Everton must respond at Wolves after Watford embarassment

Everton (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Everton (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images) /

It’s with a well-founded weariness and a sense of dread that I write this match preview as Everton face Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.

Looking at the positives, at least they’re not playing today or tomorrow so Everton fans can relax a little and try to enjoy their weekend. And, we can only hope that we’ve seen our Halloween horror show last Saturday!

The Toffees players and manager Rafa Benitez are all under considerable pressure to respond after that dreadful afternoon against Watford.

By respond, I don’t just mean doing everything possible to secure at least a point at Molinuex, but in particular I’m thinking of the performance too.

While conceding five goals and three of them in the last quarter of an hour was disgraceful enough, the manner of the collapse and the lack of effort and basic football ability on display was shocking and even more worrying.

Occasionally, heavy defeats come your way in football and you have to accept them and move on. But when you witness such a total lack of conviction and commitment from extremely well-paid professionals, it’s far worse.

To be fair to the current manager, Benitez has inherited this problem and it’s one that every now and then plagued his predecessors, certainly Carlo Ancelotti and Marco Silva but also Ronald Koeman before him.

This is a stinging indictment of years of wasted transfer spending on mediocre players, which has left Benitez in the ridiculous position of lacking enough strength, quality and depth in key positions, even after the club have shelled out almost £500 million on players since Farhad Moshiri took over!

So, while there have been very legitimate questions over the efforts of these various coaches, it’s the players who have to take ultimate responsibilty for results.

And you have to wonder how things might have turned out at crucial moments for the club and these managers over the last five years or so had those footballers shown greater resolve and consistency.

For example, while it’s true that when Real Madrid came calling Ancelotti would almost certainly have walked away from Everton regardless, I think the spinelessness of the team he witnessed losing again and again particularly at Goodison Park last season, made his decision even easier.

Anyway, back to the present and the trip to the Midlands on Monday takes on huge significance after the Watford debacle. Another defeat, especially if it’s a heavy one, would be catasrophic and would surely put Benitez under enormous, if perhaps unfair, pressure.

In some hugely welcome news the manager announced at his pre-match presser that Richarlison is healthy enough to possibly start and Abdoulaye Doucoure might make it back in time for the first Premier League game after the next international break, which is earlier than expected.

Less positive news was that Yerry Mina will miss out on the Wolves game as the impact once more of all these irritating internationals makes it’s presence felt with another injury in the Blues’ squad. His absence in the centre of defence will be felt and puts yet more pressure on Micheal Keane and Ben Godfrey, assuming the young ex-Norwich player starts again.

There was also no update on Dominic Cavert-Lewin’s injury status, which indicates he will be out for a long while yet.

Given all this I would expect Benitez to start with the same eleven that was on the pitch when Richarlison had come on after an hour against Watford and scored.

Ideally I’d go with Richarlison up front on his own in a 4-3-3 but I’m not sure Benitez will want to risk it from the kick-off as the Brazilian is still not quite 100% fit so Salomon Rondon will likely start alongside him.

I would also prefer to see Jean-Philippe Gbamin in central midfield alongside both Allan and Tom Davies in a three (in which case playing one central striker would be necessary) or if Benitez sticks to his tactical guns, then as Allan’s partner.

Assuming Benitez starts with a 4-4-2 type formation I hope he gives Anthony Gordon another chance, which I think the young winger certainly deserves, ahead of the infuriatingly underperforming Alex Iwobi.

I’ve written that I feel the manager may have to consider a defensive solution similar to that Ancelotti settled on last season to try and stem the tide of goals being conceded.

But, I very much doubt even if he is considering changing the backline in some way that it will be in this Monday’s match so I guess we’ll see the same back four.

As for the Toffees’ opponents, Wolves have had an inconsistent season as they like Everton changed manager in the summer with Nuno Espirito Santo, once looking a near cert for the Blues job, eventually moving to Spurs.

They started badly but have recovered since and are unbeaten in the last four Premier League matches. Wolves have plenty of pace out wide (a worry given the problems Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne had on Saturday) particularly in the shape of Adama Traore and new forward Hwang Hee-Chan has found his goal-scoring form recently.

Molineux has in fact been a reasonably happy hunting ground recently for the Toffees with a 2-1 win there last season the latest result. Obviously a repeat of that scoreline would do very nicely.

I think in truth an away game is probably better than if it had been another match at Goodison Park. I don’t expect a very adventurous gameplan and this will also suit Benitez’s tactics and the strengths of his team with the pace and counter-attacking ability in the side.

There is a possibility, even though it seems a remote one to me, that this team will respond and bounce back from the hammering last weekend with a strong performance. I doubt it but we’re Evertonians and slim hopes are usually all we have to hold onto.