Ben Grounds, digital football journalist for Sky Sports, believes that the wide areas will be a key battle ground during Brentford’s Premier League game against Everton on Saturday.

Brentford are often happy to allow crosses to come into their box, as they are assured of being able to clear away. Te Bees have blocked just 0.5 crosses per game so far this season with only Newcastle United and Bournemouth blocking fewer.

Letting too many balls come into the box against Everton may be a dangerous tactic, however, given that Sean Dyche’s side pose a considerable threat inside their opponent's six-yard box - the Toffees (1.8 shots per game) ranking joint-third in the Premier League for close-range shots this season behind Man City (2.4) and Brentford (2.2).

When it comes to quality deliveries into the box this season, Brentford themselves have set the benchmark this season - the west Londoners whipping in 6.4 accurate crosses per game, the most in the division.

Everton sit 18th in the Premier League table ahead of Saturday’s match, with one point from their opening five matches of the season. What have you made of what you’ve seen so far? 

The opening five matches haven’t really taught supporters anything new. It has been a tough watch. For Everton, for too long, it has been a case of continuation and stagnation.

Sean Dyche spoke at the end of last season about an overriding sense of relief at staying up, but without any cause for celebration - four losses and a draw thus far suggests a third relegation battle lies ahead.

It is no longer a shock to see this Everton side in the relegation zone. It is a group of players who have now regularly shown they lack the consistency, confidence and quality to compete higher up the table.

That said, the defending has generally been good this season, with the one notable exception being away to Aston Villa, but the problem is that Everton have had to do a lot of it.

Eventually, the pressure tells, and that was the case last time out against Arsenal. 

As you mentioned, the club have flirted with relegation over the past two seasons. In 2022/23, they finished two points above the bottom three and there was a four-point cushion the year before. Currently, they are among the favourites to succumb to the drop this term. Do you think they are using that status as fuel in any way?

Certainly there is a feeling that creating a siege mentality at a time of growing media scrutiny and general negativity about the club might galvanise a fanbase that has been put through the ringer the past two seasons.

There has, however, been a shortage of evidence to counter those pre-season forecasts of doom based on overall play, witnessed both home and away.

Three narrow defeats from three at Goodison without scoring puts extra importance on performing well on the road, and there was at least a degree of resilience shown in winning at Doncaster in the Carabao Cup and drawing at Sheffield United having been behind in both games. But a lot more is needed. 

What did you make of the Toffees’ business during the summer transfer window?

Everton were promised a striker by owner Farhad Moshiri ahead of Deadline Day in the January transfer window, but it was only towards the end of last month that the club finally had that wish granted with the arrival of Beto from Udinese.

His instant impact to defeat Doncaster and performance against Sheffield United have given supporters hope their long-standing striker void can be filled.

The freak injury to Dominic Calvert-Lewin at Villa had placed greater emphasis on the need for a fast start to his career on Merseyside, and how Dyche uses them both moving forward will be intriguing given the lack of goals in the rest of the side.

The loan of Jack Harrison seems like astute business for a classy operator and an upgrade on the departed Demarai Gray, while Neal Maupay was never a natural fit and was a good deal for all parties when Brentford came calling.

Another centre-half would have been ideal given the option to sign Conor Coady permanently from Wolves wasn’t taken, while Yerry Mina and Mason Holgate were sold, and there remains a question mark at full-back with 38-year-old Ashley Young clearly a short-term measure.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the sale of Alex Iwobi on Deadline Day; a player who divided fans due to his shortage of goals and assists, but whose work rate and versatility means Everton are weaker with him now at Fulham.

Which player should Brentford fans keep an eye on?

Jordan Pickford has been Everton’s Player of the Year in three out of the last six seasons, which tells you everything. Without his last-gasp save to deny Oli McBurnie, the team would still be pointless.

If you were to ask any 10-year-old Evertonian who their current hero is, it is hard to look beyond England’s no.1 as the poster boy of the club.

His decision to extend his contract in February was arguably Everton’s best business of the year.

Watching the Arsenal game, it would be generous to pick out an offensive player to feel frightened by.

Vitaliy Mykolenko, Jarrad Branthwaite and James Tarkowski impressed me with their snarly grit and block tackles. More will be needed against Brentford.

The lack of midfield creativity and mobility - Amadou Onana, Idrissa Gueye and Abdoulaye Doucoure as a functional three is beginning to grate on fans - has put extra demands on the need for clean sheets.

So far, Everton have failed to register one and Pickford will have to be at his best if a first league win of the season is to arrive at the Gtech.

How is Dyche likely to set up his side in west London?

Dyche’s calmness under pressure, his ability not to get carried away by defeats nor victories is perhaps his greatest quality, and something that Everton certainly identified as a much-needed asset during this tumultuous period in the club’s history.

This extends to his tactics and changes. He is generally a manager who gives combinations time to breathe and develop.

So far, we have seen Branthwaite replace Michael Keane at centre-half, while Mykolenko has regained his spot at left-back, with Young moving across to the right.

It wasn’t a surprise to see Nathan Patterson dropped against Arsenal and hopefully he can return to his best after a period out of the side.

But Dyche has stubbornly stuck with Gueye, Onana and Doucoure in the midfield when, at times, they have been too easily bypassed.

The return to fitness of Harrison will allow James Garner to operate more centrally and there are growing calls to revert to a two-man midfield to provide greater support to the central striker.

It was clear that Dwight McNeil was lacking in match fitness on his return from a recent injury and Arnaut Danjuma looks better playing off the left, but given the new time-wasting directive this season, 100-minute matches will dictate how managers set up.

When Everton have needed to chase games so far this season, they have turned to the raw Youssef Chermiti and centre-back Keane as a makeshift striker.

Keeping back a more specialist finisher is a play Dyche now finally has the luxury of doing with Harrison and Calvert-Lewin available.

In the three Premier League meetings to date, each side has won one, while this fixture resulted in a 1-1 draw last season. What’s your score prediction for this one?

An area of weakness for Everton this season has been defending set-pieces and, specifically, short corners.

Arsenal were the latest to score from one last weekend, while Villa and Doncaster have already profited from the reset.

This will not have gone unnoticed by Thomas Frank and Dyche, along with Ian Woan and his coaching staff, will have been working on the matter at Finch Farm. Brentford’s aerial threat and how Everton negotiate it will be crucial.

Evening matches at Gtech Community Stadium in front of the Sky cameras usually only have a positive outcome for the hosts, but I will put my positive cap on and tip the Blues to finally get off the mark.

I’m a big fan of Rico Henry and his absence will be a big loss for Brentford.

I expect Frank’s men to dominate the ball, but Everton desperately need the points and can take all three back to Merseyside if they are clinical. I will predict Everton to win 2-1.