Two in-form teams clash at Goodison Park on Saturday. David Moyes’ side are unbeaten in five league games with their opponents unbeaten in four. Everton’s last outing was an impressive 4 – 4 draw at Old Trafford whilst, a day earlier, Fulham overcame Wigan 2 – 1 at Craven Cottage. Everton’s four at Old Trafford meant Everton had scored four in consecutive league games for the first time since August 1999.
Everton, having never lost a home league game to Fulham, will be looking to build on their dominance. The run stands at 23 games with 19 Everton wins and four draws. Since the Premier League began, the sides have met 10 times at Goodison Park with Everton winning all 10. Everton are unbeaten in the last five meetings with Fulham winning just one of the last eight clashes, home and away.
Everton’s home form has picked up after an indifferent start. Everton have won, and kept a clean sheet, in five of their last six home league games. Everton’s problem has been goals but the January signings have helped tackle that. Pienaar, Gibson and Jelavic have all had a positive impact. Everton have scored two or more in their last five league games. The Toffees have also scored more goals (14) in their last five games than they managed in the previous 17 (13).
Nikica Jelavic has flourished scoring seven in his last six games. Darron Gibson has had a calming influence with his tidy passing and unsung work in front of the defence. However, the player with arguably the biggest impact is Steven Pienaar. The South African, in his second spell at the club, has improved Everton’s football; a virtuoso display against Chelsea quickly springs to mind.
Earlier in the season, Everton struggled to create and ball retention was poor, as impatience and frustration crept in. Pienaar has improved this with his passing. His overall accuracy and accuracy in key areas is well above the team average.
Pienaar is second in the club’s league assists table, despite only playing 885 minutes. This is all the more impressive as most of Everton’s established midfielders have played over 2,000 minutes each.
However, the stat that shows Pienaar’s true impact is creating chances. Despite making only 10 appearances since his arrival, Pienaar is already Everton’s third highest chance creator (24). His minute per chance ratio (37) is better than Leighton Baines’ (44) and Baines is Everton’s most creative player. Pienaar’s statistics are even more impressive as Baines takes set pieces and this accounts for a percentage of his chances.
Signing Pienaar is imperative for Everton, this summer, with the midfielder becoming the creative hub of an improving Everton side.
Everton will once again be without Jack Rodwell. His hamstring injury has him sidelined for the rest of the season. Royston Drenthe’s ill discipline appears to have ended his colourful Everton career. Leighton Baines remains a few weeks away from fitness with a hamstring injury.
Fulham could welcome back Stephen Kelly after a hand injury. Bryan Ruiz is out for the season after surgery on a metatarsal fracture whilst Steve Sidwell and Zdeněk Grygera remain long-term absentees.
Fulham will be looking to improve their horrendous Goodison record and they will look to Clint Dempsey and Pavel Pogrebnyak for inspiration. Dempsey is enjoying his best season in English football and the American has scored six in his last eight league games. Pogrebnyak had a blistering start to his Fulham career and his six league goals have come from six shots on target.
The sides are in good form and looking to finish the season in style. League places are worth around £500,000 so there is a clear incentive to finish strongly. Fulham will look to end a run that has seen Everton win the last 18 league meetings at Goodison Park. Three points for Everton will make it 100 home league wins under David Moyes whilst Fulham search for their first league win at Goodison Park.
Tony Hibbert is set for his 250th Premier League appearance
Leon Osman is set to make his 300th Everton appearance
Darron Gibson is unbeaten in 25 Premier League games
Everton have won their last 3 home games against Fulham by a 2 – 1 scoreline
Everton have scored 71% of their goals in the second half – a league high