While Everton hype their next opponent’s back line, the flip side is it probably will only take minimal scoring to earn three points against West Bromwich Albion.
The Baggies attacking issues trump any defensive aptitude as the clubs prepare for Monday’s meeting at The Hawthorns in Everton’s last match before returning home for next Sunday’s Merseyside derby.
Everton (2-3-1) are unbeaten in their last five matches, including a pair of League Cup fixtures, and while recent form has cultivated plenty of optimism, their manager still thinks points aren’t coming as consistently as they could.
"I think our level of performances, they’ve been probably better than the points returned," Roberto Martinez said. "I’m sure that you need to play well to get points over the course of the season, so I would rather have the performances than the points at this stage. … I think you can sense the continuity that we’ve had over the last five windows building a really strong squad, and I think the signs are there."
The Toffees won 2-1 at Reading on Tuesday in the League Cup and have conceded twice in the past four matches of both competitions after allowing seven through their first four. They’ve kept clean sheets in all three Premier League away matches, though there’s some defensive uncertainty moving forward.
John Stones is dealing with a knee injury, and Martinez doesn’t yet know if the 21-year-old will be available. However, there is a chance that right back Seamus Coleman could return after missing two matches with a hamstring ailment. Kevin Mirallas won’t be a part of the squad after the midfielder was shown a red card in Everton’s 0-0 draw at Swansea City on Sept. 19 and was subsequently issued a three-game ban.
Everton took four points in last season’s meetings, and the win came at The Hawthorns on Sept. 13, 2014, with goals from Mirallas and former West Brom striker Romelu Lukaku. Everton have two wins and three clean sheets on a five-match unbeaten stretch against the Baggies for their longest such run in the clubs’ Premier League series.
While West Brom’s scoring concerns persist, their respected back line seemingly took a hit in Wednesday’s 3-0 League Cup loss at Norwich City, though that came with almost an entirely reworked starting 11.
Prior to Norwich, the Baggies (2-2-2) had gone 408 minutes across both competitions since conceding in the 42nd minute of a 3-2 home loss to Chelsea on Aug. 23.
The performance at Carrow Road didn’t make Martinez hold back from praise.
"I think West Brom are in the best moment of their season so far," Martinez said. "… They’ve always been a team really hard to break down, and that defensive organization is very clear."
Tony Pulis’ club was shut out for the fifth time in eight matches, and West Brom’s four goals through six Premier League games are the fewest after Newcastle netted twice in drawing Chelsea.
Even so, they’ve taken seven points from their last three matches, as well as seven from their three away fixtures. Their difficult opening home schedule of Manchester City, Chelsea and Southampton made that necessary.
It’s now time to get that first win at The Hawthorns. After matching a season high with six shots on frame in a 1-0 win at Aston Villa on Sept. 19, Pulis is beginning to believe the attack could equal the back line’s success.
"It’s been Chelsea and Man City who scored against us, so the basis of what we work on, what we talk about, the lads have been very, very good with it. Like I said, against Aston Villa, we looked as though we were going to score goals for the first time this year, to be perfectly honest," Pulis said.