Everton welcome Newcastle to Goodison Park as they look to bounce back from the dismal West Brom showing. Alan Pardew’s Newcastle side are trying to contend with a raft of injuries following their home draw with Aston Villa.
Goodison is a fortress with Everton winning 12 of their last 15 at home. In those 15 matches, Everton have scored 31 and conceded just five in the process. Everton’s last nine home league games have returned eight wins and seven clean sheets. Full of confidence after five successive home league wins, Everton are formidable on their own patch.
Meeting on the final day of last season, Everton ran out comfortable winners. Newcastle won the St. James’ Park meeting, as a John Heitinga own goal compounded Everton’s misery. Back in 2010, Hatem Ben Arfa scored his first Newcastle goal in a 1 – 0 win; Newcastle’s only win at Everton in eleven years.
After his injury at West Brom, Darron Gibson is out for another two – three weeks. Deadline day signing Bryan Oviedo is unlikely to feature as his transfer from FC Copenhagen is finalised. Aside from those two absentees, Everton are at full strength.
The visitors, however, are in the midst of an injury crisis. Without three of their first choice back five, Newcastle’s defence will have a makeshift look. Tim Krul’s injury will give Steve Harper a first league start since April 2011. Fabricio Coloccini, Danny Simpson, Cheick Tioté and Ryan Taylor make up the injured list.
The Importance of a Playmaker
Steven Pienaar and Hatem Ben Arfa are creative players – a must in any side. Pienaar’s partnership with Leighton Baines is one of the countries’ finest whilst Ben Arfa is capable of a goal out of nothing. They are the creative hubs for their respective sides but the two differ stylistically.
Pienaar’s strengths are ball retention and the ability to bring others into play. This is clear with his higher volume of passes and greater accuracy. Ben Arfa’s strengths are pace and trickery in creating scoring opportunities. Ben Arfa’s tendency to dribble at opponents helps to highlight this.
Despite their contrasting styles, both are vital to their managers. Highlighted in two previous articles, Pienaar’s importance to Everton is clear. For Newcastle, Ben Arfa provides genuine class. In a well-organised team, Ben Arfa is the vital cog in the Newcastle machine.
Key Man: Marouane Fellaini
Predominantly used as an attacking midfielder since the season began, Fellaini has experienced mixed fortunes. Dominant against Manchester United and impressive at Aston Villa, Fellaini struggled against West Brom. Useful in the advanced role, Fellaini remains at his best in the heart of the Everton midfield.
With his size and strength, Fellaini can dominate opposing midfielders in central midfield. When used further forward, Everton miss his two biggest assets; they are his tackling and aerial ability.
Down 22% on last season, Fellaini’s aerial success rate has dropped rapidly. With his back to goal, it is harder for Fellaini to win aerial contests. When used in midfield, Fellaini can attack the ball and make use of his height.
The most noticeable change is the tackling statistics. Absent from the thick of the action, Fellaini is making a tackle every 38 minutes in contrast to 29 minutes in 11/12. Since his move forward, the Belgian’s tackle success rate has plummeted. Last season, Fellaini won almost 85% of tackles. This season, that statistic is down at 57.14%.
Following the injury to Darron Gibson, it is imperative that Fellaini returns to central midfield. Up against the combative duo of Cabaye and Anita, Everton need Fellaini’s physical presence in the heart of midfield.
Given their recent home form, David Moyes’ side have every reason to feel confident. With their mounting injury crisis, Newcastle would probably settle for a point. Both teams ended last season in top form and this makes for an intriguing encounter.
5 – Since 18th Dec 2011, Everton have conceded just 5 league goals at Goodison Park
5 – After 13 in his first 12 games, Papiss Cisse has gone five games without a goal
13 – Penalties in this fixture since August 1998; a league high
13 – Newcastle have gone 13 away games without a draw
999 – Newcastle’s Premier League goals tally