It’s Friday night lights at Villa Park this week, and with it, an opportunity to move on from the frustrating defeat at the hands of Bournemouth on Saturday. This time, Everton are the visitors and it’s a welcome return of two famous old clubs locking horns in the top flight.
In advance of the match we here at Heart of the Holte sought the opinions of Dave Whitehead from agrandoldteam.com (@grandoldteam) (click here to check them out) to give us the lowdown on things from a Toffee’s perspective.
It’s a fixture that has seen its fair share of great goals and drama in some memorable clashes over the decades (Ashley Young 2008 anybody?). This will be meeting number 203 between two bastions of English football, making it the the most played top flight fixture in English football – although I’m sure you’ve heard that mentioned this week.
During our three year Premier League hiatus reorganising ourselves, Everton have continued to build upon their established top flight reputation, seeking to build and adapt themselves into modern European, top 6 contenders.
Under the ambitious new ownership of billionaire-businessman, Farhad Moshiri, Everton have found that the path to breaking into that top 6 elite is a difficult one to negotiate. Three managers – Roberto Martínez, Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce – have tried and fallen short, and the challenge is now Marco Silva’s to mastermind. And the very early signs this season seem promising.
1. How do you feel your opening games have gone and do you feel that the performances look like being a good foundation for a positive season?
Reasonably well. A clean sheet away from home in the opening day is never a bad outcome, and of course a win followed that. We were impressive in the first half, then Watford battled hard in the second but we were a match for it. Even at 1-0 up, with a second half like that we’d have drawn or lost in the past couple of seasons so that bodes well.
2. From the outside looking in, it seems that over the last few seasons, since Moshiri’s takeover, Everton have been trying to settle on a fresh identity. After Koeman and the unpopular hiring of Allardyce, do you feel that under Marco Silva, you are any closer to breaking into the top 6 and getting to that next level?
Yes. While there’s nothing tangible to back this up, it certainly does feel like we have regained direction lately. Mind you, after Martínez, Koeman and Allardyce, I’d have been happy with Benny Hill at the helm.
3. With a relatively high turnover of players in recent seasons do you feel the squad currently has a good balance to it or are there areas you’d still like to improve?
We need a CB for competition and cover which is why a lot of us wanted Zouma to stay. And although Moise Kean looks to be an exciting prospect, unless he starts scoring tons of goals we still haven’t replaced Lukaku.
4. What formation/selection do you think you’ll employ against us and what selection/formation would you like to see?
I imagine we’ll be 4-5-1 however I’d like to see a good old fashioned 4-4-2. No one does that anymore.
5. What would you consider the biggest weaknesses and the main strengths in your squad?
The lack of a goal scoring CF is the standout weakness, at least until Kean is up and running. On the plus side we seem to be defensively sorted again at long last. Mina has been good this season so far.
6. What is your opinion on Villa and how do you expect the match to go/score prediction?
Everton v Aston Villa is the most played fixture in football isn’t it? Good old fashioned club along the same lines as us. I think you’ll stay in the Premier League this season, however Jack Grealish desperately needs a barber with the gift of eyesight.
All in all a fair assessment. What’s clear is that this is going to be a very tough fixture for Villa, Everton are a very competent team, and playing with a growing belief and confidence right now. They’ve developed a happy knack of keeping clean sheets, and seem to have found a balanced system that is reaping results for them at the moment. Villa are certainly going to have to be at the top of their game individually and collectively to get something from this fixture. We’ve hopefully learned the harsh lessons from Spurs and Bournemouth. Sloppy errors and slow starts are going to get punished in this league and we will need to be sharper for the entire 90 minutes. In our opening two games I’ve seen enough from Villa to know we are capable of creating problems for sides and once everything begins to click that the positive results will come.
Now’s not the time to panic, the league’s a marathon not a sprint, but the sooner we can start putting points on the table the better. Let’s not let anxiety or nerves start creeping in. I’m hoping we can announce ourselves to the league properly with a win but I would take a draw.