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Three Players To Watch: Matchday 34 vs. Everton

I’m Sorry, Why Should We Care Again?

Everton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

So Fulham are finally relegated. Thank goodness that saga is done and over with!

Regardless, this is a miserable time to be a Fulham fan still and it won’t get any better until the start of next season. It’s as if there’s no point to get excited about these last four games of the season. Sure, Newcastle and Cardiff at home could be winnable with the right amount of luck, but why get excited about a potential win if it doesn’t mean anything? Well, for one, it would be nice for Fulham not to break any records that would make them historically bad.

Along with that, it would be nice to see Mitro get back on fire or Ryan Sessegnon return to being the teenage sensation that he was from last season. Individually, there is plenty to prove as many may be on the shop window to fund Fulham’s transfer kit in the summer. Mitro and Sess are almost certainties if they can even show a whiff of productivity the rest of the way, but how about Tom Cairney? How about two of Fulham’s most expensive transfers in Jean Michael Seri and Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa? Lastly, will we see any of Fulham’s academy products like Luca De La Torre, Stephen Sessegnon or Matt O’Riley?

Even if we don’t think there’s nothing to play for, that doesn’t mean no one at Craven Cottage is working to get this football club back on its proper feet. Meanwhile, Everton have plenty of different objectives coming into this fixture.

For one, the Toffees sit just one point away from seventh despite wanting to get rid of whoever-their-name-is from further managing this team. On the whole, this still looks like a senior team that still has too many holes to fill after a poorly spent 2018 summer transfer window. If anything, this Marco Silva guy is making the most of a flawed club to return them to the standards that they are accustomed to. A scoreless draw against Liverpool and a 1-0 win over Arsenal help brighten the mood of their season, but Leicester and Wolves are two clubs that have bright futures while Everton don’t for some reason.

So what gives? Welp, let’s talk about it as we delve into the three players to watch when they visit Southwest London.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin

All data from whoscored.com

At first, Everton seemed to be among the leading pipelines for young English talent. But while Tom Davies, Ademela Lookman and even former Fulham man Dennis Adeniran haven’t fully made the grade just yet, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is gradually getting a full fledged spot in the starting XI. That doesn’t mean the 22-year old is the finished article. Calvert-Lewin’s 2.45 shots per 90 minutes and shots-on-target ratio less than 36% are quite sub-par for a center forward and those numbers will have to sky-rocket for him to guide his boyhood club to competing with England’s top six. Otherwise, the gaffer will have to go with the dissapointing Cenk Tosun as an option up front and you can start to see where Everton are not at an ideal place up front.

Along with that Theo Walcott and Bernard haven’t fit into the club’s plans while it’s still a mystery as to where to best position Richarlison. Thank goodness this next player has defied all expectations.

Gylfi Sigurdsson

All data from whoscored.com

Simply put, people were ready to right off Gylfi Sigurdsson last season. But in his age-30 season, the star of the Icelandic National team has proven doubters wrong to the tune of 12 goals and four assists. With 10 of them being of the non-penalty variety, Sigurdsson’s rate of 0.33 open-play tallies per 90 minutes is the highest since his 2013/14 campaign with Tottenham. If it weren’t for his production in attack and Idrissa Gueye’s leadership in defense, who knows where Everton would be from an identity standpoint.

Lucas Digne

All data from whoscored.com

Lastly, what has also made Everton successful is having a back four and goalkeeper tandem that is better than a few top six sides. Jordan Pickford is quite self-explanatory while Michael Keane seems to be accustomed playing in Blue after a rocky 2017/18. Meanwhile Kurt Zouma has been a nice sight to see after so much bad luck has befallen upon him and it’s also nice to see Seamus Coleman returning from injury or young Jonjoe Kenny getting playing time at right back.

But the piece to resistance has been Lucas Digne as he has come out of Jordi Alba’s shadow to become one of the better fullbacks of the Premier League. What has been quite fascinating is seeing Digne’s suddenly become a good crosser of the ball. Despite having career averages of 0.90 successful crosses per 90 minutes with just a 19.0% success rate, those numbers have skyrocketed to 2.50 per 90 minutes and 29.9% this season. Add in the fact that Digne’s key passes rate (2.03 per 90 minutes) this season is more than double his career mark (0.97 per 90 minutes) and you are looking at a brand new football player. Believe me, Didier Deschamps and the French National have noticed by calling him up during the March international break.