Talking Points | Everton vs Wolves

Wolves returned to form on Thursday night, and the aim will be to continue that on Merseyside, and now presents the main Talking Points.

#1 Stick or twist?

In a search of a return to form, Bruno Lage rang the changes on Thursday night, and got the desired effect with four goals and three points, and now he must decide if to stick or twist. After the last Thursday Sunday combination, Lage freshened up his squad, but defeat followed against West Ham United, so will he resist the temptation on Merseyside? Maximilian Kilman and Marcal will hope not, however Willy Boly got through 90 minutes unscathed on his return and Rayan Ait-Nouri got forward at every opportunity on Thursday. Further forward, Pedro Neto will be eyeing another opportunity, but again, Hee Chan Hwang added an assist to his name. The South Korean was given a breather for the final 29 minutes, while Raul Jimenez and Jonny also joined him for the closing stages – saving legs or preparing others to hit the ground running against the Toffees?

As for the hosts, Frank Lampard confirmed Ben Godfrey and Demarai Gray are fit and will come into contention, having missed Monday’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Michael Keane is also fit, after recovering from a fever which saw him withdrawn at the break last time out. The news is less positive on Yerry Mina, Fabian Delph and Tom Davies, who will all miss the fixture. Their 22 points total after 25 games is their lowest at this stage of the season, so Lampard may look to tinker. Dele Alli is yet to start since joining the club from Spurs, likewise Anwar El Ghazi, while Salomon Rondon scored twice in the Emirates FA Cup against Boreham Wood, however much Everton hope will fall on the shoulders of Dominic Calvert-Lewin to stay fit and hit form.  

#2 The Toffees come unstuck

Every time Jimenez has faced Everton, he’s scored, it’s as simple as that. Five times the Mexican has faced the Toffees, and on every occasion he’s found the back of the net. Having famously headed home on the club’s big return to the Premier League in August 2018, Jimenez followed that up with another header at Goodison Park later in the season. The next campaign he was at it again, with yet another header in a narrow defeat, while at the other end of the campaign, with football switching to behind closed doors, his penalty set the old gold on their way to a 3-0 win. Most recently, the striker dinked over Jordan Pickford back in November to help secured another victory.

So, with a trip to Goodison Park on the horizon, a goal on Thursday night was the perfect way to prepare on Thursday evening. Turning in Hee Chan Hwang’s pass, Jimenez was soon celebrating his 40th Premier League goal. That goal saw him move clear of the South Korean in the club’s scoring table and he’ll want to build on it on his third trip to Goodison Park. Fabio Silva was afforded minutes during the closing stages against the Hornets, but it’s likely that Lage was simply resting his number nine ahead of another game three days later.

#3 Enjoying life on the road

Despite defeat in their last two Premier League trips, Wolves still boast the fourth best away record in the division. Unsurprisingly, the top three have picked up the most points away from home, but next in line is Wolves, who have won seven and drawn two of their 14 Premier League away games to date. As for the Toffees, it’s their home form which has kept them in a fighting position. Five of their six wins have come at Goodison Park, however even on home soil points have been hard to come by – the Blues have lost three of their four 2022 Premier League games at Goodison Park. The most recent of that sequence however, did see Frank Lampard’s side push leader Manchester City all the way, only to lose by one goal to nil.

Before losing to Arsenal and West Ham United, Wolves had won four on the spin on the road, and with just five away games left on the calendar, Lage will want his players to get back on track on the road now. The majority of those remaining trips come in the north, with Newcastle United, Burnley and Everton still to come, and so far this term, Wolves have won at Manchester United and drew with Leeds United, but suffered defeat to Manchester City, representing a mixed bag north of Wolverhampton. Time for that record to improve?

#4 The magician in the middle

Not for the first time in his glittering Wolves career, Ruben Neves ran the show against Watford on Thursday night. Before he even got to his outrageous chip over Ben Foster, which put the seal on a big victory, he’d dictated play with a startling number of long passes. The Portuguese successfully completed 20 out of 22 attempted long balls against Watford, which is the most in a single game by any player in the Premier League this season. Those 22 helped Neves towards an overall total of 100 passes on the night, interesting three behind Romain Saiss, but the pair were way ahead of anybody else on the pitch.

Like Jimenez, Neves also scored on Wolves’ big return to the Premier League in 2018, sticking a free-kick into the top corner, beyond the desperate dive of Jordan Pickford. Again, his penalty in the return trip to Goodison Park also took the old gold towards three points on the road. Last season, with football behind closed doors, the Portuguese also bagged against Everton at Molineux, taking his tally to three against the Merseyside club. On Sunday, the aim will be more of the same.