Bournemouth and Everton meet for the second time this week at the Vitality Stadium, this time in the Premier League on Saturday, following the hosts’ 4-1 win in the EFL Cup on Tuesday.
Frank Lampard will be starting to feel the pressure as his Everton side has now lost five of their last seven matches.
Everton’s lack of squad depth was glaringly obvious as they fell to a heavy defeat here in midweek, with Mason Holgate, Tom Davies, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Michael Keane among those given an opportunity, but failed to impress.
The Toffees’ three main creative players have also been in woeful form all season too, as goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (one) has more assists this season than Anthony Gordon, Demarai Gray and Dwight McNeil combined (zero).
Gordon has been a player under the spotlight more so given the transfer speculation around him, and he has been way below par since the transfer window closed.
He was lucky not to be sent off on Tuesday as he picked up his seventh yellow card of the season already in just 14 appearances.
Gray has shown flashes of individual brilliance, like his goal in the cup this week proved, but regular inconsistency which has plagued his career up to this point is catching up with him again.
Being tasked with replacing Richarlison in the side was always a big ask given he is clearly a level below the outgoing Brazilian international, and that is weighing heavily on him.
It is not just in attack where they are struggling though, as a team unit, they are struggling to keep teams quiet.
No side has faced more shots in the Premier League than Lampard’s side, including an incredible 56 in their last three games in all competitions, versus Bournemouth, Leicester City and Fulham, three sides all on a similar level to them.
Having two great stoppers in the centre of defence, Conor Coady and James Tarkowski, has stemmed the flow of goals, but their absence on Tuesday was very clear, as a comedy of errors caused more than one of Bournemouth’s goals.
That lack of squad depth means they are heavily reliant on an ageing Idrissa Gueye and an inexperienced Amadou Onana, while supremely talented, still has a lot to learn at this level, to do the defensive work in midfield, as Davies and Doucoure do not seem to have the quality for this level.
For Bournemouth, they will have been delighted to end a four-game losing run, especially after such a promising start under Gary O’Neil, which saw them remain unbeaten in his first six games in charge.
That run of defeats also saw them record a Premier League first, becoming the only side ever to lose back-to-back games after leading by two goals in both, in matches against Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United recently.
Everton are the perfect opponents for them to face again too, not just because of their struggles, but because they have never lost a Premier League home match against the Toffees in five encounters (won three, drawn two).
Their win over them in the cup on Tuesday will only further their belief that they can extend that run again.
Despite having the worst defensive record in the division, they now face a toothless Everton side without their starting striker, so O’Neil may be afforded the luxury of focusing preparation on the attacking side of their game.
With trips to Chelsea and Manchester United to come in quick succession after the World Cup break, a win for Bournemouth here would be vital and would see them leapfrog Everton to move further away from trouble – the perfect way to finish the first chunk of the season.
Bournemouth Premier League form:
Bournemouth form (all competitions):
Everton Premier League form:
Everton form (all competitions):
We say: Bournemouth 1-0 Everton
Everton seemingly have nobody capable of scoring a goal when given a chance, and out of the 17 ever-present PL sides from the start of the last season, none has picked up fewer points on the road than their 16.
The Vitality has often been an arduous trip for the Toffees’ faithful too, as they have never seen their side win a Premier League game here.