PREVIEW | EVERTON VS ARSENAL
Well, it’s a new chapter for Everton.
Their midday clash with Arsenal will be Sean Dyche’s first in charge since being officially announced as the Toffees boss on Monday.
In the time that has passed, a hideously poor transfer window has come to a close without the Blues making a single addition to their squad and two more protests against the board have been organised; before and after the game.
And now Goodison us about welcome the league leaders in the form of a high-flying Arsenal side, managed by former Everton starlet Mikel Arteta.
It’s never a dull day being an Evertonian.
How will Dyche set up
There is always intrigue around a new manager’s first match at the helm with questions over how he will set-up and which players he will pick.
Dyche is no different and he has given little away this week, saying only that he wants his players to work hard and become tougher to beat.
There’s no doubting the necessity of that last point with the Blues having lost eight out of their last nine matches in all competitions.
Confirmed absentees for the Toffees are Ben Godfrey, Nathan Patterson, James Garner, Michael Keane and Andros Townsend.
One to watch – Dwight McNeil
Anthony Gordon’s departure to Newcastle United places an extra responsibility on the shoulders of Dwight McNeil as one of only two available wingers in the first team.
He first broke into the Burnley team under Dyche and it’s hoped by Evertonians that the 51-year-old can bring out the best in the winger who has so far flattered to deceive since joining in the summer for an estimated £20m.
It’s likely he will be restored to his favoured left midfield role by the new gaffer which will ideally make it easier for him to deliver crosses with a left foot it is evident to anyone that he much prefers.
He will also be able to utilise a high defensive work rate, clearly nurtured under Dyche, by aiding an out-of-form Vitaliy Mykolenko in dealing with the immensely talented Bukayo Saka.
One to watch – Martin Odegaard
On top of Saka, the Everton defence will have to contend with the creative mind of Martin Odegaard.
The Gunners captain has been at the heart of everything they have achieved so far this season, pulling the strings in his attacking midfield role.
He has weighed in with eight goals and five assists in the league so far this season, as well as scoring in both fixtures against the Toffees last campaign.
Everton will have their work cut out keeping him quiet on Saturday.
The ill-feeling between the club hierarchy and supporters has only intensified since the club failed to make a single signing during the January window and concerns over Everton’s future continue to manifest.
Dyche has done his best to quell some of those worries since his arrival and while he incontestably gives the Toffees a better chance of avoiding the drop this season than Frank Lampard did, there is no arguing that the Burnley manager of nine-and-a-half years has an exceedingly difficult task on his hands.
But one thing for certain is that from the first whistle to the last, he will have the full backing of every true Evertonian inside the ground on Saturday and every match after that.
The fight begins here, Blues.