Phil Jagielka says that Everton's new-found defensive resilience can provide the platform on which the Blues' attacking players can flourish.
Ronald Koeman's side sit fifth in the Premier League coming out of the international break having lost just once in seven games but face what is easily their toughest test of the campaign thus far when they travel to leaders Manchester City on Saturday.
Only Tottenham have a better defensive record than Everton going into the weekend, however, and that strength at the back which has yielded just five times is in marked contrast to the back end of last season when the Blues shipped 12 goals in the same number of matches.
That will be key to their chances at the Etihad Stadium against Pep Guardiola's outfit who were in devastating form until they ran into Spurs at White Hart Lane at the start of the month. Though City will be back at home, Koeman's men will take heart from that evidence of fallibility among a team that many have tipped to win the title.
For Jagielka, who is hopeful of overcoming a thigh injury in time for Saturday, there is enough ammunition among Everton's front quartet to fire the Blues to victory if he and the rest of what he regards a strong rearguard unit keep things tight at the back.
“If you look at it as a back six or seven and include the keeper with Gaz [Barry] and Gana [Gueye],” the captain explained in the Liverpool Echo, “and then look at the players ahead of them, our destructive players… if they turn up on the day they are nearly impossible to keep a hold of.
“That is the role we've got now, we need to make sure we give them the platform and when they do come up with the magic it wins us the game.
“[W]e are putting at least four match winners out there which is a lot for a team to play with.
“We are working as hard as we can and we get them working as hard as they can, but if not we need to be the ones to give them a good platform and base and consistency and continuity are massive when it comes to a defence and keeping clean sheets.”
One of those match-winners — unquestionably the most important of them all — is Romelu Lukaku who, like Jagielka, is a doubt for the City game with a minor thigh problem.
As expected, he was left out of Belgium's 6-0 win over Gibraltar on Monday after feeling a twinge in his leg during Thursday's win over Bosnia-Herzegovina and tweeted this week that it was, “time to go home and recover from this little thigh problem!”
Reader Comments (17)
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1 Posted 13/10/2016 at 08:34:49
Sorry, Phil, but you used the plural for destructive player! There seems to be only one among the others you are referring to Lukaku.
As for waiting for players to turn up on the day! IMO, we have been stood up far too often. Forget the condescending bullshit and get on with the game, please!
2 Posted 13/10/2016 at 09:12:46
3 Posted 13/10/2016 at 10:13:07
4 Posted 13/10/2016 at 11:26:16
Also, De Bruyne will likely start on the bench or not at all; so this is an opportunity to have a go at them.
The fear is if Rom is not fit; that will be with Kone or Valencia starting.
5 Posted 13/10/2016 at 12:23:19
The defence has picked up and are now a well functioning unit for most part, the fact that we have the meanest defence bar Spurs bears that out.
We need consistency out of Barkley, Bolasie, Lukaku, Mirallas etc or they should be dropped. You can't just drift through games turning it on as and when you feel like and not reap the consequences for it. They need to put it in, week-in & week-out. If they have a drop in form, then fair enough.... but that's no excuse for not working hard enough.
Those 4 just don't work hard enough to form an exciting attacking unit, forcing errors out of the opposition. Hopefully Koeman will rectify this in the coming transfer windows should they continue to underperform.
As for Saturday, the eternal optimist in me suggests that the international break came at a good time to regroup and put right the failings of the last couple of weeks: 2-1 to Everton.
6 Posted 13/10/2016 at 13:02:35
Oh, hang on, this is Everton we're talking about.
7 Posted 13/10/2016 at 13:08:21
8 Posted 13/10/2016 at 13:42:45
We need high energy players in the forward positions, who show commitment and desire in everything they do.
I would keep the three players mentioned, but add to them with quality and as soon as possible.
9 Posted 13/10/2016 at 13:54:35
10 Posted 13/10/2016 at 15:18:09
A win or draw = Excellent
One goal loss = Acceptable
Two goal loss = Disappointing
Three goal loss = Back to square one
Four + goal loss = Oh, shit!
11 Posted 13/10/2016 at 15:40:57
12 Posted 13/10/2016 at 15:44:06
good to see you back on a more regular basis.
I have a different view on the game.
A win = excellent
A draw = good
A loss = very disappointing
A heavy loss = unacceptable
We may be a work in progress but we have done reasonably well against Man City; as long as we don't sit back and defend, I think we'll get something out of this game.
Good to hear Jags, Lukaku and Baines are fit.
13 Posted 13/10/2016 at 16:31:45
A draw = disappointed
Nothing else acceptable
This is how we should be thinking, Mr Dodd, not accepting a defeat regardless of how many...
14 Posted 13/10/2016 at 17:03:48
15 Posted 13/10/2016 at 19:15:07
16 Posted 13/10/2016 at 19:21:01
I'd tell Del to be right up top, ahead of Rom, all over Stones and Bravo. Don't let them settle.
Let's do this.
17 Posted 14/10/2016 at 02:46:12
If Lukaku is not fit, I would bench him and give Kone a chance. Valencia looks undercooked to me.