The true meaning of a six pointer comes to the City Ground on Sunday. It’s a must-win for Everton and Forest must avoid defeat. Coming off a frustrating 4-0 loss to West Ham, in which Forest showed signs of their pre-World Cup form, collapsing after they conceded the first goal. Truth be told, it was the substitution of Jonjo Shelvey, which was the little rock that gave way and led to the avalanche of pressure that the Hammers rained on Forest. The midfield developed holes when he left the game, as forward Andre Ayew replaced him, the Londoners capatilised and were able to string a couple of passes to bypass the press and progress the ball to their forward players. However, the performance of Shelvey was a plus point and Forest’s cracking home form should be a cause for optimism, not concern.
After playing Forest, Everton have fixtures against Brentford, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United in their next five, stressing the importance of getting a positive result on Sunday. Dyche has provided elements of stability, like confirming his favourite starting eleven and implementing a direct, route one style for football, something that was changing like the wind under previous boss Frank Lampard. However, there are weaknesses in this Everton team and a creative force like Morgan Gibbs-White could be the key to unlocking them. After getting hammered at Arsenal on Wednesday, it is evident that the Toffees defence is very flat-footed and lacks mobility. Quick, attacking football is an approach that will favour Forest, the pace of a Brennan Johnson could easily get in behind one of Coleman or Mykolenko at full-back.
On the injury front, Forest over the next couple of weeks are going to get a steady stream of players back. Whilst the Everton game may be too early, players like: Kouyate, Niakhate, Henderson, Boly, Aurier, McKenna and Omar Richards should be available sooner rather than later. Ryan Yates was pictured back in training, and many thought he might make the journey to London to play West Ham, so he could feature on Sunday. In terms of Everton, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is still out with a thigh injury and right-back Nathan Patterson is struggling with a knock. Many Forest fans will be keeping a keen eye on whether James Garner will play a role at the City Ground on Sunday, but multiple sources suggest that he is struggling with a lack of match fitness.
When Dyche first arrived at Everton, I liked that he implemented the midfield three of Gueye, Onana and Doucoure, on paper it has all the physical tools and experience to navigate Premier League matches. Andre Onana is very talented but inconsistent and if Forest match up with a three in midfield, his presence can be nullified if marked tightly. Another area that worries me is Everton’s ability to make the most of set-pieces, multiple times this season Forest have shown they can have lapses in concentration, they will need to be organised but also ready to spring the counterattack, an area that the Toffees have been vulnerable, Mo Salah’s goal in the Merseyside Derby is a prime example of this.
In conclusion, this game is going to be tight, and you can bet all your chickens that the City Ground will be bouncing. The home advantage is going to mean the world for Forest, people underestimate how hostile that stadium can become, and I think Everton will struggle to get much going. If forest apply pressure and show no fear like they usually do, they should get the job done, but you just never know with this team. Either way, this could be a defining game in both teams’ seasons, I expect neither team will want to throw it away early and it will go down to the wire.
Nottingham Forest: Navas, Aurier, Worrall, Felipe, Lodi, Freuler, Shelvey, Yates, Gibbs-White, Johnson, Wood.
Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Tarkowski, Mykolenko, Iwobi, Onana, Gueye, Doucoure, McNeil, Maupay.
Score Prediction: 1-0
*Article provided by James Bird (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC the Forest players in training this week ahead of Everton.