By Dean Gregory
Everton vs Aston Villa
A solid performance against Crystal Palace last time out means that Villa still has a lifeline to cling on to, even if it is very thin. Next up is a trip to Everton – three points will be absolutely crucial from this one.
Everton will finish this season safe no matter what happens here. For them, this match will be a chance to bounce back after a three match run of bad form. There is nothing on the line for them but pride.
Can Villa win and go into the final two games with the Great Escape fully up and running?
Everton – W W L D L
Aston Villa – D L L L W
Carlo Ancelotti on missing out on Europe
“This club has to compete in Europe. The best scenario is to compete in the Champions League or Europa League. We’re not able to do it this season but next year we want to fight to compete in European competition. It is a target for this club.
“We didn’t put a timeframe on this. This season did not start well for Everton. We were close to the bottom of the table. We dreamed to get into Europe. It is still the plan but the priority when I arrived was to be safe as quickly as possible.”
Dean Smith on squad belief
“It’s been hard for the players to maintain that belief when they’ve put in some really good performances and not quite got the rub of the green.
“So it was nice to get that victory and it was a well-deserved victory too. Hopefully we will take a lot from that. Something had to change for us and thankfully it did against Palace.
“We felt we were really competitive in that game and we’ll be really competitive against Everton. The lads will have to do that again but getting that win has given everyone a lift.”
Everton have deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation this season in 12 games, for a record of 4 wins, 1 draw and 7 losses. Their more successful tactic has been to use a classic flat 4-4-2 with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison up front, Fabian Delph in behind them and any combination of Michael Keane, Mason Holgate and Yerry Mina in defence. This has seen them get 7 wins, 7 draws and just 3 losses.
Their average possession across the season is 48.5% and their pass success rate has been 77.4% – comfortably average stats for a team sitting pretty in mid-table. They try to play possession-based football, but they are not beyond resorting to long passes from the back – 15% of all passes they play are long. With Calvert-Lewin up front, who wins 5.1 aerial duels per game, this is a viable strategy for them.
They like to use the width of the field to their advantage. Wingers Theo Walcott and Bernard will tend to stay wide, but can drift infield when their full-backs Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne overlap them on the outside. Digne in particular likes to cross the ball in, providing 2.1 crosses per game.
Everton have scored 41 goals from 51.05 xG – they are very good at carving out chances and take a lot of shots, but they are bad at making use of them. Most of those goals have been scored by Richalison and Calvert-Lewin who have 25 between them (12 and 13, respectively); to have two players who are prolific in front of goal is a blessing for any team, but Everton could be accused of being too reliant on them – their next highest scorer is Bernard, who has three.
They have conceded 52 goals from an xGA of 49.04. Their defence handles the pressure they are put under reasonably well, but they will be mindful of how much pressure they are expected to deal with
One to Watch
There is little to separate Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison in terms of who is the bigger threat, so Villa would do well to treat both of them with the same caution. Of the two, Richarlison perhaps stands out as the more versatile player overall. He has played in many positions throughout the season and has been equally effective in all of them. His contribution to the team effort has earned him six MotM awards, a team high.
However, Calvert-Lewin’s aerial ability is crucial to how Everton play – he can be used as a target man to bypass the midfield altogether, and he can also score with his head. His role in the team is more predictable, but no less important.
Everton 2-3 Aston Villa – 07-12-2008
A first minute strike from Steve Sidwell, followed by a late brace from Ashley Young, was enough to see off Everton in dramatic fashion.
Aston Villa 2-0 Everton – 23-08-2019
Villa’s first win of the season saw Wesley score his first Premier League goal, with Anwar El-Ghazi putting a second away late on, in front of the best atmosphere at Villa Park for a league game this season.
How it could play out
Much is made of how this is the most contested fixture in all of English football. The spoils have been shared pretty evenly throughout the years, with Villa winning 81 and Everton just edging it with 82, and 58 draws along the way. The pendulum has swung slightly in their favour over recent years however – historical precedent would hand them the advantage here.
Looking at the current situation both teams find themselves in, you might be tempted to hand that advantage to Villa. A tough restart to the season has dented their survival hopes considerably, but somehow they are still not out of it yet. They played like their lives were on the line against Palace, and their most coherent performance in a while will be a boost in confidence for them.
Villa will hope for further improvement from their forward line with Samatta desperately needing a goal or two to give him confidence. He’s currently averaging a shot on target every 296 minutes of football, which isn’t helping Villa’s cause.
Meanwhile, Everton have looked a little lost in their last few games. There is nothing they can gain anymore from their final three fixtures other than a sense of personal pride, and their loss against Wolves seemed a little lethargic.
It cannot be overstated how important a win here is for Villa, and that sort of motivation is something that absolutely plays a part in winning vital games. If they show up in the same way as they did against Palace, a win is not out of reach either.
Judging by the season as a whole, Everton would be a clear favourite here, but given what’s at stake for both teams and the disparity in their recent performances, the tale is not so obvious.
Everton 0-1 Aston Villa
We believe… It simply means more to Villa than it does to Everton. Sometimes, that little belief makes all the difference. Momentum could see Villa survive, and here is their chance to get some.