European Soccer

Wednesday Kickoff: Donovan faces next big challenge

Landon Donovan 5 (ISIphotos.com)

In the unrelenting world of the English Premier League it is rare when teams have much time to dwell on tough losses before another rough challenge awaits. In the case of Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Everton, the sting of Saturday's loss to Liverpool is still fresh as they prepare to battle first-place Chelsea.

The Toffees will be without Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar for today's crucial test, but they will have Donovan, who should take on a bigger role in the Everton attack. He could face a World Cup preview challenge on the right flank against Chelsea left back and England national team defender Ashley Cole, assuming David Moyes doesn't choose to start Donovan on the left flank to try and test Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.

If we are treated to a Donovan-Cole clash, it could be a World Cup preview, but chances are it won't be.

Donovan is much more likely to be playing on the left flank for the United States come June, and I would be more inclined to see him make a move to forward before he goes to the right wing, where Stuart Holden and Clint Dempsey could start. Left flank would make the most sense against England for Donovan because he would be matched up against the likes of Wes Brown or Glen Johnson, who aren't as strong defensively as Cole.

Today's clash comes just four days after Everton's thoroughly disappointing loss to Liverpool, a match that saw Donovan play well in the first half but disappear in the second half. Donovan showed a willingness to go at defenders and get involved in the attack in the first 45 minutes of the Merseyside Derby, but as Everton's attack began to fade collectively, Donovan struggled to find his own way to impact the proceedings. He finished the match as arguably the most effective of Everton's attacking players, but that wasn't exactly a major accomplishment on Saturday.

Today won't be any easier without Fellaini and Pienaar in the lineup for Everton, but it should be noted that Chelsea has won just one of of its past five on the road (1-3-1). It will be very interesting to see how much more of a role Donovan will have in the attack today considering Pienaar is out and considering the midfield could struggle for possession without Fellaini as an anchor in central midfield. His absence in the second half against Liverpool was a glaring one, especially given Mikel Arteta's relative ineffectiveness as a replacement.

Unfortunately for American fans, the Everton-Chelsea match isn't on American TV, so we will all be hunting for internet feeds come 3pm today. It will be worth the hunt to see how Donovan handles his next tough EPL challenge, and to see him face John Terry and Ashley Cole some four months before they meet with even more on the line.

  • Isaac

    I’d like to see Donovan play on the left for Everton like this:








    I said this last weekend; Moyes doesn’t seem to truly understand how Landon works. He doesn’t fit one position, and the best thing you can do is put him somewhere he can be a striker, attacking midfielder, and winger all at once. That’s left midfield. He can move down the flank to cross and take players on like a winger, play more into the center to allow Baines to get forward and create and combine with other players like an attacking midfielder, and get around the goal like a striker. I think Neville and Donovan have some issues being on the same flank. Whether that’s as simple as on field chemistry or off field conflict I don’t know and am not going to get into, but I do think that Baines has a better tactical aptitude and technical ability so he and Landon should suit eachother well. Arteta could start at right midfield seeing as how he’ll find more space on that flank than he does/did in the center, but it’ll be interesting to see how Moyes sets Everton up for this match.


  • madmax

    Everton will miss Fellaini more than Pienaar. Fellaini was in great form and his removal probably caused Everton to drop the points (it was a greater loss than losing that defender). Liverpool was not that sharp, and a 0-0 score would have been a fair result since Howard and Neville gifted the goal. Donovan switching to the left makes sense if Moyes wants more attack. However if he wants to keep Cole occupied on defense than he’ll leave him on the right.


  • Seriously?

    uh, Dakota, you think that Neville hates Donovan because you saw Neville yell at him? How many EPL games to you watch? Do you think it’s strange to see players yell at each other, even in matches that are less emotionally charged than such a big derby match? If your strongest argument is that Neville sometimes doesn’t pass to Donovan when he could have, and he sometimes angrily yells at Donovan for making a mistake, it’s not an exaggeration or a cheap shot to say that it’s a pretty weak argument.


  • Seriously?

    Ives, I know the channel is going away soon, and I don’t know if you meant showing the match live, but Everton-Chelsea is on Setanta at 5. I’ll be switching between the 2 live matches, hoping they don’t give away a score, and then watching the Ev-Che match later.


  • Seriously?

    um, Erik, sometimes wide midfielders are actually instructed to come inside, to do things such as, trying to open up space for fullbacks to get forward out wide, or maybe overload an area… How do you know that what Donovan was doing wasn’t part of what he’d been instructed to do as part of the team? I have no idea what his instructions were, but I’m sure if he was supposed to be out wide, people like the manager, coaches, Neville, would have been screaming at him. And while I know ratings are the end all be all, but don’t you find it odd that you think Donovan was an idiot, while many others say he was the best attacker on the team?


  • Dakota

    I wouldn’t say so. When you have the option of playing the ball to someone sprinting down your side of the wing or kicking the ball aimlessly up field. You chose the first every once in a while. But this Chelsea game is much better Neville and Donovan are starting to connect.


  • Seriously?

    So are you saying that now Neville DOESN’T hate Donovan? I’m confused.

    (that I’ll admit, was a minor cheap shot, but I couldn’t resist)


  • Dakota

    He still might dislike Donovan, maybe he didn’t dislike him to begin with, but I still stand by the fact that he wasn’t passing to Donovan in the previous games. This game he played the ball to Donovan and I think Everton were a better team because of it.


  • tnnelson

    i like that as a WC preview. Cole couldn’t handle Donovan today,no one really could. that was sick


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