Our soccer scribe previews the EPL contest between Everton and West Ham at Goodison Park.
This encounter sees two sides on opposite ends of the form spectrum. Everton started the season like your proverbial house on fire, with many viewing Ronald Koeman as some kind of messianic figure. Their form has dipped severely in recent weeks as they struggle to find the right combination to service their totemic striker: Romelu Lukaku.
West Ham have gone the other way. After a dreadful start to the season that saw them battling to acclimatize to a new home, Slaven Bilic’s men have slowly clawed their way back into form. To be fair to the Hammers, they experienced an early season injury crisis of biblical proportions. So this is setting up to be a rather intriguing encounter that illustrates the rollercoaster nature of the Premier League perfectly.
English Premier League | Sunday 30 October | Goodison Park | 15:30
To Win (90 mins)
Everton 15/20 | Draw 28/10 | West Ham 33/10
Everton couldn’t convert their dominance of possession against Burnley, once again struggling with swift counterattacking. Gareth Barry and Idrissa Gueye were constantly on the back foot and Koeman will need to be weary of West Ham’s pace on the counter.
Added to his problems is the fact that James McCarthy seems to have torn a hamstring, which leaves Koeman with limited midfield options. Gueye and Barry are both one booking away from picking up a suspension, which could bring further complications heading into the busy festive period.
I think Koeman may opt to bring in Tom Cleverley for Gueye, as he did against Burnley, giving the former United player an opportunity to show why he got capped for England. Kevin Mirallas had another disappointing afternoon last time out and I expect Gerard Deulofeu may come in to reinvigorate the side.
Yannick Bolasie has settled in well and will look to put pressure on Aaron Cresswell on that left-hand flank. I still think that Everton are going to struggle against the skill and pace of Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini, while they continue to miss influential left-back Leighton Baines.
West Ham’s League Cup win over Chelsea was just the exclamation point in what has been a positive streak for the Hammers. Their 1-0 victory over Sunderland never reflected their dominance as Payet once again orchestrated proceedings brilliantly.
The return of Cresswell this week after suspension will also come as welcome relief to a side that has been plagued by injuries. It’s also good to see Andre Ayew fit again and it seems as if West Ham’s season is turning around at the right time.
Edimilson Fernandes has fitted well into the side since his debut against Sunderland while Adrian is sure to return and replace Darren Randolph after their Cup win. I hope that Bilic resists the temptation to play Simone Zaza up front and opts for a more fluid ‘false nine’ format.
Lanzini and Payet looked great against Chelsea interchanging roles, and Zaza will only stunt the fluidity of this West Ham side. Their intricacy coupled with the power and direct running of Michail Antonio makes for a fairly multi-faceted attacking dynamic for the Hammers, even without Andy Carroll.
Verdict: Double Chance - Everton Win/Draw (19/20)
I have watched Everton carefully of late and really think they desperately need to address their shortcomings in midfield. Even if that means perhaps putting Bolasie in there as a stop gap until the transfer window closes.
There is a distinct lack of athleticism that West Ham will exploit. But I don’t think there is much value in backing the win with the prolific Lukaku around. So West Ham to win or draw seems like the safe option.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets