The Sky cameras are present for Everton’s first match of the New Year, as the Toffees travel to the Hawthorns to play West Brom. Everton are unbeaten in three matches after draws with Norwich and Sunderland; either side of a win over Swansea. West Brom drew 0-0 draw at home to high-flying Manchester City in their last fixture. The Baggies became the first team to prevent City from scoring, in the Premier League, this season. West Brom will be wary of the fact they’ve won just one of their last 5 home games.
The two clubs’ have met 10 times in the Premier League. David Moyes won his first 3 games against West Brom but has won just two of the last seven against the Baggies. Everton have lost and failed to score in 3 of the last 5 at the Hawthorns, although the Toffees won the other two games 2-1. West Brom will be looking to carry on from last season, as they did the double over Everton, winning 4-1 at Goodison Park and 1-0 at home. The two games resulted in three red cards; both sides will hope this game is more disciplined.
Both sides have struggled to keep clean sheets this season. West Brom’s shut out of Manchester City was their first clean sheet in 10 games and Everton have kept just two clean sheets in their last 10 games. The Toffees have kept three clean sheets this season with the Baggies registering four. Both sides also struggle for goals; only Wigan and Swansea have scored less than Everton whilst West Brom have scored the fewest goals at home (7).
Both sides are unable to keep clean sheets and struggle to score goals; the two most important aspects of football. However, both have useful strings to their bows. West Brom score 63% of their goals in the first half and Everton score 72% of their goals in the second half – both league highs. Everton have failed to score in the first half of their last six matches.
West Brom will be wary of the threat that Leighton Baines offers down the Everton left. Whilst the left back hasn’t hit the heights of last season; in terms of assists, the key to stopping Everton is to stop Baines. The left back leads the way in most of the team’s key statistics. One astonishing stat is the number of passes made in opposition territory. Baines has attempted 711 passes, this season, and just 100 have been in his own half.
Influential West Brom midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu may miss out (Groin) and there are doubts over James Morrison (Hamstring). Steven Reid is 3-4 weeks away from a return (Knee) and Zoltan Gera remains out indefinitely with a serious injury (Knee). Billy Jones has taken Reid’s place, in his absence, and is likely to continue at right back on Sunday. Everton will need to be wary of Paul Scharner who has a habit of scoring against Everton.
New signing Landon Donovan will have to wait for his second Everton début, due to player registration. Jack Rodwell returned to training this week and will undergo a fitness test (Hamstring). Victor Anichebe remains the only long-term absentee (Groin). Seamus Coleman will to miss out again (Thigh) although he could return for the midweek clash with Bolton.
Everton’s biggest loss is Marouane Fellaini (Abductor). The big haired Belgian missed the Boxing Day clash with Sunderland due to the same injury. The Everton midfield struggled during that game, especially during the second half. The Belgian isn’t always appreciated by the Goodison faithful yet his influence on the team is undeniable.
To counter the loss of Fellaini, David Moyes has used Phil Neville as a central midfielder for his defensive qualities. The club captain has struggled for form, this season, and his best form at Everton has come from right back. Due to the injury to Jack Rodwell, Everton’s midfield has become ultra defensive with John Heitinga being pushed into midfield alongside Neville; allowing Sylvain Distin to play centre back.
A quick comparison between Neville and Everton’s two most creative midfielders; Leon Osman and Royston Drenthe, shows that Neville’s defence capabilities are not as strong as many would believe. Neville is very similar to and often worse than Osman and Drenthe, in terms of defensive work. Any advantages Neville may hold are not enough for his inclusion as a specialist holding midfielder. Everton could benefit from an attacking approach as Neville offers no attacking threat and Everton’s most creative midfielders are matching him defensively.
Key: Green: 1st |Yellow: 2nd |Pink: 3rd
Both teams are in good form; unbeaten in their last 3 league games. Both teams have the same problems, as they struggle to score goals and keep clean sheets, it points towards a tight, cagey affair; especially since both managers tend to air on the cautious side. Expect a low scoring score draw or one team to win by the odd goal. A goalless draw would be the first between the two teams in over 30 years.
4 – Penalties have been conceded by West Brom in their last 5 home games
10 – Everton games have been played on January 1st. (Won 2 Drawn 1 Lost 7)
20 – Goals have been scored against Everton this season; only the Top 3 and Liverpool have conceded less
30 – Games since Tim Cahill’s last Everton goal. He failed to score in for Everton in 2011
999 – Everton’s Premier League points total. They will be the 7th team to pass the 1000 mark