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Know Your Opponent: A chat with Royal Blue Mersey

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Goodison Park awaits...

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton - Premier League Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur head into their seventh match of the month during the crowded holiday fixture schedule riding a high. The 2-0 defeat of arch-rival Arsenal in the League Cup Quarterfinals on Wednesday should provide a great boost for the club going into Sunday’s match against Everton. The Toffees are eighth in the table and will be well rested for Spurs. Sitting down with us this week is Chris from our SBN sister site Royal Blue Mersey. We talk about transfers galore, Marco Silva’s good looks and which of the past three managers he’d sacrifice to the football gods.

CFC: Everton splashed some cash for Richarlison in the summer, prying him away from Watford for £35m. He’s one of those weird players who basically plays any forward spot, given the formation. How’s he been and what do you think is his best position with the Toffees so far?

RBM: I don’t think any Everton fan has a single cross word to say about Richarlison in blue so far. He has been the club’s best attacker, by far, and is just two goals back of the Golden Boot lead. If Richarlison had finished his chances a little bit better at the Etihad, he might even be in first place.

The Brazilian’s versatility is certainly an asset, but his best position is on the left wing where he can bully smaller fullbacks. It’s a weird conundrum for Marco Silva - Richarlison is the best pure finisher Everton have right now, but his passing and size are not quite good enough to be a true center forward. On the left, he’s deadly.

CFC: Andre Gomes. Is he actually good or is this a blip on the radar?

RBM: At the very least, he’s incredibly handsome. We think he’s also this good, though. All indications from Gomes’ time at Barcelona indicate that he suffered a great deal from expectations, pressure, and subsequent mental health issues, which contributed to his level of play. At Everton, his confidence has returned, and the player that Barca thought they were getting has emerged.

It is incredibly rare to find a midfielder who is as mobile and good on the ball as Gomes, while also showing an incredible passing range. He ticks every box, and has been one of Everton’s best players this season. Marcel Brands is looking to lock him up permanently as soon as possible because at this rate, Gomes will be coveted by much bigger clubs than EFC.

CFC: How’s Marco Silva doing in his first season so far and is he really the most handsome man in the Premier League?

RBM: We actually had a Slack discussion recently that involved ranking the handsomeness of Premier League managers, 1-20. I’ll spare you most of the gory details, but Marco did finish fairly high. Aside from his general charm, I think that most Everton fans have been quite pleased with the progress under Silva. The recent dip in form aside, Silva has the club playing without fear, pressing their opponents, and generally looking to take the game to their opponent. It’s a welcome change.

There are some lingering concerns about how Silva’s Watford team started declining as the season went on, as well as Marco’s well-known tendency so far in his career to be a bit of a mercenary. For now, though, we’re thrilled to have him leading Everton forward.

CFC: Speaking of managers, I know you’ll love this one!

Shag, Marry, Shove off a cliff: Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce.

RBM: Can I shove myself off a cliff instead? Alternatively, can I shove all three of them off a cliff? Sigh. You are truly awful for this. If I must, though, I’m shagging Bobby Brown Shoes, marrying Koeman, and disposing of Allardyce’s body in a safe and careful manner so no innocent parties are contaminated.

CFC: Everton find themselves in a pretty familiar position on the table in eighth place but just three points away from sitting in sixth. What’s it going to take for Everton to take not just the step to get back into Europa, but to take the further step and compete for Top Four?

RBM: Everton are finally getting close to having the deep and talented squad necessary to compete on several fronts, but the main thing holding them back right now is waste in the transfer market. Blues’ owner Farhad Moshiri is certainly a man of extreme wealth, but his pockets still aren’t as deep as some of the competition’s higher in the table.

The club have recently hit big on signings like Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Lucas Digne, Richarlison, Kurt Zouma, Yerry Mina, and the aforementioned Gomes, but there have been some high profile errors, too. Davy Klaassen, Sandro Ramirez, Cenk Tosun, and depending on the day, Theo Walcott, have all cost money, and all disappointed to varying degrees. Everton can’t afford to flush money down the drain with mistakes like this, and it prevents them from truly moving up a notch.

CFC: How do you expect Everton to line up against Spurs on Sunday?

The big question for Sunday is the fitness of star midfielder Idrissa Gueye, who missed the match against Manchester City. If he’s fit, the lineup picks itself. There is an ongoing question of who is the best partner for Michael Keane - Zouma or Mina - as well as some calls to rearrange the forwards and get Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman more involved, but Marco Silva has been committed to his favorite XI:

Pickford; Coleman, Zouma, Keane, Digne; Gomes, Gueye, Sigurdsson; Bernard, Richarlison, Walcott

CFC: Finish this sentence: In order for Everton to win against Spurs, they have to _________.

RBM: Play through the midfield rather than the wings, and win the battle there. Spurs are depleted due to injury, and Everton have easily the best midfield trio outside the top six (I personally prefer it to Arsenal’s, too). Problem is, there has been an over-reliance on using the fullbacks and wingers to create chances. If the Blues let Gomes and Sigurdsson do their thing, the result will come.

CFC: Prediction?

RBM: 2-1 Everton. We’ve been flirting with a result against the Sky six all season, and this is the first of those matchups at Goodison Park. I suspect that some Spurs will be on their third matches in a week, while Everton will have had eight days’ rest. For the first time in ages, Everton are genuinely good enough to keep up with the top teams. They’ll do it here.

As always, we thank Chris for joining us this week on Know Your Opponent. I did the same for him over at Royal Blue Mersey, and when it goes live on their site, I will update this article with the link to the interview.