Everton has a chance to break out of an early-season slump offensively with a trip to newly-promoted Aston Villa on Friday at Villa Park. (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Morgan Schneiderlin could make his return after missing last week with suspension and could partner with Andre Gomes in midfield. However, new signing Jean-Philippe Gbamin performed admirably for Marco Silva, and he could have some selection headaches already this early in the season.
For Dean Smith and Aston Villa, it’s another night game at home in Villa Park, and a chance to get the side’s first win. After a strong finish against Bournemouth, maybe it can take that momentum into Friday’s match against Everton.
Aston Villa: Heaton; El Mohamady, Engels, Mings, Taylor; McGinn, Luiz, Grealish; Trezeguet, Wesley, Jota
Everton manager Marco Silva on his team’s defensive resiliency: “The feeling is really good when we finish a match and haven’t conceded a goal. It means we have worked together and are understanding the plans and our way of defending. It starts up front and all of them have to be proud because of the work they are doing. I am really proud of what we are achieving with our defensive organisation.”
Both teams have spent heavily in the offseason to upgrade their squad, but Aston Villa is still finding life difficult back in the Premier League. Everton, at least, still have a strong defensive core, and should be able to hold off the likes of Wesley and McGinn with his late runs into the box.
With another week of fitness in Richarlison and a chance for Alex Iwobi to play, either starting or off the bench, Everton has a chance to really brush past Aston Villa and make a statement. However, they’re clearly still a work in progress, so it will probably be another tight game. Everton 2-1 Aston Villa
The Toffees had chances on the break to seal the deal but had Jordan Pickford to thank as Watford pushed hard for an equalizer.
Marco Silva‘s Everton have four points and two clean sheets from their first two games, while Watford have lost two out of two.
3 things we learned
1. Bernard reminds us of he’s quality: It was the moment which won Everton the game and it was that extra bit of quality we’ve come to expect from Bernard. We haven’t seen it enough over the past 12 months, but he has something Everton’s other attackers don’t have. Walcott, Richarlison and Kean have pace to burn but Bernard’s creativity is key to mixing things up.
2. Watford’s flat start a little concerning: Yes, they looked decent in the second half, but Javi Gracia‘s side just aren’t doing enough to force the issue in games. After getting hammered in the FA Cup final last summer and finishing the season poorly to finish outside of the top 10, Watford have maybe lost a little momentum. Danny Welbeck made his debut and should give them some extra firepower up top, while Sarr will be a good buy long-term.
3. Pickford saves Everton: A fine stop from Pickford in the second half kept Everton in this game and England’s goalkeeper came up big in a big moment. Pickford needs to do that consistently this season if the Toffees are going to finish in the top six. Defensively they’ve got better, but Pickford is key to all of that.
Man of the Match: Jordan Pickford – One fine stop and a calming influence at the back. Big performance from the Everton goalkeeper.
After a bright start Everton took the lead, as a long ball forward found Bernard and the Brazilian winger cut inside and curled home at the near post.
Watford finally woke up and former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu was popping up to cause the Toffees defense problems. It looked like Yerry Mina took him down in the box but no penalty kick was given.
Etienne Capoue forced Jordan Pickford into a smart save at one end and Richarlison nodded over as Everton should have doubled their lead.
“It was important for me to have one more quality option for our attacking positions to add to what we have with Richarlison, Bernard and Theo Walcott.
“Alex fits exactly the profile of player I want in my model. He is hungry to join Everton and take the next step in his career, to help us compete with the strongest teams in the league and reach his potential at our club.”
This is a nice move for the Toffees, who have the attacking depth to make the Europa League via the league or cup route.
We’ve got six anxious writers and 16 burning questions ahead of the start of this Premier League season.
Let’s get after it.
The PL season is upon us. What’s the first storyline that pops into your head?
Joe Prince-Wright: So many right away! But the main one: Christian Pulisic is about to become a genuine American superstar.
Nick Mendola: As an American, I can’t help my mind jumping to Pulisic but really it’s all about whether Man City can become the fifth club to win three-straight top flight English titles. And if it does, City will have done it in the most difficult era to do so.
Andy Edwards: What kind of backwards world are we living in that just about everyone enters the PL season with “Spurs are clearly the third-best team and should finish third with no problem” in their mind?
Kyle Bonn: Liverpool vs Man City for the title. Starts there and finishes there.
Dan Karell: Can Man City do a three-peat and win the league yet again?
Joel Soria: A Champions League winner, Aston Villa, are back in the PL and have made some ambitious signings.
How many clubs have legitimate shot of winning the Premier League?
JPW: Three. Liverpool, Man City and Tottenham.
NM: Spurs, Liverpool, and Man City.
AE: Spurs might very well be the third-best team, but it’s a distant third.
KB: Two. Spurs is still changing its makeup enough that the club won’t last the full season.
DK: In reality – two. Manchester City and Liverpool. However, if Arsenal’s defense somehow comes together and the attack is as good as expected, perhaps they could be a dark horse. Also, if Harry Kane can stay healthy for the whole season, they can certainly challenge. But as of today, it’s Man City and Liverpool which are head and shoulders above everyone.
JS: Only three: Man City, Liverpool and Tottenham.
Which of the Top Six is at biggest risk for dropping out of the Top Six?
JPW: Arsenal, because of their failure to strengthen their defense.
NM: Manchester United. Granted they lost the most man games to injury last season, but the reliance on Marcus Rashford at center forward is a question, as is the midfield and the ability of Paul Pogba to produce on a week-in, week-out basis.
AE: It seems like no one is considering just how big of an impact losing Eden Hazard will be for Chelsea. They haven’t been functional, let alone good, without him at his best for years now.
KB: Arsenal. The Gunners have a do or die season financially, and didn’t do squat to improve the defense. Really worried about them.
DK: Manchester United. Harry Maguire is an important signing to shore up the defense, but they still needed upgrades and changes in other positions. Plus Paul Pogba is still there and if true that he’s unhappy, that won’t help the locker room come together.
JS: Chelsea – there will be a lot on Lampard’s plate.
Wolves, Everton, West Ham, Watford, and Leicester City will like their odds of clipping a “down” Top Six challenger. Who finishes highest, and how high?
JPW: Wolves will finish in the top six, and Leicester will finish seventh.
NM: It’s between Wolves and Everton. Since our crew is heavy on Wolves praise, I’ll choose the latter. Richarlison‘s third season in the PL met by a relentless midfield and plenty of attacking assets.
AE: This is the year West Ham get all their ducks in a row from the start of the season and mount a truly impressive season. Of course, many have said this before and rued the day.
KB: Wolves at 6 again, the other 3 right behind. Wolves have the least flaws of the 4, but they’re all strong.
DK: As of today, I think Wolves habr the best chance, with a handful of Portugal national team players and lots of fun, young talent. However, if Everton can sign WilfriedZaha and a couple of other late signings, they can certainly move into the top six.
JS: Wolves will finish fifth or higher, while Everton can crack within the Top 7.
How many goals and assists will Christian Pulisic collect for Chelsea in PL play?
JPW: 11 goals, 15 assists
NM: 7 goals and 12 assists
AE: 9 and 8.
KB: 12 goals 9 assists. Really high on CP this year.
DK: I think Pulisic can score 10 and create 10 assists. He looks very sharp early on and he’ll get plenty of playing time early in the season, if not all the way through. His speed is something that can’t be taught and he’s a stud in front of goal.
JS: Pulisic will wrap up his first season at Chelsea with 7 goals and 9 assists.
Predict your 2019-20 Premier League Best XI:
JPW: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Van Dijk, Robertson; Kante, Bernardo Silva, De Bruyne; Salah, Kane, Sterling
There are 25 players in each Premier League squad, but who will not only star for their respective clubs but also elevate themselves to the upper echelons of the league this season? With the Premier League campaign officially set to begin this week, we continue our look ahead to the upcoming campaign with an overview of the top players at each position across the league.