Easy pickings for Everton
Everton host Norwich City on Saturday with a win giving them a chance to break into the top four. Rafael Benitez lost his first match at the helm last time out, 3-0 away to Aston Villa, however the scoreline did flatter Dean Smith’s men that day. They have possibly their easiest game of the season on paper, Emiliano Buendia-less Norwich are looking even less capable than they were in 2019/20 and therefore the Toffees rightly come in as strong favourites. Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray look outstanding pieces of business on the cheap this summer as Benitez looks to have Everton pushing for a top eight finish.
Everton have started brightly, they have been very solid defensively and look like a side who, if they can find some consistency, will certainly finish in the top eight and maybe even flirt with the Europa League places this season. Benitez has been flexible tactically so far this season and may plump for a more attacking system against the Canaries with anything but a win set to be deemed a failure.
The Toffees are averaging a healthy but not sparkling 1.66 expected goals (xG) per game where Norwich are conceding 2.38 per game, the second worst defensive process in the division. It has to be a little bit frustrating for the Norwich supporters who saw their defence not up to scratch in the top-flight in 2019/20 and are seemingly having the exact same script read out to them two years on, beginning the season with five straight defeats where they have scored just two goals.
As previously mentioned, without the hope and edge of your seat entertainment that Buendia provides. Stuart Webber receives a lot of credit for running a tight ship at Carrow Road and ensuring long term stability while being competitive as a top 26 club in England. However, their summer spending smacked of a lack of ambition considering the television revenue of being in the Premier League. An ageing Teemu Pukki has scored both of their league goals so far this season with only one from open play.
It will be an interesting test of character and Benitez’ motivation to ensure his players treat this match like any other game and do not drop their level purely because they expect to win.
It has to be an Everton based play with an anti-Norwich selection added to increase the odds.