- Defensive shape – a characteristic bestowed by Clarke’s owl headed predecessor Roy Hodgson – is arguably West Brom’s major strength and pulling them out of position will be the Blues biggest challenge. We looked a lot more dangerous with an interchangeable 3 of Osman, Mirallas & Pienaar at Goodison than we did with Fellaini up top alongside Jelavic at the Hawthorns.
- Scored 14 set piece goals last season with 8 direct from corners. Predominantly whipped in swingers from each flank with McAuley usually the target
- Predominantly went with a 4-2-3-1 last season with just one out and out forward. Last week played with Long and Anelka as wide forwards with Morrison and Dorrans in close support with Yacob and Mulumbu minding the back door.
- Poor away form last season and will most probably turn up looking to keep things tight for as long as possible and then look to kick on in the last 20 minutes. A strength is their ability in counter attacks so will perhaps view us as ideal opposition given we are going to be expected to control the game in their half leaving room in behind for them to exploit.
- Since the turn of the year their form has been patchy and they finished the season in torrid fashion – last week’s defeat made it 1 win in their last 10.
- Unsurprisingly given their slow backline they conceded the 2nd most counter attack goals last season – our quicker players should look to exploit quick breaks. Also weak in creating chances – just 4 from open play last week v Soton at home – and without Lukaku’s ability to bulldoze through defences its hard to see them carving out many clear cut chances from open play.
- Injury wise, there is no major absences with the exception of perennially injured Zoltan Gera. Brunt was benched last week and Vydra may come in but expect few changes – along with us WBA used the fewest players last season. Anelka is out of the squad on compassionate leave.
Likely Line-up (4-4-1-1)
GK – Ben Foster Ex Man United stopper who is fairly decent at most things but exceptional in none. His long kicking and shot stopping would probably be his two most strong attributes. Poor concentration and flapping at crosses when challenged by a forward are amongst his weak points. A fluffier Richard Wright sprinkled with glitter.
RB – Billy Jones Slack jawed right back who is strong in the tackle and less able in the opposition half of the pitch. Was in part guilty for switching off on the opening goal last season and will be a weak point Baines will look to exploit. Statistically the weakest passer in the Baggies backline.
DC – Gareth McAuley Statistically the fourth best centre half in the air last season and a colossus from set plays. Scored the crucial goal in the 0-2 reverse last season at the Hawthorns. However, he can be rash in the tackle if he finds himself on the wrong side of his man and made more defensive errors than anyone in the Baggies backline last season. Plays on the right of centre so well worth Pienaar buying fouls around him. A weak link who can be exploited.
DC – Jonas Olsson Tagnut headed Swedish oaf who like his partner McAuley is physically robust and won’t be bullied off the ball. Good in the air and likes to ‘get in peoples faces’ or something to that effect. Plays on the left of centre and possesses negligible pace which should interest Mirallas.
LB – Liam Ridgewell Tattooed simpleton ex Birmingham fullback who can also play centre half. Decent in the air and a threat at set plays. Won’t commit too far forward and is susceptible to nimble feet running at him at pace.
MC –Claudio Yacob Controlled the game at the Hawthorns last year and when fit is a very competent performer more than capable of dictating tempo. Also did a very good job off the ball in restricting space for Baines/Pienaar at the Hawthorns on the right of centre. Of all players to play 20+ times for West Brom last season , Claudio Yacob has the best win percentage (48%) with 11 wins from 23. Not fit to start in the Goodison game.
MC – Yousef Mulumbu Ex PSG midfielder who is comfortable on the ball and often is WBA’s ‘go-to’ midfield option, making the 12th most passes per game for a midfielder in the top flight last season. Off the ball he is decent with good anticipation – he made the most interceptions (114) in the top flight in 2010/11. Has a history of doing well against us, scoring home and away a few seasons back – 2 of the 7 he scored that season. Weak point is being caught in possession and is also prone to lunging in and getting unnecessary cards.
MR – Graham Dorrans Two footed Scottish midfielder who plays either left or right mid having been a defender as a youth. Did a decent job against us on the right of midfield in front of Reid last season but then failed to track Baines at Goodison for the opening goal in the return game. Will be given a defensive brief and will rarely cross the half way line on the right of midfield in this one.
AMC – James Morrison The creative hub of the team with 63 chances created for teammates last season – more than any WBA player. Morrison has two decent feet with a good turn of pace, incisive passing and is capable of shooting from long range. Will more than likely play in ‘the hole’ behind Long or Anelka.
LM – Chris Brunt Left sided Irish midfielder who has 2 goals and 2 assists in 9 games against us. Was the 8th most prolific crosser in the Premier League last season and will most probably come in on the left with Dorrans moving across to the right to mind Baines.
FC – Sean Long Rapid two footed Irish forward who will look to fill the boots of departed 17 goal top scorer from last season Lukaku. Scored against us home and away last season. Not the most creative or a great goalscorer but a constant pain in the arse for defenders – will play mostly down the left and his speed will need to be kept in check by Jagielka.
Martinez v Clarke Head to Head: Martinez Wins:1 Clarke Wins;1 Draws:0
Bottom Line: With just 1 defeat at home since early last year, statistically we are the toughest nut to crack on our home turf and WBA have their work cut out to get anything here. We will look to dominate possession and play on the front foot from the off. Expect a fast tempo and hopefully an early goal in Martinez first competitive match in charge at Goodison.
WBA have the tools to do us damage – particularly on the break and at set plays -and will be happy to sit deep and hit us on the break. I fancy we will have too much for Clarke’s charges and will take the three points in a tight tussle.
Verdict 2-1 Everton Win
Dead Cert: +2.5 goals 5/6 BetVictor