What Has Happened Since The Last Time They Met? (0-3, 12/09/2016)
Everton experienced a rather lean spell after defeating Sunderland, with just two wins from the following 11 games as they looked to adjust to Ronald Koeman's style and methods.
But they haven't looked back since December's derby defeat to Liverpool, winning five of their last eight games (and drawing the other three) - including a 4-0 demolition of Manchester City - to see the Toffees climb to 7th place. In fact, Everton currently top the league's form table, which demonstrates the progress that they have made under the Dutchman.
The gap to Arsenal in 4th place currently stands at nine points, but with momentum and no cup competitions to concern themselves with, Everton are well positioned to launch an assault on the European places.
Everton typically line up in a 4-3-3 formation. In defence and midfield, the set-up is as you'd typically expect. Solid centre backs are flanked by attacking full backs, while the midfield is highly industrious and serves to provide high energy to Everton's game. Gueye tends to sweep behind, while Schneiderlin and Davies press high and look to support the attack.
While the midfield three often allows for a greater control of the game, and therefore possession play, Everton tend to play in a more direct style - they average just 50% possession and make only the league's 9th highest amount of short passes per game. On the other hand, only Burnley play more long passes than the Toffees. And they're pretty accurate with these long balls - a total of 845 is the league's 5th best. The height and bulk of Romelu Lukaku really allows them to succeed - he leads the team in aerials won and is used to bring his team-mates into play.
And Lukaku has a number of options to use when playing this target man role. In recent games, Koeman has opted to play Ademola Lookman and Ross Barkley in advanced areas. But they're not usually playing as traditional wingers. They tend to play narrower, not only coming closer to Lukaku (he and Barkley have an impressive understanding), but allowing Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman to maraud down the wing. This, in turn, allows Barkley and Lookman to advance into the box when a cross is attempted. And Everton attempt a large number of crosses - 510 in fact. They're not the most accurate, with around only 20% hitting their target, but the intent is certainly there.
Everton are particularly energetic in the midfield area, with Morgan Schneiderlin, Idrissa Gueye and Tom Davies all providing drive and tenacity. As a result, they make a league 2nd best 19.7 tackles per game, while also blocking nine passes per game.
Only Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United have conceded fewer goals. And there's a reason for that. Everton allow just 11.7 shots per game and make a huge 29 clearances - Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka, in particular, excel here, with 15 per game between them. Idrissa Gueye superbly shields the defence in front of them, leading the league in tackles per game with 4.8 while also contributing 2.3 interceptions.
The Toffees are also rather proficient at the other end of the pitch. 126 shots on target represents the league's 7th best total and 52% accuracy. From these 126 shots on target, Everton have scored 40 goals, meaning that they score, approximately, one goal for every three shots on target. 75% of their goals have been scored in the penalty area - only four more teams have scored more - while nine have come via a header. That's really no surprise with Romelu Lukaku leading the line.
While Everton are very capable of winning the ball back in terms of tackling, they make just 12 interceptions per game - only the 17th best total in the league. Admittedly, there's not too much to read into this considering that they block nine passes per game, but wayward passes may not be punished as often as they would against other teams.
We expect Everton to take the initiative against Sunderland, but they typically don't dominate the ball, averaging half of the game's possession. And taking care of the ball is something that Koeman will surely look to work on: 80% pass accuracy represents only the league's 12th best, while only four more teams have been dispossessed more times than Everton.
And while they have quality all over the pitch (outfield, at least), the goalkeeping position has been somewhat troubling for Everton. Neither Joel Robles or Maarten Stekelenburg seem convincing. It's worth Sunderland trying their luck from any position.
Everton may have defeated Bournemouth handsomely in the end, but their mini collapse post half-time suggests that they have the potential to switch off and take their eyes off the ball. Sunderland showed the ability to take advantage of this against Crystal Palace - they'll need to do the same should any similar situations arise on Saturday.
Key Player - Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku enjoys playing against Sunderland. With seven goals to his name against The Lads, and a hat-trick the last time the sides met, only West Ham have felt the Belgian's wrath more. Still only 23, Lukaku's 16 goals sees him just one behind Alexis Sanchez at the top of the leading scorers' table.
His tally is even more impressive considering that he has only had 33 shots on target. A 1-in-2 ratio is a pretty remarkable record. It's hard to envisage anything but a torrid afternoon for Sunderland's defence against Lukaku, particularly if they defend as they did against Southampton.
- Everton are undefeated in 14 of their last 15 home games;
- Everton have scored at least 3 goals in their last three home Premier League games;
- There have been over 2.5 goals in the last three meetings between the two sides;
- An Everton player has scored a hat-trick in two of the last three Premier League meetings between the sides – Arouna Kone and Romelu Lukaku;
- Romelu Lukaku has scored 7 goals vs Sunderland - he's only scored more against West Ham (9);
- No team has taken more Premier League points in 2017 than Everton (14 - joint with Spurs).