Everton face second crunch home clash in seven days against Villa

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Dwight McNeil of Everton in action with Jacob Ramsey of Aston Villa during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Everton FC at Villa Park on August 13, 2022 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Dwight McNeil of Everton in action with Jacob Ramsey of Aston Villa during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Everton FC at Villa Park on August 13, 2022 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images) /

Following a determined performance and a priceless win over Leeds United last Saturday, Everton host Aston Villa in another huge game this weekend.

The Blues’ grabbed three more precious points against Leeds with a solitary goal from Seamus Coleman proving enough for a second straight 1-0 win at Goodison Park.

With both relegation rivals Southampton and Bournemouth also winning last Saturday, that victory was especially crucial for Everton in their battle to stay up.

In truth, the Toffees’ should have won by more than one goal but wasted several good chances to add to Coleman’s strike.

That they didn’t, is of course the main worry about this team going forward. Without a quality centre-forward who can reliably score goals it’s always going to be tough to net enough times to consistently win matches.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s continued and likely ongoing absence for who knows how long, once again asks the question from where are the Blues’ going to get their goals?

Sean Dyche said in a pre-match press conference that he expects Calvert-Lewin to be fit ‘shortly’. I’ll believe it when I see it as we’ve heard similar optimistic statements on numerous time before only for him to suffer another setback.

His injury problems have become an almost ridiculous sub-plot to all the various and endless issues afflicting this club.

However, while Calvert-Lewin’s constant absences have become a really tiresome issue, without him fit and firing I simply can’t see this team ultimately staying up.

Because while the defence has been solid in the two home wins under Dyche, Everton can’t rely on being able to keep clean sheets every week.

There is I think little chance of the Toffees’ managing to win week-in-week-out by a single goal, even at a rocking Goodison Park.

So, the manager still has a big job to find imaginative ways to create and score more goals. That’s a tall order.

Last weekend he decided to stick with his 4-5-1 formation and played Neal Maupay as the lone striker having used Ellis Simms in that role at Anfield.

Maupay didn’t make much impression but worked hard to provide a focal point. I presume Dyche will stick with him again on Saturday.

One bit of good news is that midfielder Amadou Onana is fit to face the Villans this weekend after his injury scare.

This is positive as the young Belgian has been a force in these two home wins alongside Abdoulaye Doucoure and Idrissa Gueye.

But while Dyche’s tactics have worked well overall, it does leave the lone centre-forward very isolated and struggling to make an impact.

That’s ok when Calvert-Lewin is that player, as he’s a natural front-running number nine comfortable playing on his own up top.

Neither Maupay or Simms is though that type of striker, so there’s going to be not much joy in pumping the ball up to them hoping they can get hold of it and give others a chance to get forward and support.

Dyche’s approach means that wide players Dwight McNeil and Alex Iwobi have a big responsibility to get up and provide support to their striker.

McNeil especially though, isn’t really that type of player. He wants to stay out wide and put crosses in as much as possible.

One option might be to play Demarai Gray instead of McNeil out wide. Gray does offer more pace and direct running and would provide a bit more support to Maupay (if he starts).

That would though mean that McNeil’s ability to put a good quality ball in would be lost. This has proved instramental in the team’s set pieces, a key part of Dyche’s plans and the best route to goals without DCL.

As for Saturday’s opponents, Villa have been revived since sacking Steven Gerrard earlier in the season and their form since has seen them climb the Premier League to sit mid-table.

However, recently they have hit a poor run and have lost the last three games, conceding four goals at home twice and three at Manchester City.

Another three points on Saturday does seem vital with all the Toffee’s remaining home games being crucial opportunities for maximum points.

After managing two wins by a single goal without conceding, it seems improbable that Everton can maintain that same formula yet again as I think Villa will score on Saturday.

This means the Blues’ will have to get at least two themselves to win, something they haven’t been able to do since beating Crystal Palace 3-0 way back in late October. That’s four months ago and Calvert-Lewin was in the side that day.

In fact that win was only the second time all season long the Toffees’ have managed more than a solitary goal, alongside a 2-1 win at Southampton.

It makes for grim reading, and without Calvert-Lewin the odds of them netting more than once against Villa, seem very long indeed.