Following the International break, Arsenal head to Goodison Park to face Everton in the Premier League. The Toffees have only picked up one point so far this season, away at Sheffield United (2-2), while The Gunners have picked up 10 out of 12.
Ahead of this match, I spoke to Lyndon from ToffeeWeb. Thank you to Lyndon for answering these questions!
How long have you supported Everton?
I’ve been a supporter since early 1986 so I managed to catch the Toffees’ last League championship season to date in my first full season as a fan and, the FA Cup win in 1995 aside, it’s been mostly downhill since!
What are your hopes and expectations for the 2023/24 season?
With Sean Dyche on board and preparing for his first full season in charge, my expectation for 2023/24 was stability and consolidation in the bottom half of the table. My hope was that with some key parts of the team addressed during the transfer window — signing a centre-forward to either provide cover for or even replace Dominic Calvert-Lewin during his ongoing injury problems was paramount and we did that — and Dyche finding a winning formula, we might do better than expected and perhaps finish around 10th to 12th.
However, our winless start coupled with the very much incomplete summer transfer business that has left the squad worryingly threadbare means that the pinnacle of our hopes might just be survival again!
What are your views on your manager?
Given his reputation as a fairly one-dimensional coach and lack of any notable success, I don’t think many Evertonians were thrilled with the appointment of Dyche as manager but there was an acceptance that he was probably the right choice to keep us up last season, which he did. Seeing as he fulfilled his initial remit and given the revolving door at Goodison Park since Farhad Moshiri bought the club in 2016 and the tens of millions wasted on compensation payouts to sacked managers, he was always going to be retained and given the chance to push the club forward this season.
Interestingly, for a manager supposedly renowned for pragmatic, defensive football at Burnley, Everton have been an fairly attacking side at times under his stewardship but that has come at the expense of defensive solidity. That, combined with a blindspot for players like Michael Keane who, bafflingly, started the season as a first-choice centre-half despite having to be dropped down the stretch last season, means that the jury is very much still out on Dyche at the moment.
The next few weeks are going to be important for him; the longer we go without winning, the greater the pressure will be on his shoulders.
Style of play and tactics – direct/passing/hybrid?
Again, the style of play has been quite attacking, with the emphasis on an aggressive and high press and trying to move the ball forward quickly in transition. In stark contrast to Arsenal, Everton are a fairly limited passing side, though, so there’s also plenty of direct play as well with balls forward from Jordan Pickford and James Tarkowski which I suspect will increase with new signing Beto and/or Calvert-Lewin in the side.
Last season under Dyche we relied heavily on set-pieces and, obviously, got our winning goal against Arsenal at Goodison from a dead-ball situation but the delivery just hasn’t been there so far this season, with Ashley Young frustratingly wasteful. But the threat remains if he or James Garner can start getting them right.
One(s) to watch now and in the future?
Many of our most promising youngsters have left the club in recent months, with Anthony Gordon being the most prominent one, which leaves Jarrad Branthwaite at centre-half as the most obvious young player to watch now and to keep an eye on for an inevitable big-money move elsewhere, probably in the not-too-distant future! It also looks as though Beto is going to make his mark in the Premier League this season, not necessarily for the number of goals he’ll score but he will be a handful for most defences.
Random fact about your Club?
We were League champions when football was stopped for both World Wars, first in 1915 and then in 1939. Who knows, we might have added to our nine titles if we’d been able to build a dynasty!
Which were your favourite and least favourite matches involving Everton?
Both were probably FA Cup Finals. My favourite was 1995 Final when we beat Manchester United as rank underdogs, although the semi-final where we smashed Tottenham 4-1 at Elland Road was probably a better game and performance. I have many least favourite matches — you could probably pick from a dozen last season which was the most stressful I have ever experienced as a Blue! — but let’s go with the 1986 FA Cup Final which was the first I watched as a fan because we went from the elation of scoring first through Gary Lineker but ended up losing 3-1 to the arch enemy, Liverpool.
Which sides do you think will finish in the top four and which do you think will finish in the bottom three?
It’s hard to look beyond the three promoted sides when picking which three teams will go down this season. Luton look well short of the quality and depth needed to stay up and I also think Sheffield United and Burnley will struggle. At this point, Everton fans are pinning our hopes on us just picking up more points than the other three!
The top four is a little harder to call. Man City and Arsenal are obvious candidates and I think the other two slots will probably go to Liverpool and Spurs.
What are your thoughts on Arsenal?
I think Mikel Arteta has done a phenomenal job and we Toffees are deeply envious at the trajectory the Gunners have taken compared to Everton from that game at Goodison between the two clubs when both new managers, Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti, were in the stands watching their respective new teams play out a goalless bore draw!
In the main, Arsenal are a far, far better-run club who took a bold but progressive step in hiring the right manager and have invested well in quality players. They feel like a universe away from where Everton find themselves at the moment!
If you could steal one Arsenal player for your own team, who would it be and why?
Probably Martin Ødegaard because we don’t have a player like him who can both create and score goals from midfield. James Garner is in that mould but he’s still relatively young and inexperienced. Plus, he’s currently being played out of position as a right-midfielder under Dyche. The other one might be Oleksandr Zinchenko because of his versatility and because left-back is one of our weakest areas at the moment.
What is your prediction for this match?
We’ve done so well in this fixture in recent years that it’s hard not to be fatalistic and think our unbeaten run will probably come to an end this weekend! The way we are defending at the moment will make us very vulnerable to the kind of threats Arsenal possess but we also have our own potency up front with Beto and Arnaut Danjuma settling in. So I’m going to go for an entertaining 2-2 draw.