Everton host Wolfsburg on Thursday night as the Europa league campaign kicks off. The Germans have some familiar names in their ranks with nigh on half the side featuring at the World Cup.
Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio has recently recovered from flu so will start, as will compatriot Ricardo Rodriguez at left-back. Scolari favourite Luis Gustavo anchors midfield while Belgian, Kevin De Bruyne and Croatian, Ivica Olic, run themselves ragged up front.
Here’s how Wolfsburg set up during its first three Bundesliga games. The bigger the player’s circle, the more touches he had. The thicker the arrows, the more passes to that team mate:
Both full backs are very important to the Wolfsburg attack. Both are heavily involved in play and relied on to create chances. We saw Rodriguez maurauding up the left hand side against England the other night and late on Welbeck capitalised as one of these moves broke down and England countered quickly. It’s the same story with Wolfsburg this season. They have been fairly terrible so far at covering the channels when moves break down. Remind you of anyone?
Up front Olic does what Olic does – buzzes around like an annoying fly that won’t give in. Since leaving Bayern Munich he’s having something of a renaissance in front of goal.
The main source of attacking threat, however, has to be De Bruyne. Back in Germany for a second spell, De Bruyne carried on where he left off. His initial spell (at Werder Bremen) was highly successful as he scored 10 league goals and laid on another 8.
The graphic below shows the types of chances De Bruyne has created for his team mates at Wolfsburg. As usual, the arrow width represents volume of passes.
The top set of arrows relate to key passes delivered into the penalty area from the various zones. ‘Outside’ arrows relate to key passes he made to a player outside the box (for clarity, a ‘key pass’ is a pass directly preceding a shot).
My chance creation model says that this set of key passes is enough for 5.21 assists on average. De Bruyne has 7 so far for Wolfsburg since he joined. The youngster’s set of key passes profile almost exactly like Ozil’s did for Arsenal last season. This kid looks like the real deal.
I think this is going to be a cracking game with both sides capable of scoring more than once. If Everton play something approaching a full strength side, I expect them to come out on top in a 17 goal thriller. Ok, maybe not 17, but you get the drift. You can all expect a 0-0 now.
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