Brian Sørensen: Everton must be ‘at our very best’ for Manchester City visit

Ninth-placed Everton travel to title challengers Manchester City on Saturday, looking to build on their first home win of the season. Manager Brian Sørensen previewed the fixture on Thursday morning, from the club’s Finch Farm training centre.

The Toffees have been plagued by injury problems all season and struggled to find their feet, but finally recorded their first home win of the campaign with a 2-0 victory over West Ham before the international break. Sorensen praised his side’s composure, but was quick to point out the difficulties they continue to have in front of goal.

‘It was really pleasing – I think after I watched the game back I was very happy with how we performed. I still think – and that’s been our problem the whole season – in that final third we need to make the chances bigger.’

Everton have scored only 12 goals this season, the lowest tally in the division. Sorensen said: ‘We are good at being cool, just finding the right passes to get through, but then when we get into that final third we probably rush it a bit too much. I think if you look at like entries into it, we are there, but then the finishing product we are missing. That’s what we need to be better at and practice and we know that.’

Embed from Getty Images

Finding the finishing touch will be critical against Gareth Taylor’s Cityzens, who are closer than ever to the top spot after their win against holders Chelsea at Kingsmeadow. City have a stellar defensive record with the fewest goals conceded in the WSL this season, a strength the Everton manager is well aware of.

‘I think when you keep the ball and and you only lose it in like certain areas, it’s really hard to to get hit on a transition. They’re not defending deep so much – that means they’re not allowing a lot of crosses into the box and all of that because they’re also very aggressive, they press really well.’

‘When you look at the other top teams they probably lose the ball in other areas and then they get hurt on it. Arsenal is probably a good example – they have a really good team, I think they are really well coached and they play really well, but the way they also play you can transition on them, whereas City just keep the ball so well and they only risk it in in those areas where they have a lot of players behind the ball.’

‘And then they’re really good at repressing, so I think that’s why they have that defensive record. The keeper [Khiara Keating] is doing really well, I think the two centre backs they have [Laia Aleixandri and Alex Greenwood] are probably two of the best in the league. They are a really, really good team.’

Despite the challenge ahead, Sorensen said: ‘We love these games – I love playing against City because it’s a team that want to play football, they want to press us and that’s what we really try to do is being good at playing against that. I think it’s sometimes harder if teams are just sitting back and we need to break them down.’

Embed from Getty Images

‘I love playing against City and Chelsea and those type of opponents because it sounds weird but there’s more space because they are pressing us and they are, you know, they’re going at us. I’m really looking forward to it.’

When asked about how he felt his side has progressed in their performances against top teams this season, the Everton boss was positive.

‘We had close games with Chelsea. We’ve just been lacking, as I said, that quality in the final third to take advantage of it to hurt them and I think defensively we’ve been better and better – of course there was maybe games earlier on when we were struggling.’

‘I said that that comes down to no consistency – you know two players are going out every week basically and then you have to rebuild, rethink, put players in different positions and so on. That doesn’t help us in terms of getting comfortable playing against these teams.’

Everton have already faced defeats to City in both cup and league fixtures this year; when asked what he had taken from those games, the Everton manager said: ‘I think the last one we played against them was probably the one that I was, you know, not as happy with [a 4-1 defeat before Christmas].’

‘Bunny Shaw was really really good that day. There was parts of that we did really well but overall we didn’t put in as a good performance as we actually did in some of the others where we only lost with one goal. And we played them twice in pre season, also really close games – so yeah, I think we’re comfortable playing them.’

Embed from Getty Images

‘We actually look forward to it because it’s a team that’s going to press. You need to have a lot of different solutions to manage them and then when we’re on the ball they love to press, that means spaces will open up but of course you need to be really good at it. If we can put in our all, 100% performance, I think we will have a chance but if it’s a City team that rocks up and is doing the exact same you know they’re probably big, big favourites.’

In terms of specific threats offered by their opponents, Sorensen spoke of the importance of trying to cut off deliveries to Bunny Shaw, as well as the danger posed by Jess Park. The 22-year-old forward tried her hand at several roles while on loan with the Toffees last season and has been afforded more chances in the City team due to the injury to Jill Roord – and the Everton boss said he’s unsurprised by her growth.

‘I think she was just waiting for the chance – and of course it’s not fun it has to be the way that Jill got injured it for her to you know to get that full chance. But I think the games she’d been playing before that she also showed what an amazing player she is.’

Turning attention to his own squad, Sorensen admitted injuries are still impacting his team, with Karoline Olesen having suffered a thigh wound and Karen Holmgaard also sidelined. However, the Dane was pleased to say that availability was generally improving and hoped that would help build consistency.

Embed from Getty Images

‘I think that after Christmas, it has not been as many injuries week-to-week where we could actually build a bit [of] consistency. We still have a big bunch of really good players out of course but just because the ones we had here have been available, that means we’ve been building a bit of a structure and so if we can keep doing that I’m really confident that we can start looking looking up in the table and and getting points.’

January newcomers Rikke Madsen and Kathrine Møller Kühl also have a part to play in the remainder of the season: ‘They’ve been good, both in terms of being available, they’re good players, they both have big engines that you need in this in this league to compete so physically they can do that output and then it’s just getting them to bed in, understand what we’re doing, and then being comfortable in that. I think for every game, every practice we have, they’re getting better and better and better, so hopefully that continues.’

While Sorensen recognises his side will be the underdogs in tomorrow’s fixture, he hopes that the remainder of 2024 will continue to bring an upturn in the Toffees‘ fortunes.

‘Tomorrow it’s going to be tough one but everybody that plays City knows that. And then we have got FA Cup, that is not in the league, but then after that we have some home games coming up that is with all the teams around us. Hopefully, knock on wood, that consistency keeps going and then I’m comfortable that we will do well and start climbing a bit in the table.’

Manchester City v Everton kicks off at midday on Saturday at City’s Joie Stadium, with the game live on Sky Sports in the UK.