The FourFourTwo Preview: Everton vs West Brom
Likeable top-half merchants meet in a cuddly clash on Merseyside.
Everton kicked off their campaign with a 2-2 draw at Norwich as the unlikely Ross Barkley-Seamus Coleman combination earned the Toffees a point at Carrow Road.
Roberto Martinez has a David Moyes-sized void to fill at Goodison Park - and the former Wigan Athletic supremo could do without his predecessor’s mischievous bids for prized assets Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini (come on Dave, give the guy a chance).
As for the Baggies… well, Steve Clarke has work to do - quite aside from convincing Nicolas Anelka not to walk away from football. Against Southampton a barren summer of nil spend told in a scrappy 1-0 defeat where Rickie Lambert’s last-minute penalty won it, Anelka having failed to register an attempt on goal.
Still, it’s early days and last season’s flying start (West Brom were third after 13 games) certainly wasn’t expected this time around. Here, though, nobody needs to remind them that the win they’re looking for won’t be easy to find on Merseyside.
There hasn’t been a stalemate between the two sides since May 2006, while Everton have come up trumps with six wins in the subsequent nine meetings. Martinez will see this one as an ideal opportunity to make it seven.
Tony Hibbert is nearing a return after picking up a knock but centre back Antolin Alcaraz remains sidelined with a hamstring problem. Darron Gibson (knee) will be eased back into contention over the coming fortnight.
West Brom have no fresh injury concerns, with Zoltan Gera and George Thorne (both knee) Clarke’s only absentees - apart from Anelka.
Player to watch: Ross Barkley (Everton)
This is a potentially make-or-break season at Everton for the 19-year-old, but he ensured it began in the best way possible at Norwich last weekend.
His crackerjack goal on the hour mark capped a terrific display as he peppered John Ruddy’s goal with menace, enjoyed 96% passing accuracy (including 22 of his 23 attacking-third passes) and led the way with a game-high nine balls recovered.
Loan spells in the Championship with Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds last season have ramped up expectations on the industrious young midfielder, but more performances like that will keep Barcelona youngster Gerard Deulofeu on the bench.
Those hopes must be managed appropriately, though. A Premier League season is the ultimate test of consistency - a fact the England Under-21 international knows all too well – but he could hardly be better placed under the stewardship of Martinez at a club notorious for giving its youngsters a proper chance to shine.
At the moment there isn’t much to dislike about this local lad come good - and long may it continue.
Martinez and Clarke have faced each other only twice in their relatively short Premier League managerial stints – both occasions coming last season when their respective Wigan and West Brom sides claimed a victory apiece.
The affable duo are unlikely to be ruffling too many feathers this season, least of all each other’s on Merseyside. After all, this is Martinez’s home debut as Everton boss.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Everton 2-1 West Brom (PL, Mar 12)
- West Brom 2-0 Everton (PL, Sep 12)
- Everton 2-0 West Brom (PL, Mar 12)
- West Brom 0-1 Everton (PL, Jan 12)
- Everton 2-1 West Brom (LC, Sep 11)
Facts and figures
- Everton have dropped just four points from a possible 21 from their seven Premier League home meetings with WBA.
- West Brom have failed to score a goal in four of their last six Premier League games away from home.
- Just one of the previous 14 Premier League meetings between these two sides has ended in a draw.
- Everton averaged the highest possession figure of all Premier League sides on the opening weekend (67%), as well as the second best passing accuracy (88%).
- Shane Long scored a goal in each of the two Premier League meetings between Everton and West Brom last season, with both arriving in the 65th minute.
- Roberto Martinez has won just one of his last nine matches as a manager in the Premier League (W1 D4 L4).
- The Baggies have won only one of their last 10 Premier League games (W1 D3 L6).
- Matej Vydra averaged a goal every 126 minutes and 15 seconds in the 2012-13 Championship for his former club Watford; a better ratio than any other player with 10+ goals.
- Nikica Jelavic has scored just one goal in his last 20 hours and 36 minutes of Premier League football for Everton.
Everton too good for the Baggies, who haven’t yet done enough in the transfer market to warrant faith. 2-0.
Everton vs West Brom LIVE ANALYSIS using online Stats Zone