It is safe to say that Monday night was the highlight of the season so far. Everton 3-1 Burnley, and it could quite easily have been more, with the hosts blitzing the Clarets away in a five-minute spell. The victory moved the Toffees joint top of the table alongside Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool with ten points.
Rafa Benitez has made an impressive start to life at Everton and is slowly transforming a squad that filtered away at the end of last season into an impressive unit. For example, Everton have scored ten goals in four games under Benitez, which is as many as they managed in Carlo Ancelotti’s last fourteen games in charge.
With Benitez’s side still unbeaten, Saturday’s game against Aston Villa will arguably Everton’s toughest test, with Villa unbeaten against Everton since they were promoted back to the Premier League.
Aston Villa have had a mixed start to the 2021-22 season, sitting 12th after four games with one win, one draw and two defeats. They started the season with a 3-2 defeat at newly promoted Watford, followed by a win against Newcastle and a 1-1 draw with Brentford. Last Saturday, they were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Chelsea, with former Everton striker Romelu Lukaku scoring twice.
As stated, Everton have scored ten goals in four games, whereas Villa have five in four. Villa have also conceded nearly twice as many goals in the four games than Everton, six compared to four.
Everton had another fourteen shots in the win over Burnley, taking the shot count to 59 in the first four games, averaging at nearly fifteen shots per game, something which never seemed to occur under Ancelotti. Villa have had 46 shots in their opening four games, perhaps not showing as much attacking impetus as Everton.
Team news wise, Villa will be without Carney Chukwuemeka and Jaden Philogene-Bidace, whilst Argentines Emiliano Martinez and Emi Buendia will both be assessed before the game.
Everton are still without Fabian Delph, whilst it remains to be seen whether James Rodriguez has built up enough match fitness to be considered by Benitez. In other news though Cenk Tosun and Ellis Simms are both back in training this week. We should not expect too many changes to the squad that beat Burnley last week, although the loss of Dominic Calvert-Lewin will still be felt up top.
One to Watch – Aston Villa
A Villa player to certainly keep an eye on will be their new £30 million pound striker Danny Ings signed from Southampton. He kick-started his Villa career with a consolation goal against Watford, followed by a brilliant bicycle kick against Newcastle in Villas first home game of the season.
According to WhoScored, his main strength is finishing, which Everton know all about. He has scored five career goals against Everton, the most he has scored against any side in the Premier League.
However, his weaknesses include his passing and his aerial ability. This could be something that Everton focused on in training, isolating him and making Villa play long. Everton have to stop service getting to Danny Ings, or he will no doubt cause more problems tomorrow.
One to Watch – Everton
Demarai Gray’s sensational start to the season continued on Monday night, with another goal making it three in four games this season, and three in his past three. With an average rating of 7.41 this season on WhoScored, he has been one of Everton’s stand out players so far.
One of Gray’s strengths is his pace, as shown in his goal against Burnley. The acceleration to get on the end of Doucouré’s outstanding through-ball demonstrated this to the Goodsion faithful. He has also troubled defences with his skill and directness, something which Evertonians have grown to love.
Saturday’s game will be tough, with Everton looking for their first win against Villa since they were promoted in 2019. However, Everton should have enough quality to see off a Villa side that have made a slow start to the season.