Things were teetering at Goodison. It had already gone awry when Arsenal visited all the way back in October last season. Ronald Koeman’s men needed a good result not only to lift morale but to save the Dutchmen’s job. What happened was one of the worst results of the season. The Gunners came in and put four goals past Jordan Pickford in the second half en route to a 5-2 drubbing at Goodison. Koeman’s fate was sealed, the rest of the season went up in smoke, and Everton was once again back to square one.
Sam Allardyce was brought in to be an interim manager and to steady the ship but he didn’t have much luck either. An absolutely horrid January featured losses to Manchester United and Tottenham in the league along with a FA Cup loss to rivals Liverpool. The summer signings which Everton paid good fees for weren’t working out either.
Everything came back full circle when Everton walked into the Emirates to face off against the Gunners once more. As the famous saying goes, “History repeats itself” and that’s exactly what took place that evening. Arsenal scored four goals in the first half and handed the Toffees a 5-1 drubbing. Aaron Ramsey scored a hattrick as the Gunners controlled the game for the entire 90 minutes. After the Koeman sacking, it felt like rock bottom at the club but things had got even bleaker. At the of the season, Everton took the decision to not continue with Sam Allardyce's service.
The Marco Silva era
The hiring of Marco Silva ignited hope into the supporters and for good reason. Watford and Hull City had done decently under his tenure and it was well-known that Silva wanted to come to Merseyside for a long time. The Portuguese's appointment was announced at the end of May and once again, Everton fans had something to hope for in a new manager.
After some good results in pre-season, the beginning of the 2018/19 Premier League season got off to an okayish start for the Toffees. There were a quite a few matches were Silva’s men walked away with a draw but you felt as if it was a case of two points lost than one gained. Everton squeaked by some wins in the first couple of months to keep them in the hunt for the 8th spot. Wins like their 1-0 against Cardiff City or their 2-1 win against Leicester were signs that despite getting the three points, things were not right.
A 1-0 loss to Liverpool in the Merseyside derby was heartbreaking. Any loss against your biggest rival hurts, especially when you give up the winner in the 96th minute. It started a five-game winless slide for the Blues and it featured some of their worst performances. They lost 3-1 by Manchester City and suffered a 6-1 drubbing by Tottenham in back to back performances.
Those performances capped off a horrible Christmas period for Silva's side. A 5-1 win against Burnley gave hope they were back on the right track but two straight 1-0 losses to Brighton and Leicester quickly wiped that feeling
It was a disastrous month for Everton, especially in defence, and the numbers showed. Their 15 goals given up were second most in the Premier League in the month of December and their expected goals allowed value showed that as well with their xGA rating of 14.07 being second highest as well.
Are Everton on the right track?
Now Everton walks into 2019 with questions and some of them are the same ones which showed up at the start of 2018. There are still a ton of questions around the squad and once again, a big month of fixtures await them.
When looking at the play on the pitch, it’s clear that Marco Silva has a style of football he wants to play. Running mainly a 4-2-3-1, Silva has made it clear he wants as much attacking fluidity up top. Using Gylfi Sigurdsson as the link between attack and defence, Everton has a solid playmaker who can create chances for his teammates. Along with Richardson, cutting inside from the wing, the Icelandic midfielder has been Everton’s best-attacking threat.
Theo Walcott, who is usually situated on the opposite wing, is not performing up to his xG value and if there is a player who needs to step up it’s him. With Everton’s striker usually dropping in and Richarlison/Sigurdsson attracting a lot of attention, the defence is usually bunched together and it opens up a lot of space in the wide areas for Walcott to exploit.
Everton also needs better production from their strikers. Cenk Tosun and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have split time up top but neither has been bagging in goals for the Toffees. While Tosun is outperforming his expected assists, he just doesn’t fit the style of play in which Marco Silva wants to implement. This has forced Silva to play the likes of Richarlison up top. Calvert-Lewin is also a choice for Silva when it comes to strikers but he hasn’t been scoring well either. His pace can be of use in Silva’s style though and it can come in handy when Everton try to hit opponents on the counter-attack. DCL certainly has work to do when it comes to his link-up play but at the young age of 22, he has time to grow. He showed in their win against Bournemouth that he can be a threat in front of goal with a strike to deal the 2-0 victory.
The defensive side of the ball has also struggled. Injuries all around have forced Silva to switch between back three and back four’s constantly. The young guys really haven’t stepped up yet and as a result, the likes of Mason Holgate have been sent on loan again. With Phil Jagielka now on the wrong side of 30, the likes of Kurt Zouma, Yerry Mina, and Michael Keane are all now Everton’s future moving forward at the centre back position. The right-back position will look to be upgraded in the summer as Seamus Coleman is getting up there in age. Everton seems to have Coleman’s replacement lined up in Jonjoe Kenny but at 22, you have to wonder how ready he is to start for the Toffees. Lucas Digne has been a solid replacement for Leighton Baines. The Frenchman has been a constant attacking threat down the left-hand side. His crosses have been dangerous and he’s generated high-quality chances for Everton.
Everton’s real defensive force in the midfield is none other than Idrissa Gana Gueye. He’s been exceptional in his time at Goodison. Gueye acts a screener for the backline, protecting them and eliminating any threat in front of him. He is great at hustling back and retaining the ball back. But sadly he’s missed some games due to injury and it’s shown. They are a completely different team when Gueye is there and the problem for Everton is that they don’t really have any players which fit his style on their bench either.
Everton is in a dangerous position. They need to string some good results together and climb back up the table. Yes, things are looking up for the Toffees but if they aren’t careful they will be in the same position they were last year: staring into the abyss of competing for an 8th or 9th place finish in the league despite spending massive amounts of money.Published 17 Mar 2019, 12:25 IST