Wolves vs Everton: Inside track on The Toffees
Wolves open their Premier League season with a home clash with Everton this weekend.
We spoke with Phil Kirkbride, Everton reporter for the Liverpool Echo, Rodger Armstrong, host of the EvertonBusinessMatters Podcast, and Lyndon Lloyd, chief writer for ToffeeWeb.com and 1878 Magazine to get a proper take on the Toffees.
See what they had to say here...
We've seen plenty of change at Everton this summer, how has Marco Silva taken to life at the club?
PK: Well. It remains very early days for Marco - he only took charge of training for the first time on July 2 - but he looks a good fit for the club.
Silva, we hope, can bring a refreshed style to Everton's play after some of the play under Sam Allardyce was tough to watch.
RA: Silva’s appointment was one of the worst kept secrets in football.
Whilst pre-season results have been poor, he’s got the fans right behind him, especially because he isn’t Sam Allardyce.
He appears to have developed a good relationship with Marcel Brands, the new Director of Football, & we’ve done some fabulous business both in & out.
In fact we had a wonderful deadline day with the acquisitions of Bernard, Yerry Mina & Andre Gomes.
LL: Very well, it would seem, from what we could glean from the final friendly of pre-season against Valencia last weekend — Everton lost but there were the first tangible signs of the way wants his team to play — and the club’s dealings in the transfer market.
Unlike a year ago under Ronald Koeman and former head of recruitment, Steve Walsh, Silva and new Director of Football, Marcel Brands, approached this window with a clear plan that has seen some exciting new players brought into the club.
That the likes of Bernard, Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes speak so glowingly of the manager and his role in persuading them to come suggests we might have the right man in charge this time!
Richarlison has been the big-name signing at Goodison Park by the looks of things, do you expect him to start and be the main danger-man this weekend? If not, who do you think they should worry about and why?
PK: Richarlison is nailed on to start, barring injury of course.
He has been one of few high points in Everton's pre-season and has looked a threat.
Blues fans are excited about his potential for sure.
RA: Richarlison has looked very bright albeit in limited game time so far in the Royal Blue.
We’d hope that he can form part of a much more attacking team with Sigurdsson, Walcott, Tosun & now Bernard.
LL: Yes, unlike the deadline-day signings, Richarlison is expected to start and if pre-season is any indication, he will almost certainly be Everton’s main threat against Wolves.
He was head-and-shoulders above his team-mates in his first couple of games but Theo Walcott also hit the ground running in the Valencia friendly so much is expected of the two wide men.
In attack, Cenk Tosun has looked increasingly sharp and is developing a reputation for efficiency based on his ratio of goals scored to chances created for him.
What have you made of Everton's transfer business?
PK: As we speak, on Thursday lunchtime, it has been good but has the potential to have been excellent.
Richarlison looks a really good player and Lucas Digne comes to the club with real pedigree and an excellent CV.
Everton have also managed to trim the squad (and that will continue until the end of the month).
RA: I'm really happy with it, Mina and Bernard have something to prove & are ambitious, talented players. Mina should add much needed defensive steel; though unlikely to feature at Molineux.
Gomes should add an extra midfield dimension too.
LL: They left it late but the Blues’ recruitment team has done some excellent business this summer overall.
Some of last season’s expensive square pegs have been jettisoned and the wage bill has been reduced along with the average age of the squad.
The oldest of the new recruits this summer was 25 which speaks volumes about what Brands and Silva saw when they inherited from the previous regime.
Not only that, there has been a badly-needed injection of flair and invention in the form of Richarlison and Bernard, ball-retention ability in Andre Gomes, while a worryingly weak defence looks to have been augmented soundly by Mina from Barcelona and Kurt Zouma from Chelsea.
How do you expect Everton to shape-up against Wolves, will they see Nuno's side as a target giving their promotion last season?
PK: Silva's preferred formation is 4-3-3, although there are variations within that.
He likes to play with width, pace and moving the ball through the lines quickly. Some of the players haven't quite got to grips with it yet, unfortunately.
There's an appreciation among Blues fans that Saturday night's opener will be very, very difficult. Wolves have momentum, an impressive coach and appear to have bought well.
RA: I would like to see us play without 2 holding midfielders, either in 4-3-3 or 4-4-2.
We’ll need to be a lot more solid at the back, though.
Going to a newly promoted team in the opening game is always tough.
Wolves have some dangerous players including Jota & Neves, largely unknown to Premier League teams.
LL: In terms of the line-up and formation, it should be similar to that which started against Valencia, the first team selection that hinted at Silva’s preferred personnel after a period of assessment and consideration of the squad.
Of the new boys, only Richarlison and Lucas Digne are likely to start so the main concern will be that soft centre in the middle of defence.
The promoted teams, hopped up on the adrenaline and enthusiasm of coming up, often get off to a flier which will make Wolves a dangerous prospect to begin with.
Given how impressively they have bought this summer, they could prove to be a very tough proposition for Everton, depending on whether or not their instantly gel.
How have Everton fared in pre-season? Have they had positive preparations this summer?
PK: After winning their opening friendly 22-0 in Austria, it's been downhill since.
The Blues have drawn two and lost four of their following six warm up games.
The feel around the squad, players and manager has been positive but the performances haven't matched that optimism.
RA: Pre-season has given Silva a chance to run the rule over the squad, deciding who to keep & who to let go.
Results have been poor, just beating a Austrian 'pub team' & losing, amongst others, to Blackburn, Lille & Valencia.
The transfer activity show you clearly the conclusions he reached.
LL: If you discount the practice game against lowly Austrian side ATV Irdning in which they ran out 22-0 winners, Everton’s pre-season has been disconcertingly poor.
Including a defeat on penalties to Lille in the Algarve Cup, the Blues lost five out of six friendlies.
Those results aside, there have been glimmers that Marco Silva’s preparations, which have included a fairly rigorous focus on fitness, and gradual implementation of his preferred style are starting to bear fruit.
Are there any injury worries at Goodison Park heading into the opener?
PK: Apart from long-term absentee James McCarthy, Everton look to have a clean bill of health.
RA: We should have a fully fit squad barring McCarthy, excluding the deadline day signings who’ll be short of match fitness.
LL: Mason Holgate is, perhaps, the main worry as it has robbed Everton of arguably their best centre half of those that would ordinarily be available so soon after the deadline day business.
Midfielder Andre Gomes arrives at the club this week carrying a hamstring injury but it’s unlikely he would have been thrown straight into the starting XI anyway.
James McCarthy is continuing his recovery from a broken leg and is still some way off a return but other than that, the Blues are in good shape.
What have you made of Wolves from afar? Do you think they have a team capable of cutting it in the Premier League this season?
PK: Wolves are a real dark horse this season. Promoted sides, more often than not, have periods of struggle when they come up but Wolves look equip to handle that and finish in the top half.
RA: Wolves bossed the Championship last season & look to have spent well this summer.
The Portuguese thread must help team spirit & togetherness; I would expect Wolves to stay up comfortably.
LL: Wolves certainly seem to be taking an aggressive approach to their return to the top flight with some savvy and significant investments in new talent that should stand them in very good stead for the season.
There is a good mix of international experience, most notably from Rui Patricio and one-time Everton target, Joao Moutinho, and up-and-coming talent like Leander Dendeoncker and Adama Traore.
You look at the selection players they have added to the squad that got them promoted and you can’t help but feel as though Wolves would be a very good best to stay up.
Your match prediction?
You can follow Phil, Rodger and Lyndon by searching for @philkecho, @rodgerarmstrong and @Everton1an on Twitter, you can also tune in to the EvertonBusinessMatters podcast by searching for @EBM_Podcast.