Eye On The Opposition: Crystal Palace vs Everton (18/11/2017)

Written by Jack Pierce

Two goals down after an hour at home to Watford at the start of November, having already sacked their manager, the flurry of transfer activity proving nothing more than a false hope, already out of Europe and players, young and old, looking short of ideas and out of their depth.
Not exactly the season that most Evertonians anticipated before a ball had been kicked.

They came back to win that game 3-2 but the desperate air around the club remains. As I write, a replacement for Ronald Koeman, that most expected the club to appoint during the international break, hasn't yet appeared; names have been chucked around and the focus now appears to be on Marco Silva but the he seems no closer to joining Everton than he did at the start of the break. Watford aren't interested despite the vast sum offered and unless they make a drastic change in their approach, the Portuguese coach is unlikely to heading north.

David Unsworth, the romantic choice and perhaps Bill Kenwright's preferred candidate, is likely to be in the dugout come 3pm on Saturday. While he knows the club and is very much loved by the Goodison faithful, his audition didn't exactly help his chances. Four games, three defeats and one win - albeit courtesy of an impressive comeback against Watford. It's possible, at this rate anyway, he'll now have another spell of games to make his case for the job on a permanent basis. Superb progress with the Under 23s has seen his stock rise in recent seasons and his use of young players in his four game audition will please a set of fans that, more than most sets, love the introduction of young players into first team matters.

On the pitch, Everton just haven't got started this season. An impressive point away at Man City in the second week of the season proved a red herring as they got smashed by all the other title contenders during a very tough run of fixtures early on. There’s no evident goal threat, having sold Romelu Lukaku, and any defensive resolve displayed under Koeman last season quickly disappeared. Having spent a fortune on incoming players, none, other than perhaps Jordan Pickford, has offered an inclination that they will prove fantastic business. Players like Michael Keane and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who it was hoped would build upon their respective excellent seasons, at Burnley and Swansea, this season have not shown anything to suggest that'll be the case. Signings from abroad like Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez look nowhere near the pace required for this league despite high hopes and to cap it off, reliable performers from previous campaigns, like Ashley Williams and Morgan Schneiderlin, have completely lost it.

Whoever does get the job has a huge amount of work to do with the current squad of players and it's almost certain that Farhad Moshiri, majority shareholder, will be asked to get the chequebook out again.

The ambition is there for all to see; investment in the playing staff, the prospect of a new stadium and all backed by a new owner keen to flex his financial muscle. While this season has already deflated the enthusiasm of some, it’s beyond comprehension that Everton may drop a division so the next appointment of a manager has to be one in view of maintaining top flight football but then being able to build adequately enough for the club to target the top six slots in the league table. It won’t be easy to find a manager with such a combination of skills and that perhaps explains the delay in a new appointment being made.

Saturday sees two sides who started the season under the management of two Dutch legends; just over three months on and both Frank de Boer and Koeman are history at their respective former employers. Neither manager was renowned for their teams playing total football but even so, I think we can all safely say, it won’t be on show at Selhurst on Saturday given current league positions.

Key Players

Jordan Pickford

In a season of few highs, Pickford must be one of few highlights so far. Impressive, despite his side's struggles, for Everton and now a full England international, Pickford's stock has continued to rise since departing Sunderland. A superb shot stopper and impressive in terms of his distribution, Pickford's £30 million fee looked steep at first sight but if he serves Everton for the next ten years, or moves on for a great deal more, then the fee paid last summer looks a snip.

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Tom Davies

Having burst on to the scene last season, Davies' emergence was a throwback to a previous generation. Socks downs by the ankles, flowing blonde locks and a boyish ambition to the play the game the way he wants to; Davies instantly became a fan favourite. While the club has chucked money all over the place since Farhad Moshiri invested into the club, the most impressive arrival into the first team in that time has been Davies'. Excellent on the ball and a workhorse off it, the midfielder could go on to a have a stellar Goodison career provided Everton's managers of now and further down the line appreciate his talent and aren’t instantly drawn to the chequebook.

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Oumar Niasse

The symbol of Ronald Koeman's desperation towards the end of his tenure as Everton manager, Niasse went from being completely ostracised at the club (no club suit or a locker at the training ground) to being brought on to score match winning goals. Close to joining Palace on the last day of the transfer window, the striker has become somewhat of a cult hero at Goodison. The fans appreciate a player who has clearly worked as hard as he can to get back into first team plans. While not the most technically gifted, Niasse constantly hassles defenders into mistakes. They'll be no time for defenders on the ball if and when he's on the pitch.

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