EPL PREVIEW: High-flying Everton approach Merseyside derby full of confidence

Chia Han Keong
·7-min read
Everton players celebrating a goal against Brighton during their English Premier League clash.
Everton players celebrating a goal against Brighton during their English Premier League clash. (PHOTO: Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — What are the key matches and storylines to look out for in the next round of English Premier League (EPL) action? Yahoo News Singapore lists the top three:

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Everton v Liverpool (Saturday, 7.30pm Singapore time)

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has a dilemma ahead of what will be his side’s biggest match of the current EPL season: which Liverpool side will show up at Goodison Park for the traditionally-fierce Merseyside derby on Saturday (17 October)?

Will it be a relentless Liverpool which steamrolled over the entire league en route to their title last season?

Or will it be a shell-shocked Liverpool still trying to pick up the pieces from a humiliating 2-7 thrashing by Aston Villa two weeks ago?

Whatever it is, Ancelotti will have to ensure that his side maintain their scintillating start to the season, in which they have won the opening four matches and scored 12 goals so far.

Long-time fans who suffered through dour and defensive Everton sides trotted out by past managers such as David Moyes and Sam Allardyce must be over the moon at the stylish attacking force put out by Ancelotti.

Indeed, the Toffees’ midfield has been utterly transformed with three key signings: James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure. Each of them offers different traits that make for a dynamic combination: Rodriguez’s creativity, Doucoure’s hard-running, and Allan’s defensive nous.

And the midfield upgrades have in turn improved others. Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is in the form of his life with six league goals already, while the defence line has been boosted by Allan’s additional coverage.

All these means Everton will be brimming with confidence as they try to break a winless streak against their city rivals that dates back to 2011, totalling 22 matches.

Liverpool, on the other hand, have to come to terms with the staggering loss to Villa, the first time they had conceded seven goals since 1963.

Seeing their high defence line being breached time and again could plant seeds of doubt amid the players, who may have been a touch too over-confident after their recent successes.

This is where manager Jurgen Klopp must use his powers of motivation to raise the players, to convince them that their defensive strategy remains sound, and to exhort them to cut out the individual mistakes that led to the Villa rout.

Whether the team can brush off that chastening defeat and return to their unrelenting best remains to be seen, which makes this Merseyside derby evenly balanced for the first time in recent years.

Can Everton finally end their long winless run? Can Rodriguez deal with Liverpool’s high-intensity pressing? Can Liverpool’s defence stop the red-hot Calvert-Lewin? It promises to be a contest of high intrigue.

SCORE PREDICTION: Everton 1 Liverpool 2

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Phil Foden of Manchester City  battles for possession with Dani Ceballos of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Powell/Pool via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Phil Foden of Manchester City battles for possession with Dani Ceballos of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Powell/Pool via Getty Images)

Manchester City v Arsenal (Sunday, 12.30am)

The disciple returns to the master, as Mikel Arteta takes his fast-improving Arsenal to face Manchester City, whom he had served as assistant coach since 2016 under Pep Guardiola.

Arteta would have close knowledge of how Guardiola shaped City’s brilliant offensive game that brought them two EPL titles in the last three years.

While he has not exactly transplanted those swashbuckling tactics to Arsenal since his appointment last December, he has moulded the Gunners into a side reminiscent of his playing days as a steely defensive midfielder, capably addressing the London club’s recent malaise of lightweight defence and midfield lines.

Arsenal have began the season with three wins out of four matches, a sign that they are on their way up after finishing only eighth last season. With new acquisition Thomas Partey projected to add dynamism to their midfield, they Gunners will be keen to register their first league win over City since 2015.

And with Man City starting the season in indifferent form, they may have a chance.

City have one win, one draw and one defeat so far in the EPL – mediocre by their recent lofty standards. It seems as if they are still reeling from their shock exit in last season Champions League quarter-finals, when it seemed as if they were in the best position to clinch the one trophy coveted by their Abu Dhabi owners.

There is also talk that they are getting increasingly jaded by Guardiola’s training methods. The Spaniard is reaching five years at the club, and has never worked past that in each of his previous coaching appointments. Players at his previous clubs have spoken of being burnt out by his methods; could the same be happening at City now?

Whatever it is, City are still a formidable side, capable of scoring against any opponent. As long as Guardiola does not overthink his tactics, they are eminently capable of brushing Arsenal aside with outstanding attacking talents like Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne.

Can their defence hold off Arsenal? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette will pose plenty of problems, and Arteta will hope their speediness can catch City off-guard. There could be goals galore in this key match.

SCORE PREDICTION: Man City 3 Arsenal 2.

Manchester United defender Harry Maguire is enduring poor form.
Manchester United defender Harry Maguire is enduring poor form. (PHOTO: Carl Recine/ AFP via Getty Images)

Newcastle United v Manchester United (Sunday, 3am)

To say that Manchester United have had an unsatisfactory transfer window would be an understatement. Their long pursuit of Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho came to nothing, they failed to strengthen their key weak areas such as central defence, and there was a sense of dysfunction and panic as the Red Devils stumbled badly in their opening EPL matches.

Deadline day saw Man United made two signings. While left-back Alex Telles seems like a promising upgrade in that position, many fans were wondering why United signed free agent Edinson Cavani – a prolific striker for sure, but there are doubts on whether his best years are already behind him.

Meanwhile, captain Harry Maguire is enduring a horrendous loss of form, culminating in his sending-off while playing for England in the Uefa Nations League in midweek. The centre-back has not looked the same since his arrest in Greece in the summer, and manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer has to decide if he needs some time off to get his head straight.

Not that the Norwegian has any capable deputy left in central defence. In fact, he has had to play underperforming players like David de Gea and Paul Pogba through horror shows such as their 1-6 capitulation against Tottenham Hotspur.

With so many problems surrounding the Red Devils, a trip north to Newcastle does not seem like it could bring some respite. The Magpies have started the season well under Steve Bruce – with two wins, a draw and a defeat to be currently in ninth spot – although their defensive style has not given their fans much to be excited about.

It is hard to see how Man United can put together a sterling performance with much many personnel problems, and Solskjaer must need all his managerial know-how to lift his side to a respectable showing. Hopefully his players can respond.

SCORE PREDICTION: Newcastle 1 Man United 1

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