The Toffees begin their 2023/24 Premier League campaign as hosts to Marco Silva’s Fulham side who finished in the top half of the table last season, unlike the hosts who narrowly avoided life in the Championship. Everton are the favourites ahead of the tie, which looks set to be a close game of fine margins. Fulham picked up four points against this weekend’s opponent last season, which included a 3-1 victory at Goodison Park, a result the Cottagers will want to repeat.
Sean Dyche will be looking to begin the campaign with a fresh outlook after last season’s underperformance which nearly resulted in the loss of Everton’s Premier League status. At times, they were extremely hard to watch but they eventually got the results due to the backing of their loyal fanbase. The Toffees are known for making Goodison Park an incredibly tough place to go for even the best teams in the league, however last season they had the third worst home record and it is vital that Dyche restores the home form that has served Everton so well over the years.
Everton’s Achilles heel last season was their inability to provide a threat in front of goal. The Toffees scored the second lowest amount which equates to 0.89 goals per game, less than all of the three teams that were eventually relegated. They have attempted to strengthen their attacking options by bringing in Arnaut Danjuma, a tricky winger who has an eye for goal but given Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s unfortunate injury record, the signing of the Dutch wide-man won’t be enough to fix Dyche's attacking problems.
Keeping a clean sheet will be vital for Dyche and his side on Saturday if Everton are to get a result. They should continue to deploy a trademark Dyche setup that is incredibly difficult to breakdown and often smothers the opposition. Combine that playstyle with the support from the Gwladys Street End and Goodison Park will be a hostile place to visit as a Fulham player. Set pieces will be key to Everton’s chance creation, especially as Dwight McNeil is injured.
Whilst Everton underperformed last year, Fulham most definitely overperformed considering where they were predicted to finish by many prior to the season starting. Marco Silva was able to master the art of beating teams Fulham should perform against, which significantly helped them climb the table and then maintain their high finish. Silva will attempt to use that formula again this season and the Fulham faithful will be happy to see him remain at the club after the rumoured interest from Saudi Arabia.
Entering the season with Aleksandar Mitrovic as their first choice striker is also a great achievement and puts them in a far better position to perform next season. The Serbian centre forward scored an impressive 14 goals in 24 appearances last season and his influence on the team is obvious due to the constant threat he provided. Fulham scored the ninth most goals in the league also which was mainly due to the creative source of Andreas Pereira and Willian, who will both feature this season as long as they can keep hold of the latter.
Away from home last season, Fulham conceded an average of 1.26 goals per game which was the fourth best defensive record in the division. They have bolstered their defence this summer also in the transfer market, signing Calvin Bassey from Ajax for just short of £20 million. Marco Silva will need his side to show defensive resilience and the intensity to match what Everton will throw at them on Saturday, but he will be confident that if they focus on harnessing the Toffees’ attack, then they have the quality further up the field to cause the opposition problems.
Both sides will be desperate to start the season off in the right manner, in an attempt to gain some early momentum. With the game being played at Goodison Park, Everton will without doubt have the advantage which could be the difference on Saturday. However, Fulham have tested themselves against much better opponents in pre-season, which may mean they are more prepared than the hosts. It will be a tight game that could go either way, but it wouldn’t be a shock if it ended as a draw.
The final prediction is Everton 1-1 Fulham.