Lucas Digne

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What we love about Everton

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up is Everton.

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Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

We head to the blue side of Liverpool for this post.


(Almost) All The Way Up: The Toffees are one of six teams to have not been relegated in the Premier League era, and the club feels like its brimming with potential at the beginning of so many seasons. The fits and starts of late have only served to fuel hope for a return to glory; Remember: Everton won the league twice in the 1980s and claimed a Cup Winners’ Cup, too, when they outlasted Dublin, Internacional Bratislava, Fortuna Sittard, Bayern Munich, and finally Rapid Vienna to lift the silverware in 1985 at Feyenoord Stadium in Rotterdam. With a young local brood — Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Mason Holgate — coming into its own alongside Richarlison and Lucas Digne, can the Toffees ride back into Europe?

Commitment to Community: This club puts a special stamp on being a part of its community through Everton in the Community. We especially love “The Goodison Sleepout,” where the Toffees’ U-23s join members of the communities in spending the night at stadium to raise money for young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. It’s an incredible organization and an inspiration for community-based clubs around the world.

Everton
(Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

 


The Merseyside Derby: No club feels right without its top villain, and Liverpool and Everton wage at least two intense battles a year between Anfield and Goodison Park. This part of the post feels a little goofy at the moment given the Reds dominance over the derby — The Reds have 11 wins and 10 draws since Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta keyed a 2010 win at Goodison — but make no mistake about the atmosphere between these two. The potential is there for it to stand alone as the most important derby on a league calendar.

Tim Howard: Yeah, this fellas hasn’t been with the Toffees for some time, but he left Goodison with the third-most appearances in club history. Leighton Baines has since past Howard’s 413 appearances but the American goalkeeper is safely in the Toffees’ top four unless Phil Jagielka transfers back (Seamus Coleman is 103 behind). Howard was so, so good.

Everton
(Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

2019-20 Premier League Best XI so far

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With the coronavirus shutdown of all major European soccer, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the players who have stood out to this point as the table begins to truly take shape. Liverpool is just a hair away from securing the 2019/20 title, but not everything is about the Reds – although a lot of it still is.

[ MORE: Possible end dates | PST roundtable ]

With that in mind, here’s the frontrunners at each position for Premier League Team of the Season, with the players who could also make a leap into the conversation with a strong finish to the campaign, if they ever get the chance.

Premier League Best XI

Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
Also considered: Alisson Becker

Harsh on Alisson, who is leading the way for one of the best back lines in Premier League history, but Dean Henderson has been just as brilliant in far more difficult circumstances. The Manchester United loanee has starred at Sheffield United, prompting talk that the Red Devils should cut his loan short and instill the 23-year-old’s loan short and bring him on to take over for a struggling David De Gea. While many have labeled the shot-stopper “England’s future number one,” it’s entirely possible that Henderson would have been the starter had Euro 2020 not been postponed until next season, and it’s certainly fathomable that the youngster could still be first-choice once the tournament arrives. There are recent rumors among English tabloids that Manchester United is preparing a new contract for Henderson worth nearly $120,000 a week, which would be more than backup goalkeeper Sergio Romero currently makes and about equal with new midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

Ederson is normally considered part of this list as well, but he just hasn’t performed up to the level required this season considering how he sparkled in Manchester City’s title campaign last time around.

Left-back: Andrew Robertson
Also considered: Ben Chilwell, Lucas Digne, Jonny

While Robertson doesn’t burst off the page like his fellow full-back teammate Alexander-Arnold (more on that in a moment), he is still far and away the best left-back in the league. The former Hull City man who joined Liverpool for just $9 million back in 2017 has flourished into one of the world’s best, and his chemistry with Alexander-Arnold is growing the two into a legendary pairing. He is a long-ball master, delivering 2.4 per game, the most of any left-back in the league and third among full-backs to just Kyle Walker and Alexander-Arnold.

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Also considered: Ricardo Pereira, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Did you know the Premier League was absolutely stacked at right-back? If not for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is quickly establishing himself as the best full-back in the world and has a shot at a place among the greatest of all-time should he maintain this form for a number of years, the likes of Ricardo Pereira and Aaron Wan-Bissaka would actually have a legitimate shot at this award. Pereira’s performance this season has been so good he’s earned himself links to Real Madrid, and both he and Wan-Bissaka are tackle masters who are blowing away the rest of the league in that category (both are the only men not named Wilfried Ndidi to average over 4 successful tackles per match). Throw in Kyle Walker and wing-back Matt Doherty, and the ranks of Premier League right-backs are loaded. Too bad TAA trumps them all, with a gargantuan 12 assists this season and 2.6 key passes per game, more than double the total of any other right-back.

Center-Back: Virgil Van Dijk, Harry Maguire
Also considered: Caglar Soyuncu, Wily Boly, James Tarkowski

Selecting one of these players is a no-brainer. Virgil van Dijk is far and away the best center-back in the Premier League, and maybe the world. Selecting his partner is far more difficult.

WhoScored’s second-highest rated player at the position this season is Wily Boly, but like Scott McTominay, thanks to injuries he has not played enough this season to qualify. Caglar Soyuncu is another popular choice, and the youngster no doubt has been a pleasant surprise next to Jonny Evans at Leicester City, one of the league’s rising stars at the position. But Harry Maguire lived up to his price tag this season and that’s no small feat as the world’s most expensive defender. His positioning is exquisite, and while he hasn’t displayed van Dijk levels of domination – a slight slip in form through the months of October and November prove that – he has done fabulously at Manchester United, racking up a complete 2,610-minute Premier League season to this point and playing significant minutes through the other Cup competitions as well while the Red Devils struggle with injuries all over the pitch.

Defensive Midfield: Wilfred Ndidi
Also considered: Scott McTominay, Declan Rice, Jorginho

Wilfred Ndidi is a midfield destroyer the likes of which we haven’t seen since…well, since N’Golo Kante did it first at Leicester City just a few short years ago. But that doesn’t take away from the otherworldly performance that Ndidi has put forth this season, given that Kante earned himself Ballon d’Or nominations for his performance in Leicester City’s title-winning season. See this from November:

Ndidi is completing 4.4 successful tackles a game, only second to Crystal Palace’s James McCarthy who has only appeared in 12 games this season. He is doing so in a vicious pressing system that centrals around the Nigerian’s ability to cover an insane amount of ground, easing the pressing load on the other players as to not tire them out. Need an idea how important Ndidi is to the team? Of the five matches he missed in 2020 due to a knee injury, Leicester City won exactly zero of them, with three losses and two draws. He’s so important to the squad that Pep Guardiola game-planned for him successfully.

Scott McTominay has been a revelation this season, taking the next step into one of the league’s best defensive midfielders, but he missed too many games due to injury. Declan Rice continues to push forward as one of West Ham’s best assets, but has been unable to assert the same table-climbing effect on his side that Ndidi exerts on Leicester City.

Central Midfield: Jordan Henderson, Kevin De Bruyne
Also considered: Joao Moutinho, John Fleck

Kevin de Bruyne is everyone’s first choice on this squad. Leading the league 17 assists and producing scintillating displays nearly every week. The Belgian has displayed positional flexibility, often best sitting behind the striker in an attacking midfield role but also moving back into central midfield to receive the ball deeper or shifting out wide to make use of his crossing technique. De Bruyne will likely battle with van Dijk for Player of the Season should the awards eventually end up given out.

On the other end, Jordan Henderson is a perfect foil for de Bruyne. The Liverpool captain has been gargantuan this season, moving from cult hero to widespread household name. Henderson is a lynchpin of the highest order, calming the side and bringing structure to the buildup while helping defensively when Liverpool is hit on the counter.

The others considered from this position deserve to be mentioned. Joao Moutinho, along with midfield partner Ruben Neves, has turned the Wolves midfield into a dominant force no matter who they play. While they don’t necessarily hold the ball for endless spells of possession, they have been vicious when moving forward and relentless when shielding the back line. John Fleck, meanwhile, has been the other Sheffield United standout this season alongside Henderson, and his performance this season must be mentioned given where the Blades sit in the table.

Attacking Midfield: Jack Grealish
Also considered: James Maddison, Mason Mount

As far as players who are the most important to their team, Jack Grealish is unquestionably tops of that list. The Aston Villa midfielder has produced spectacular performance after spectacular performance this season, often the best player on the field despite Villa’s overall struggles. With his current club potentially going down should the season be concluded, Grealish is being linked with teams scattered across the top of the Premier League table and rightly so. At just 24 years old, Grealish has grown into a flourishing attacker who excels at taking players on and creating chances out of nothing.

Mason Mount has been fabulous for Chelsea this season, but injuries have hampered his campaign. The Blues should nonetheless be encouraged about the bright future of their young star. James Maddison has been equally fantastic for Leicester City in a similar role with freedom around the pitch, but he doesn’t quite carry his team like Grealish does. The youth on this list should be encouraging for the long-term health of attacking systems in the English top flight.

Forward: Sadio Mane, Jamie Vardy
Also considered: Sergio Aguero, Mohamed Salah, Adama Traore

Absolutely the most difficult choice of any position here, some high-profile players have missed out on a place in the team, but there’s just no way to leave out the two men at this spot. Jamie Vardy leads the league in goals, and while things have dried up somewhat until his brace against Aston Villa last time out, his goal conversion rate is still at historic levels. The dry spell has lowered his xG that at one point sat above the +6 mark, but he still has converted chances at a +4.76 rate this season, bagging 19 goals on a 14.24 xG mark. While Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah have also been prolific goalscorers, they just haven’t finished at the absurd rate that Jamie Vardy has produced.

Those two also just don’t equate to the importance that Sadio Mane presents to Liverpool. The presence of Gabriel Jesus means that Sergio Aguero could be missed and Manchester City hardly misses a beat, and while that shouldn’t take away from what the Argentine means to the heartbeat of that squad, it just doesn’t stack up to Mane’s vital presence at Liverpool. Adama Traore has burst onto the scene the second half of the campaign, injecting life into an occasionally stagnant Wolves attack and earning himself a place on this list, but he still struggles with consistency and doesn’t quite equate to the massive stature of the Liverpool winger.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Everton

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Chelsea host Everton at Stamford Bridge on Sunday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as both teams are desperate to seal European qualification this season.

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Frank Lampard was managed by Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea as the Italian coach won a Premier League title and an FA Cup at Stamford Bridge and there is plenty of respect for him from the Blues faithful.

The job Ancelotti has done since he arrived at Everton in December deserves plenty of respect too as he’s lost just twice in 10 Premier League games and the Toffees have surged up the table and away from the relegation zone and into European contention.

Heading into this game just eight points separate the teams as Chelsea sit in fourth place and Everton are in 12th but can jump into the top 10 with a win.

In team news Chelsea make six changes from the team which drew at Bournemouth last weekend as Kepa Arrizabalaga returns in goal after playing well in the FA Cup win over Liverpool, while Billy Gilmour, Antonio Rudiger, Kurt Zouma, Willian and Ross Barkley all start.

Everton make three changes from the team which drew against Man United last week as Lucas Digne, Djibril Sidibe and Bernard come in for Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman and Theo Walcott.

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Everton beat lackluster Crystal Palace

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Everton beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Goodison Park on Saturday as Carlo Ancelotti continues to work his magic on the Toffees.

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Bernard and Richarlison twice gave Everton the lead with classy goals after Christian Benteke had briefly drawn a poor Palace side level thanks in part to a big mistake from Jordan Pickford.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin continued his great form to make it 3-1 late on and he could have added another too. With the win Everton move on to 36 points and up to seventh in the table, while Palace are six points off the drop zone but have played a game more than most of their rivals.


3 things we learned

1. Everton in European battle: All of a sudden Everton are one point off fifth place. Carlo Ancelotti has won five of his first eight Premier League games in charge of the Toffees and they have lost just once under the veteran Italian coach so far, and that was 2-1 at Man City. At the start of this season under Marco Silva they were supposed to be in a push for European qualification. Finally they are and if the Toffees can clean up sloppy defensive errors they can sustain this push for Europa League qualification. They have a tough run of games coming up but they have momentum.

2. Palace, Zaha low on confidence: There is always one team which sinks towards the relegation scrap and it looks like being Crystal Palace. Wilfried Zaha has gone off the boil and that has coincided with Palace not winning any of their last seven games, winning just one of their last 11 in the PL and they’ve now lost three straight. The Eagles have gone from top six hopefuls to relegation candidates in a matter of a month. Scoring goals has been a problem all season long as Zaha has three goals all season and Jordan Ayew is their top scorer with six. Palace now have a slightly more favorable run of games but their next four against Newcastle, Brighton, Watford and Bournemouth now seem like must win.

3. Richarlison’s quality clear: Many people raised several eyebrows when Barcelona reportedly put in a $105 million bid for Richarlison late in the January transfer window. But should we be that surprised? The Brazilian striker is just 22 years old and he already has 27 PL goals in 97 appearances in the competition and Palace couldn’t handle his direct running and threat in the air and in the box. Alongside Calvert-Lewin he has someone to feed in attack and the duo have a great understanding.

Man of the Match: Richarlison – Scored a superb goal, his header lead to another and ran Palace’s defense ragged.


Lucas Digne‘s free kick was pushed away by Vicente Guaita early on as Everton took the game to Palace.

At the other end Palace hit the post from a tight angle as Patrick Van Aanholt‘s low effort took a deflection onto the woodwork.

Everton deservedly took the lead less than halfway through the first half as Theo Walcott whipped in a delicious cross from the right and Bernard was on hand to volley home at the Gwladys Street End.

That was Walcott’s final act of the game as he was forced off through injury and Djibril Sidibe replaced him after a short delay as he took his time in the tunnel area.

Bernard almost set up Dominic Calvert-Lewin who couldn’t get on the end of the ball as the attempted a diving header.

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Palace started the second half well as Yerry Mina failed to clear and Zaha failed to make the most of a good opportunity at the back post.

Zaha then played in Benteke after Palace won a few second balls and the Belgian striker sent a tame effort on target which somehow squeezed through Jordan Pickford and in. It was Benteke’s first Premier League goal in 34 games and it sprung Palace into life.

Moments later a corner caused havoc at the near post as the ball hit Benteke and then hit the post as Everton were all over the place defensively.

Everton then regained the lead as a long ball forward was flicked on by Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison raced onto it and finished calmly into the bottom corner.

In the closing stages the game turned into an end-to-end encounter as Benteke was then denied brilliantly by Pickford who spread himself to save his header from close range.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was then denied just as brilliantly by Vicente Guaita as he danced through the Palace defense but the Spanish goalkeeper saved his dinked effort.

Everton dominated late on and Richarlison’s header from a corner hit the bar and Calvert-Lewin was on hand to wrap up the win with his sixth goal in eight games under Ancelotti.

Lejeune bicycle kick, stoppage time brace stuns Everton

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Carlo Ancelotti saw one of the best performances of his era at Everton die at stoppage time.

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Florian Lejeune scored a bicycle kick amongst two goals in third and fourth minutes of stoppage as Newcastle United rallied for a 2-2 draw against dominant Everton at Goodison Park.

Moise Kean and Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored as the Toffees joined Newcastle in moving to 30 points. Everton has a better goal differential and sits 11th.

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The point for Newcastle defied a horrible 90, er, 92 minutes, but Steve Bruce won’t care much. The smash-and-grab comes three days after the Magpies beat Chelsea at the death.


Three things we learned

1. Moise Kean’s potential is thrilling: The young Italian’s career began with fits and starts, but the striker was the best player on the pitch well before he got his first Premier League goal. Kean then nearly had a “hockey assist” when Bernard chipped over the bar.

2. Longstaff brothers struggle, Saint-Max absence clear: Injuries forced Isaac Hayden out wide and Steve Bruce used the local brothers Sean and Matty in the middle of the pitch. They struggled mightily, and we’re sure Bruce would’ve been wondering if new signing Nabil Bentaleb might’ve been able to sneak into a kit for the second half. The manager eventually moved Hayden into the middle of the park to join the duo.

The Magpies congested backs and midfielders means they rely on Joelinton, Miguel Almiron, and especially Allan Saint-Maximin to provide threat. The latter was rested after his match-winning assist over 90 minutes versus Chelsea, and his absence was glaring again.

3. Edgy, in-form Calvert-Lewin a nightmare match-up: Everton’s young striker is in red-hot form, but he’s also got a red-hot fuse. Call him an Ashley Barnes with more potential. Calvert-Lewin scored a beauty, his 10th of the league season, but also clattered into Emil Krafth for an unnecessary tackle and yellow card.

Man of the Match: It was going to be Kean, but now it’s a joint honor with Lejeune.


Sloppy midweek moments early, as Miguel Almiron led a terrific run but mishit his pass to Sean Longstaff in the 18. At the other end, an Everton cross missed all of Newcastle’s defenders… and a few unattentive Toffees.

Kean zapped a low shot to force a low save from Martin Dubravka in the 18th minute.

Bernard popped a pass over Jamaal Lascelles and Federico Fernandez to meet Kean, who bundled past Dubravka for a deserved 1-0.

Joelinton turned a header over the bar in the 42nd minute off Isaac Hayden’s cross. Almiron then led another charge but Lee Mason had nothing for a possible blocking foul and Everton cleared the danger.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Kean fed Walcott to set up Bernard, who chipped a charging Dubravka but put it over the bar. Good goalkeeping.

The Toffees got their second goal when Lucas Digne spotted Calvert-Lewin, who had the better of Lascelles to curl a great finish past Dubravka.

Lejeune scored an overhead kick off a stoppage time scramble, and a silly Everton foul gave Newcastle one desperate chance at the death.

Pickford and the defense blocked three bids at a loose ball, but Lejeune’s fourth crossed the line.