The FourFourTwo Preview: Everton vs Fulham
A home win as straightforward as hiring someone to perform sign language at a memorial service. Or is it?
For anyone who missed Everton’s trip to the Emirates last Sunday, let FFT fill you in. The Toffees were magnificent. The ceaseless pressing, passing triangles and attacking intent eclipsed Arsenal. Despite relying on Gerard Deulofeu’s late equaliser for a point, Roberto Martinez’s men arguably deserved all three.
- Arsenal 1-1 Everton (Prem)
- Man Utd 0-1 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 4-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Everton 3-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Palace 0-0 Everton (Prem)
- Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Fulham 1-2 Spurs (Prem)
- West Ham 3-0 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-0 Fulham (Prem)
Still with only one defeat all season – a 3-1 reverse at Manchester City on October 5 – the Merseysiders are rapidly becoming the go-to choice for Premier League neutrals. The opening 20 minutes against the Gunners, in particular, was a perfect storm of pressure and fast, accurate passing. Seldom are Arsenal so dominated in possession.
For that, Martinez deserves immense credit. Only James McCarthy, Gareth Barry and the on-loan Romelu Lukaku are newbies (alongside Deulofeu), yet the team’s style is unrecognisable from Everton under David Moyes. Or Manchester United, for that matter. The main criticism, though, remains converting a league-high seven draws into wins. Then they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Fulham, however, fresh from a first win after the six consecutive league defeats that cost Martin Jol his job, should head to Goodison Park with renewed vigour. Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Aston Villa may have been achieved with a midfield three – Scott Parker, Giorgos Karagounis and Steve Sidwell – with a combined age of 99, but new boss Rene Meulensteen seems to elicit a response from a group of players who seemed resigned to their fate under his compatriot.
Even Dimitar Berbatov – despite persistent rumours of his impending exit – was inspired enough to, you know, run around a bit. Ashkan Dejagah, frozen out under Jol, has taken his chance under Sir Alex Ferguson’s former Manchester United assistant. The Iranian wide-man excelled against Villa, completing 30 of 35 final-third passes and setting up Sidwell for Fulham’s opener. With the carrot of a World Cup place up for grabs, the 27-year-old has plenty of motivation for the remainder of the season.
An away win at a team unbeaten at home might be asking a little much for a Brede Hangeland-less team without a clean sheet since October 5 (when Everton last lost), but the insipid performances that had come to characterise the end of Jol’s two-and-a-bit years in charge should be gone.
Bryan Oviedo will continue at left-back for Everton in the continued absence of Leighton Baines through a broken toe. Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone remain long-term injuries.
Fulham will be without Hangeland and Hugo Rodallega, while Fernando Amorebieta (hamstring) and Matthew Briggs (hernia) face fitness tests. Darren Bent, dropped from the squad that faced Spurs two games ago because of a general lack of fitness, may return to the matchday XVIII.
Key battle: Seamus Coleman vs Alex Kacaniklic
While Baines has been busy setting the world alight one Beatles haircut at a time from left-back, Coleman has quietly established himself as the league’s best on the other flank. A constant source of creativity and invention against Arsenal, the Irishman excelled, proving a constant outlet and diligent in defence.
Kacaniklic may not be used to having much of a defensive brief, but the Swede must be aware of the double threat Coleman and either Kevin Mirallas or Gerard Deulofeu pose down the Blues' right. If the 22-year-old can repeat 4 successful crosses out of 4 like against Villa, he may succeed at least in pinning Coleman back.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Fulham 2-1 Ev'ton (LC, Sep 13)
- Ev'ton 1-0 Fulham (Prem, Apr 13)
- Fulham 2-2 Ev'ton (Prem. Nov 12)
- Ev'ton 4-0 Fulham (Prem, Apr 12)
- Ev'ton 2-1 Fulham (Prem, Jan 12)
Everton attempted more passes (515) than Arsenal. Everton completed more passes (84%) than Arsenal. Everton had more possession (55.59%) than Arsenal. Everton had more shots (12) than Arsenal. The Martinez revolution is on.
Fulham, meanwhile, have benefited from Meulensteen’s appointment. The squad may be ageing but Parker is a fine on-field general and the attack does have talent, albeit inconsistencies with it. January surgery may be required, but a point is a realistic proposition.
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Facts and figures
- Fulham have never won away against Everton in the league (L21 D4). They drew four of their first five visits to Goodison Park but have lost the last 20 in a row.
- Everton have lost just one of their 15 Premier League matches this season (W7 D7 L1) and are unbeaten in the last eight (W4 D4).
The last time that Everton went unbeaten a home in the league for a whole calendar year was back in 1962. They have only managed this three times previously (1894, 1939, 1962).
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A much-improved Fulham display away from home, but Everton too strong. 2-0.