It’s matchday 6 of 38 in the Premier League, and the excitement and action has shown no signs of slowing down. Every week of the PL so far have given us exhilarating football and fans and pundits alike have been impressed by the quality of football on show from all teams this season. In the latest game week of England’s top-flight football, Merseyside club Everton face Norwich City at home.
Everton will be looking forward to bounce back after the disappointment in the midweek Carabao Cup fixture, when they lost to Championship side Queens Park Rangers on penalties, after drawing 2-2 in normal time. They have lost two successive games in all competitions now, with the loss to QPR preceded by a 3-0 loss to Aston Villa away from home. Everton looked in contention for a draw and possibly a win at Villa Park till the 66th minute until Matty Cash smashed home a beautiful goal which started a chain-reaction and caused the Everton defence to collapse. They conceded 2 more goals in the next 9 minutes and manager Rafa Benitez and the Everton fans will have been left shocked with the late assault. They will be hoping for a better reaction from their players at home against an inferior side and will look to make it 4 wins out of 6 games in the league.
Norwich City have had a very poor start to the season, with 5 losses in 5 games. Their attack has been very poor with just 2 goals so far in the league. Like Everton, Norwich were knocked out of the Carabao Cup in midweek, with Liverpool winning 3-0 at Carrow Road. They have the worst defence in the league and unless there is a miraculous turnaround in their form, the Canaries seem set to experience a repeat of the 2019/20 Premier League season. Admittedly, their first five fixtures have been very tricky with the club facing Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester City, Arsenal, and Watford. Fans will seek some solace from the fact that they have had arguably the most difficult start to the league out of any other team but will want to see some points on the board as soon as possible. It remains to see if manager Daniel Farke can conjure up some change in tactics and strategy to help them survive a season in the Premier League.
When & Where
Venue: Goodison Park
Date: Saturday, 25th September 2021.
Time: 3.00 pm BST
Referee: David Coote.
Assistants: Gary Beswick, Nick Hopton.
Fourth official: Dean Whitestone.
VAR: Lee Mason.
Assistant VAR: Peter Kirkup.
Everton named a much-changed 11 in the midweek cup game, and rested key players viz. Demarai Gray, Michael Keane and Doucoure, although all of them featured from the bench as they tried to win at Loftus Road. All 3 of them will be expected to return to the starting lineup on Saturday.
Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin and winger Richarlison are expected to be out for two more weeks, putting pressure on Everton’s attacking department. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford also picked up a shoulder injury in training, and Benitez has said he will be put for a minimum of two weeks. Asmir Begovic is expected to deputize for the English goalkeeper.
Exiled midfielder James Rodriguez completed his permanent move to Qatari side Al Rayyan on Wednesday, the club confirmed in a statement.
Norwich will be without three of their key players, with Przemyslaw Placheta recovering from COVID-19, defender Sam Byram suffering a thigh injury and Christoph Zimmerman out with an ankle injury. Other than that, midfielder Todd Cantwell can return back to the squad after he missed the defeat against Liverpool in the Cup. Tim Krul and Teemu Pukki will also be expected to slot back into the starting 11 after getting a rest on Wednesday.
Can Norwich exploit Everton faults?
Everton’s faults were glaring and obvious before the season began, and Rafa Benitez worked on that and the Toffees have done brilliantly so far to be within 3 points of the top. Their attacking football has flowing and they have been clinical in front of goal, not wasting too many opportunities.
However, the central muddle still needs addressing in lapses that Everton’s defence suffers on occasions. Defensive mistakes has been their Achilles heel so far, and that could prove to be the cause of their downfall later in the season. While many expected Benitez to work on the defensive side of the team first, owing to the Spaniard’s pragmatic style of management, he has done the opposite. He has improved the attack significantly, and new signings Andros Townsend, Demarai Gray, and Salomon Rondon have added to it. However, the Merseyside Blues failed to make any new defensive additions to the club, something which is very surprising.
This has showed in their performances so far, with prominent mistakes by defenders against Southampton on an opening day, and Leeds United, later on, letting the opposition sides get easy goals. Against Aston Villa, Luca Digne had a day to forget, first getting bullied by Matty Cash who brushed the Frenchman off to cut in and score the first goal. Then 3 minutes later, Digne headed the ball into his own net from a Villa corner to cap off a torrid day for the left-back. Michael Keane in recent times has been susceptible and his mistakes have let the team down on a few occasions as well.
Defensive mistakes from a club managed by Rafa Benitez has been rare in the past, but with the Everton defence still finding its mojo, the question remains if Norwich can take advantage of that. If Norwich are alert and press well, they can certainly pressurize the Everton defence – also without their first-choice goalkeeper Jordan Pickford- into a few mistakes.
The 25-year-old winger has had a very good start to life at Goodison Park, with 3 goals in 5 PL games. He has been deployed across the frontline, playing mostly as a left-winger, but also operating as an attacking midfielder, right-winger, and even as a striker on one occasion. Manager Rafa Benitez has clearly taken a liking to the Englishman, and Gray has done nothing to dispute his selection in the team so far. He has hardly put a foot wrong whenever selected. He has made a habit of scoring late on this season, with all his 3 goals coming past the 80-minute mark. His pace and devilish trickery has left defenders scratching their heads on how to contain him, and he has showed his finishing abilities as well. In the absence of Richarlison and Calwert-Lewin, Benitez will be hoping that Gray can continue his form as long as possible.
The Finnish striker is no stranger to the Premier League stage. However, he has not had the same start that he had in his last season in the Premier League. He has scored all 2 of Norwich’s Premier League goals so far, and if provided the chances, he has the finishing capabilities to give the Canaries some goals. However, the midfield and creative department has been lacking for Norwich, and an equally poor defence has left them vulnerable. Pukki can hurt opposition and needs to be provided the opportunities in and around the box. Daniel Farke will be hoping that the supporting cast of Rashica, Sargent, Cantwell, etc. can find their feet soon enough.
EVERTON: Asmir Begovic; Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane, Yerry Mina, Luca Digne; Andre Gomes, Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure; Andros Townsend, Demarai Gray, Alex Iwobi.
NORWICH CITY: Tim Krul; Max Aarons, Grant Hanley, Ozan Kabak, Brandon Williams; Billy Gilmour, Mathias Normann, Todd Cantwell; Josh Sargent, Teemu Pukki, Milot Rashica.