The Opposition Opinion is back for another week as Carlo Ancelotti’s high-flying Everton travel to St James’ Park.
This week, we caught up with Toffees fan Will Proud, with him giving us the lowdown on all things Everton and his views on Newcastle United in the build up to today’s 2pm kick off on Tyneside.
Here’s what he had to say in response to our pre-match questions:
Q1 – To start off, what short of shape are Everton in coming into Sunday’s game? Keen to know what you’ve made of your start to the season…
“We’ve obviously made a great start to the season. Our best start to a Premier League season ever.
“It was always going to be interesting to see how the side looked after a full pre season with Ancelotti, implementing his own style and expectations on what was previously Marco Silva’s team.
“The key signings we’ve made have allowed us to move on from the 4-2-3-1 we got bored of seeing and the 4-4-2 that Ancelotti used last season, to a 4-3-3 that appears very well balanced and allows to us play some lovely football.
“It’ll be interesting to see how we respond to our first loss of the season last week.“
Q2 – Give us your star man, a few ‘ones to watch’ and your weak links that we could look to exploit…
“Star man has to be James Rodriguez, I can’t quite believe he’s an Everton player. I remember being happy about signing Marcus Bent!
“The way he switches the ball and shifts the point of attack is effortless. He’s crucial to creating chances and space for Calvert-Lewin to exploit.
“Nkounkou could be one to watch if he starts at left-back. He has impressed everyone with his performances in the pre season and and the League Cup. He’s fast, strong, good on the ball and very good going forward.
“His back heel assist in the cup being a particular highlight, but my main concern is that he opts for the safe Fabian Delph, particularly if he starts Anthony Gordon on the left in Richarlison’s absence.
“There could be a couple of areas to exploit. Ben Godfrey looked great when he came on in the derby but was found out at against Southampton. He’s not a right back but injuries to Coleman, Kenny and Holgate are forcing him into play out of position.”
Q3 – As a team, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this Everton side?
“Strengths revolve around the way we move forward and. as I’ve mentioned, the balance of the side.
“Allan provides defensive cover in the middle, Doucoure plays on the right of the midfield 3 allowing Rodriguez a bit more license to roam the pitch.
“When Rodriguez gets the ball he attempts to switch the ball to (usually Richarlison, Digne and Gomes) but on Sunday that could be Bernard/Iwobi, Nkounkou and Sigurdsson.
“This switch gives DCL a lot of space in the middle and the quality we usually have out left has provided a lot of chances.
“For the first time in a long time we seem to have a lot of different players who can hurt an opposition.
“Weaknesses. It has to be Pickford.
“While we have recovered somewhat from our inability to defend corners, he is still liable for a mistake.
“I can’t imagine that the scrutiny following the Van Dijk 50/50 and the spotlight of being England’s number 1 has done his mentality any favours coming into a game that he always seems a bit overly hyped for anyway as Sunderland lad.”
Q4 – Six games in, what have you made of our start to the season?
“Despite just how messy your 2020 has been before and after the failed takeover, you seem to have started well.
“Saint-Maximin looks to be playing very well and Wilson was a great signing.
“Similar to us, you actually look like you have a few players who can score, I’m just not sure they are being given all the best opportunities to do so by Bruce’s system.
“I think 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses form your first 6 pretty accurately reflects where NUFC are at the minute.”
Q5 – Which players do you see as the strengths and weaknesses in Steve Bruce’s team?
“Saint-Maximin and Wilson are very good attackers, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andy Carroll start to target our full backs and try to get Saint-Maximin or Wilson running behind our centre backs.
“I think that you’re often organised quite well and when Hayden and Shelvey sit deep it can be quite hard to break you down.
“The weakness come when plan A doesn’t work. I think that if we get the first goal and if it is early then it could turn into a long afternoon for you.
“If you’re still in the game at the hour mark then it would a very open last 30.
“I think one area that we would cause you some issues are the fullbacks. I would be more confident if we had our first choice left side but Bernard and Iwobi / Gordon will still have the quality to cause problems.
“If we keep beating you out wide, eventually a cross will find Calvert-Lewin close enough to goal.”
Q6 – What’s the Everton XI and formation Ancelotti is likely to go with on Sunday? I see you are without Rodriguez, Richarlison, Digne and Coleman…
“Starting XI (4-3-3): Pickford – Godfrey, Mina, Keane, Nkounkou – Doucoure, Allan, Gomes – Iwobi, Calvert-Lewin, Bernard.
“I think most of the suspensions and injuries will be replaced like for like and that Godfrey will keep his place at right back.
“Delph might be preferred to Nkounkou, but the young left back has been impressive.”
Q7 – What sort of game are you expecting this to be and how do you see it panning out? Give us a prediction..
“I see us reacting quite strongly to last weeks defeat so I’ll go for 0-2 away win.
“With no fans the home advantage seems to be largely out the window.
“I think we will have enough quality to keep the ball for large sections of the game and eventually break you down.
“The earlier the first goal comes the better but as we have seen a couple of times over the last few seasons, we are more than able to throw away a two goal lead vs you lot. Lejeune is out on loan though…isn’t he?!”
Q8 – Where do you see our two sides finishing in the 2020/21 table and which three teams are you backing to go down?
“Everton 6th. Newcastle 13th.
“Bottom 3 – Burnley, Sheffield United and Fulham.
“I think the one of most important things for both of our clubs is a good cup run. 26 years is a long time to go without an FA Cup win for us and for you it has been even longer.
“Both teams need to break that duck as soon as possible but for us, after the start we’ve made, we have got to be eyeing up Europe.”
Q9 – Hypothetical of course, but if you could sign TWO players from NUFC, who would you like to see Ancelotti go for?
“Saint-Maximin could give us a new dynamic out wide. He is similar to Richarlison with how direct he can be but just his that extra trick in his locker.
“Second player would probably be Dubravka.
“Whilst I want Pickford to remain Everton’s keeper, Dubravka has won you a lot of points over the last could of seasons and a strong second keeper could be what Pickford needs over the next couple years before he hopefully matures and becomes the class keeper that we hope he can be.”
Q10 – Finally, if you had our two squads to choose from and were asked to pick the best possible side, what would you starting 11 be?
“4-2-3-1: Dubravka – Coleman, Mina Keane, Digne – Allan, Gomes – Saint-Maximin, Rodriguez, Richarlison – Calvert-Lewin.“
A big thanks as ever to Will for answering our pre-match questions.
Next up we’ll have the thoughts of a Southampton fan ahead of our trip to St Mary’s next Friday night!
About Olly Hawkins
Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.