Sheffield United-Everton Preview
Once more trying to break the pattern of two steps forward and one step back, Everton look for a fresh start Saturday when they host promoted Sheffield United at Goodison Park.
The Toffees (2-1-2) once again dangled the prospects of being an improved side with an impressive 3-2 victory over Wolverhampton before the international break, only to have those platitudes retracted Sunday with a 3-1 defeat at Bournemouth.
Two second-half goals five minutes apart consigned Everton to defeat, with coach Marco Silva both angry and at a loss to explain what happened to a side that had recorded 10 clean sheets in a 13-match span that included the first two games of this term to one that has shipped seven goals in the last three.
"We didn't deserve more after the mistakes," he groused post-match. "We conceded the three goals so easy. I don't want to take away the credit from Bournemouth but it was our fault. We had good offensive moments in the game but the way we conceded the goals made a big impact.
"We have to become again that solid team that we were towards the end of last season and at the start of the season when we had 10 clean sheets in 13 games. We created chances and should have scored more but when you defend like that you are not going to win the game."
In addition to trying to bounce back, this match has the added subplot of Phil Jageilka's return to Goodison Park as a member of the Blades. Jagielka, who joined Everton in 2007 on a £4 million move after coming up with Sheffield United and making his debut in 2000, played 322 Premier League games and 385 overall for the Toffees, ranking him fourth on the club's all-time list in the top flight.
The defender was Everton's talisman from 2013 through last season, and the 37-year old has come full circle in trying to help his boyhood club survive after winning promotion last term.
"It will be a really strange feeling for me to go to Goodison," Jagielka said according to Everton's official website. "I wasn't able to go back to Bramall Lane in an Everton shirt and that would have generated similar emotions.
"To be at a club so long and go back will be quite strange and, I imagine, generate a mixture of emotions."
Jagielka's current club enter this club above the drop in 15th on five points through five matches. Sheffield United (1-2-2) have proven a difficult club to break down, yielding only six goals, but come to Merseyside on a three-match winless spell after a 1-0 setback to Southampton last Saturday.
A moment of individual brilliance separated the sides, with Southampton's Moussa Djenepo scoring in the 66th minute after jinking and twisting away from Blades defenders to beat Dean Henderson - who had earlier kept the match scoreless by pawing out a downward header by Che Adams.
The brilliance then gave way to madness late as Billy Sharp succumbed to the red mist and was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Stuart Armstrong in the 85th minute. Sharp's three-match ban begins with this contest, with an extra spot in attack available on the bench for gaffer Chris Wilder to fill.
Though Wilder knows staying up is an uphill battle, he - and likely every other side - are taking heart from Norwich City's stunning win over two-time champions Manchester City that it survival is not an impossible task.
"It goes give a lot of confidence when the likes of Norwich beat Manchester City, and other results this season. It's showed that teams can go anywhere and get a result, and I think we're in decent nick," he told The Star. "Every team we have played has been decent, with experienced and established players, managers and teams. We've gone toe to toe with the likes of Chelsea and Leicester which is really pleasing, and played our way; creating good chances against good sides.
"We've not been overwhelmed. We have to cut out the silly mistakes and sometimes you have days like Norwich did, where they have three shots on target and scored three times."
Goals have been hard to come by as the Blades have found the back of the net just five times. They have yet to lose on the road, though, taking points from both Selhurst Park and Stamford Bridge via draws.
This is the first meeting between the clubs since Everton recorded a 3-1 home win in the second round of the 2011 League Cup, with Jagielka playing the full 90 for the Toffees. It is the first top-flight match since a 1-all draw at Bramall Lane in 2007, and the teams have split six Premier League matches (2-2-2).
Updated September 19, 2019