back to the football…..an early goal would be ideal for the Blues given that our home form is pretty decent especially when we score first. Its 3 ½ seasons and 67 games since Everton last opened the scoring at Goodison in a league game and didn’t take at least a point.
So what do we know about the West Londoners? Back in 1993 they put five past us in one of the most miserable Goodison days in living memory. They certainly have a creative force in danger man Adel Taarabt. Last season, 53% of their goals where either assisted or scored by Taarabt – most from his magical right boot. Bolton’s comfortable rout on the opening day made one thing clear; shut out Taarabt and there is not a massive amount in terms of craft elsewhere in the team. On the opening day Taarabt started playing off the decent DJ Campbell, with wider support from Smith and Jay Bothroyd – a player the Blues thankfully swerved in the summer. Taarabt mostly enjoys dipping into the left channel and cutting in on his right side as shown in the below shot. Bolton’s former £10m man (!) Nigel Reo Coker did a pretty decent job subduing the Moroccan; winning 6 out of his 6 tackles with another one time supposed Blues target Chris Eagles providing good defensive support to his fullback on this side also, winning 5 out of his 7 challenges. I would expect Fellaini to go after him aggressively on the occasions he does see the ball.
QPR will probably line up in a like for like 4-2-3-1. They have issues in the fullback slots going into the weekend fixture; Kieron Dyer’s glass legs only lasted 4 minutes of his debut, whilst on the left side Clint Hill was dismissed for a moment of madness on Petrov. The Welshman Gabbidon could switch to left back with Matthew Connolly central and Bradley Orr right back.
QPR Defensive weakness?
QPR’s pass completion last week was 63% -, which isn’t too shabby – certainly better than Stoke. Despite having more Premier League experience than some of his colleagues, Gabbidon is a liability. An own goal topped of a miserable debut for the Welshman last week – his passing completion was a truly dire 50% – if starting left back it would be advisable for the Blues to press QPR’s other fullback to ensure that Gabbidion is the ball option for Paddy Kenny.
The Blues really need to capitalize on what looks a very winnable fixture. QPR are still wet behind the ears in the big league and whilst I would expect Warnock to go defensive after last weeks humiliation, with our experience and key attacking personnel all fit I would expect a comfortable win. 2-0 Toffees.