Brentford welcome Everton to Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday (5.30pm kick-off). The game will be televised live on Sky Sports.
Thomas Frank’s side have taken six points from five Premier League games this season, while the Toffees’ single point came courtesy of a 2-2 draw at Sheffield United.
Everton won the last meeting in May - Dwight McNeil’s first-minute goal the difference between the two sides at Goodison Park – while this fixture last season ended in a 1-1 draw thanks to Vitaly Janelt’s late equaliser.
Alex Lawes, Playmaker Stats: Everton performing better than the Premier League table suggests
Brentford, who suffered their first defeat of the season last weekend, take on winless Everton at Gtech Community Stadium this Saturday, but a result may not be quite as straightforward as form and the league table might suggest.
Across a variety of expected goals models, Everton have actually been performing well this season with the Toffees’ current xG (7.5) suggesting they should have scored far more than their two solitary strikes this season.
Brentford themselves have underperformed by around two goals against their xG during the campaign so far, but Everton falling 5.5 goals short of their expected goals this season is the largest shortfall in the entire Premier League.
Both of Everton's goals this season have come on the road, however, as has their single point courtesy of a 2-2 draw at Sheffield United.
Toffees manager Sean Dyche has a reputation for direct football that seeks to test the opposition's physicality and aerial prowess, and while the former Burnley man's approach is more layered than many suggest, his Everton side do frequently go long.
In fact, only Sheffield United (303) have played more long balls than the Toffees (287) so far this season - although Brentford (152) have sprayed more accurate long passes than their visitors (119) thus far this term.
If Everton opt to go long, they will need to do so with quality given Brentford's aerial statistics. The Bees topped the pile for aerial duels won in the 2022/23 Premier League campaign and this season only Nottingham Forest (102) have won more aerial battles than Thomas Frank's side (90).
One area Everton may try to exploit is Brentford’s confidence in dealing with crosses. The Bees are often happy to allow crosses to come into their box, as they are assured of being able to clear away. For example, the Bees have blocked just 0.5 crosses per game so far this season with only Newcastle and Bournemouth blocking fewer.
Letting too many balls come into the box against Everton may be a dangerous tactic, however, given that 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, however, Brentford themselves have set the benchmark this season - the west Londoners whipping in 6.4 accurate crosses per game, the most in the division.
Can Brentford impose themselves and worsen the Toffees' sticky start?
Toffees fans braced for another tough season
The Premier League lost some big names to relegation last season when Leeds United, Leicester City and Southampton all dropped away from the top table and back into the Sky Bet Championship.
For a long time, though, Everton - who were last relegated from the top flight in 1951 - looked nailed on to take one of the bottom three places.
It was the second season in a row that the Toffees had flirted with the bottom three. In 2021/22, they had a torrid time under ex-Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, who lasted only until mid-January, before being replaced by Frank Lampard, who brought some semblance of order to Goodison Park and helped them keep their heads above water by a worryingly narrow margin of four points.
At the start of last term, his methods failed to produce the same effect. By New Year’s Eve 2022, Everton had won three of their 18 league games and sat 17th going into this year as a result. They soon dropped into the bottom three and eight days before he would have celebrated a year in the job, Lampard was sacked.
“Frank and his team’s commitment and dedication have been exemplary throughout their time at the club, but recent results and the current league position meant this difficult decision had to be taken,” a statement on the club’s website read, just days after owner Farhad Moshiri had publicly backed Lampard.
Sean Dyche - revered for his efforts with Burnley with limited resources - was brought in to steer the ship for the second half of the season.
In his 18 Premier League games in charge, Everton won five, drew six and lost seven games. It was a mixed bag; not enough to mount a bid for the top half, but sufficient to inspire hope of survival, which was secured by a two-point margin, with a 1-0 win at home to Bournemouth on a dramatic final day.
“It means a lot,” Dyche said afterwards. “I took over what they called a broken club. It’s not broken. It’s had its cracks, but it’s not broken. We’ve shown the fighting spirit that you need. But equally… we’ve got to learn from that, and next season is going to be big.”
The struggles of the previous two seasons meant the Toffees were always likely to be among the clutch of teams fancied for relegation at the end of this season - and the first month or so has done little to suggest doubters were incorrect.
Following their trip to the Gtech, Everton face home games against Luton Town and Bournemouth, both of whom are also searching for that maiden win all teams hope will kickstart their season.
Everton did not win their first league match until October last year, so there will be thousands of pairs of fingers crossed that history does not repeat itself this term.
In the Dugout
After a 17-year playing career ended at Northampton Town in 2007, Sean Dyche immediately stepped into the world of coaching by working as Under-18s coach at former club Watford, who he had played for between 2002 and 2005.
Two years later, Malky Mackay - who, incidentally, joined the Hornets as a player the summer Dyche left - was appointed manager, with Dyche promoted to become his assistant.
Over the next two seasons, the pair guided Watford to 16th and 14th-place finishes in the Championship and, in the summer of 2011, Mackay left to take over at Cardiff, which led to Dyche stepping up to take on the role on a permanent basis in his place.
He led the club to 11th in 2011/12 - their highest finish in four seasons - but the Pozzo family took over and, in a statement said they “recognised Sean’s impeccable conduct, representing the Hornets with honour and dignity at all time,” before they quickly ousted him in favour of Gianfranco Zola.
Dyche was only out of work for a matter of months though. Eddie Howe left Burnley to return to Bournemouth in October 2012 and he was installed as Howe’s successor on a two-and-a-half-year contract.
He ended up remaining at Turf Moor for seven years more than his initial contract length, guiding the Clarets to promotion to the Premier League as runners-up in 2013/14 and as Championship winners in 2015/16.
His side finished seventh in 2017/18, which saw them qualify for European football for the first time in over half a century.
He was appointed Everton boss in January and saved the Toffees from relegation last season.
With Ben Grounds, digital football journalist for Sky Sports
Ben Grounds, digital football journalist for Sky Sports, explains how Sean Dyche is likely to set up his Everton side at Gtech Community Stadium:
“Dyche is generally a manager who gives combinations time to breathe and develop. So far, we have seen Jarrad Branthwaite replace Michael Keane at centre-half while Vitaliy Mykolenko has regained his spot at left-back, with Ashley 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 Idrissa Gueye, Amadou Onana and Abdoulaye Doucouré in the midfield when at times they have been too easily bypassed.
“The return to fitness of Jack 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 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.”
Ajer and Roerslev available in Henry's absence
After Rico Henry was ruled out for the remainder of the 2023/24 campaign and Aaron Hickey expected to move over to left-back, there may be opportunities for the likes of Mads Roerslev and Kristoffer Ajer to get more minutes this term.
And Frank confirmed that both players are available for Saturday's game against Everton; but it's touch and go whether midfielder Mikkel Damsgaard will feature against the Toffees.
Henry and loanee Maupay - who can't play against his parent club - are the only players unavailable from last weekend's squad.
“Kristoffer is fully fit and available for tomorrow," Frank said. “Damsgaard still has a little bit of niggling going on so maybe he’ll be available, maybe not."
On replacing Henry at full-back, the Bees boss added: “Rico is a very good player so, one to one, we don't have someone to replace him.
“When you take one player out, because every player is different, every player has got their own personality and style, that does something to the overall style of the team and the way we play.
“So, of course, the deep runs, the balls in behind for him, can’t be the same but then other players will come into the team, change the dynamics slightly, and hopefully that can be as good or maybe better we never know!"
World Cup referee to take charge of Saturday’s clash
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt and Dan Cook
Fourth Official: Andrew Madley
Video Assistant Referee: Graham Scott
Michael Oliver was one of six English officials to oversee matches at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Oliver officiated three matches in Qatar, including the quarter-final between Croatia and Brazil.
The Northumberland-born referee was handed two Brentford assignments last season: the 3-3 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion in April and the 2-0 victory over West Ham United in May.
Everton 1 Brentford 0 (Premier League, 11 March 2023)
Dwight McNeil’s first-minute goal gave Everton all three points at Goodison Park, ending Brentford’s 12-game unbeaten run in the process.
The winger crashed home from the edge of the box to give the home side the early lead.
Everton thought they had made it two through Demarai Gray at the end of a dominant first half but that was ruled out for handball by VAR.
After the break, Brentford laid siege to the Everton goal but found the Toffees’ defence in no mood to be breached.
The closest Thomas Frank’s side came was a Rico Henry header, saved by Jordan Pickford, and Ivan Toney’s shot which McNeil hacked off the line.
There was almost an incredible late intervention from David Raya, however his stoppage-time header from eight yards skipped wide of the post and with it went the Bees’ unbeaten run which stretched back to October.