Stick or Twist? Silva’s Selection Dilemmas

Marcel Brands and Marco Silva were successful in not only pruning a bloated squad but also in then adding genuine quality to the Everton team. It means that the manager has some tough decisions to make when everybody is fit.

Lyndon Lloyd 27/11/2018 74comments  |  Jump to last
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A cursory look at the starting XI from last season’s Anfield derby in comparison with the team sheet for Saturday’s game against Cardiff reveals just how much Everton’s squad has changed in just a short amount of time.

Just three of the 14 players who played a part in January’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool — Jordan Pickford, Idrissa Gueye and Gylfi Sigurdsson — are likely to be in the line-up for the 232nd Merseyside derby on Sunday and only three more — Phil Jagielka, Tom Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin — are likely to be in the matchday squad.

Four of them — Ashley Williams, Cuco Martina, Wayne Rooney and Aaron Lennon — have been offloaded, either on loan or in permanent deals and for another three — Jonjoe Kenny, Mason Holgate and Oumar Niasse — there probably won’t be room on the substitute’s bench.

It’s a measure of how effective Marcel Brands and Marco Silva were in not only pruning a bloated squad over the summer but also in then adding genuine quality to the team. It also means that the manager has some tough decisions to make when, as is the case at the moment, everybody is fit.

In some areas, there is just no argument. So impressive and consistent has Idrissa Gueye been in his customary, tigerish role as the chief disruptor in the middle of the park that he is an early contender for player of the season. André Gomes, meanwhile, has stepped into the role previously occupied by Tom Davies or Morgan Schneiderlin with incredible poise and command; to the point where he is already living up to predictions that he could be Everton’s next Mikel Arteta and fans are wondering what would need to be done to sign the Portuguese permanently as soon as possible.

The result has been that Davies, a player who played 42 times in all competitions last season, hasn’t appeared in a Premier League fixture in two months; Morgan Schneiderlin, who featured 40 times last term, has only started give games so far; and James McCarthy hasn’t been able to get near the team to complete his recovery from a double leg fracture.

Other parts of the team aren’t so cut-and-dried, however, and while keeping the same team from week to week, where possible, has been a convenient “out” for Silva in terms of some tough choices so far, it doesn’t make it any easier on those players champing at the bit for game time.

Three into two won’t go

Central defence is a particularly vexing case in point. In Michael Keane, Everton have a player who has undergone a remarkable transformation in fortunes. On the back of a worryingly shaky first season following what looked back then to have been an exorbitant £25m (rising to £30m) move from Burnley and a 2018 pre-season during which he hardly covered himself in glory, there were many Evertonians who felt that the 25-year-old was in danger of being surplus to requirements with the arrival of Kurt Zouma and Yerry Mina.

Fast forward a few weeks and Keane has gone from being regarded as a liability, a weak link and being behind the aforementioned new signings and Mason Holgate in the pecking order under the new regime to being another leading candidate for player of the year even at this early stage of the campaign.

That he struggled through last season with a potentially career-threatening infection in his foot and was forced to play in outsized boots to accommodate the padding around the injury goes a long way to explaining why his form was such a concern. Combine that with the fact that he was playing in a struggling team and is it any wonder that the wisdom of his acquisition was being questioned by Blues fans and his World Cup prospects evaporated as Gareth Southgate turned to other options. It is testament to his talents as a player and mental strength that he looks every inch a £30m player these days.

Zouma may have arrived almost literally at the last minute but he has proved to be a very astute and valuable loan signing who provided almost flawless cover while Mina recovered from successive foot injuries before finally making his debut in the goalless draw at Chelsea two weeks ago.

That game came at an inopportune time for the Frenchman. He had cemented his place in Everton’s starting XI at the expense of Holgate who had struggled to find his feet early in the campaign and earned a recall to the French international side as recognition of his excellent form in the heart of the Blues’ defence.

He had kept the fit-again Mina on the bench for two games but was forced to step aside when the team travelled to Stamford Bridge as he was ineligible to play. Now, given how well the Colombian played in that match and again against Cardiff last Saturday, Zouma has been relegated to the role of deputy and late substitute.

All three centre-halves have exhibited a similar level of performance so far but given that Everton have invested heavily in Keane and Mina and that Zouma officially belongs to another club until (and if) circumstances change next summer, it is perhaps understandable that the former two get the nod while everyone is fit and healthy and Silva is using a flat back four.

The latter case may not always be, of course. Silva has used a three-man central defence before and hasn’t ruled out deploying it again. Indeed, he has thrown an extra centre half on at the end in recent games to shore up a result but it doesn’t look likely that he will opt for that formation from the start in many games. Because while it does free up the fullbacks to be more attacking, it does so at the expense of one of his more natural attackers and the four-man offensive unit has proved to be an effective weapon in many matches this season.

Is it something he would consider at Anfield this summer Sunday? It’s unlikely — it’s hardly the occasion for too much experimentation — but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. It would add an extra defensive component to deal with one of the most deadly forward lines in the league and also, perhaps, provide a reason for taking one of his less-than-consistent wide players out of the side or, at least, from the starting line-up.

In search of the right blend

It’s fair to say that each of Everton’s signings this year, from Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott to the six additions acquired over the summer, have had a positive impact on the side, albeit to varying degrees. Of the new attacking players, Tosun has clearly found it hardest to hold down a starting berth, with Richarlison proving more effective in a central role.

Bernard and Walcott, meanwhile, have been preferred down the flanks but with neither operating at their peak at the moment, it creates a window of opportunity that Ademola Lookman looks more and more likely to climb through with each passing week exciting cameo.

The young England midfielder has come a long way from the sullen demeanour he displayed after the transfer window closed and the kibosh was put on his desired permanent move to Red Bull Leipzig. From barely looking like he was interested in playing during pre-season, Lookman now has the look of a player fully committed to taking any chances that come his way and he is pushing hard for his first Premier League start.

Whether that is in place of Walcott or Bernard is up for debate but there is a growing feeling among the fanbase that one of the two could do with a spell on the bench where they could swap roles with Lookman to become the impact substitute.

Walcott’s move from Arsenal to Goodison presented the 29-year-old with an chance to finally shed the image he had cultivated in his years in North London of a man who was always falling tantalisingly short of fulfilling his rich potential. In new surroundings and now under a dynamic, ambitious young coach in Silva, the hope was that the former Southampton prodigy could find the consistency lacking in his game but it appears that it continues to elude him.

That’s not to say that he hasn’t weighed in with some important contributions, of course. Two goals early in the season and a key role in the sending off of Bournemouth’s Adam Smith in August were evidence of a player getting his first full season at his new club off to a flyer but Walcott has become progressively less reliable in the final third, his key role in Sigurdsson’s goal against Cardiff notwithstanding. He was found wanting against his old club when he probably should have scored in a one-on-one situation with Petr Cech and his heavy touch let him down at Chelsea in what was a rare chance for the Blues to score in a key away game.

Meanwhile, after making a scintillating start to his Everton career, Bernard has shown signs that he will need a lot longer than at first thought to get to grips with the transition from Ukraine’s Premier League to England. His composure to set up the third goal against Fulham having only been on the field a few minutes, and then his brilliant skills to carve out a goal for his compatriot Richarilson on his first League start vindicated those who felt that of all of Silva’s summer signings, he was the most exciting.

If there has been concern around the diminutive Brazilian from some quarters in the weeks since it’s that he has, perhaps, lost some of that early confidence, his distribution has been iffy at times and he has generally been erratic. Substituted initially for fitness reasons — he hadn’t played since March when he arrived on a free transfer from Shakhtar Donetsk in August — Bernard largely has been withdrawn by his manager more because of diminished effectiveness in recent weeks, although he was improving as the game against Cardiff wore on and was probably unfortunate to make way.

The knocks on Bernard are possibly overdone. Only Gylfi Sigurdsson and Lucas Digne have a higher percentage of key passes per game than him so far this season and, as his role in the lovely breakaway goal against Brighton showed, he can make vital contributions over the course of a game even if he still lacks consistency. Silva clearly agrees and, by starting him week in, week out, he is allowing the winger to gradually find his feet and get much-needed game time and experience under his belt.

Lookman coming into the side for one of Walcott or Bernard feels like it’s inevitable at this time but whether the manager elects to take that decision for a game as important as the derby on Sunday is another matter. (The home game with Newcastle would seem to be a much more obvious test case.) In a contest in which Everton will be more reliant on counter-attacking than is the case at home, there is an argument for retaining Walcott in the XI for his pace and experience.

Bringing him in for Bernard would seem to be a more like-for-like change but the Brazilian might be better suited to the pressing game and the need for tracking back than Lookman, whose defensive weaknesses were an issue for Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce.

***********************

These are, by Silva’s own admission, nice problems to have and if he can find the right attacking blend and draw the requisite consistency from all his attacking players, there is no question that Everton will be in a far better position to challenge for a top-six place over the second half of the season.

Competition among the players can only help in that regard, as could a key signing or two in January to bolster that front line, but in the interim the challenge is to cultivate the best environment for the obvious quality that exists in this Blues team to become a consistently dangerous team going forward against the best teams in the division

The upcoming games at Liverpool and Manchester City and against Tottenham at home will be a stern examination of just how far Silva has been able to do that. He has some selection dilemmas to work through but ultimately it’ll come down to whether the players can perform when the time comes.

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Reader Comments (74)

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John G Davies
1 Posted 27/11/2018 at 08:22:33
Zouma and Mina at centre-half if he goes with a back four. Richarlison on the left and Calvert-Lewin up front.
Chris Watts
2 Posted 27/11/2018 at 08:41:57
Great article, Lyndon. It is indeed a dilemma but of a different kind to what we've had lately... Martina or Garbutt at left-back for instance.

Whoever plays, I hope they spend the week preparing knowing Liverpool are focused on their must-win game against PSG tomorrow.

John Keating
3 Posted 27/11/2018 at 09:28:57
I think that, rather than leave the change until the Newcastle game, Silva should indeed make changes out wide for this weekend. Certainly defence and midfield should be left alone.

For me, Richarlison should replace either Walcott or Bernard. Neither are playing particularly well just now and the one dropped should be the one Silva feels will do a poorer job supporting the full-back when the RS have the ball.

I would bring in Calvert-Lewin up front to give more of a physical presence and occupy their central defence.

Derek Taylor
4 Posted 27/11/2018 at 09:46:34
The derby game will show just what we are made of. Either more disappointment and excuses or, just perhaps, a breakthrough at long last. My gut feeling is for the latter and by nature a pessimist, I've already backed this most unnatural inclination with a £20 wager on our lads!

COYB!

Jim Harrison
5 Posted 27/11/2018 at 10:21:27
I am with John at #3.

John Raftery
6 Posted 27/11/2018 at 10:22:39
Thanks, Lyndon, for a comprehensive summary of the selection issues in front of Silva. You are right to highlight just how many changes of personnel have been necessary this season in order to raise standards.

I think one of the reasons for the diminished effectiveness of Walcott and Bernard is that, while Richarlison is a very strong direct runner at opposing defences, he is not a centre-forward who readily brings his wide attackers into the play. If I were to make a change on Sunday, it would be to move Richarlison back to the left with Calvert-Lewin or Tosun coming into the middle.

I suspect, however, Silva will leave the team unchanged for Sunday – thus obeying the ‘don't change a winning team' mantra. The Newcastle game three days later is more likely to see him change the front three with Lookman and one of the centre-forwards returning.

With eight games to play in just over four weeks Silva will need to ring a few changes when injuries, fatigue and suspensions kick in.

Kevin Prytherch
7 Posted 27/11/2018 at 11:07:31
I agree with some here that. Although we regularly start with Bernard, Richarlison, Walcott (left to right), it could quite easily be Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin, Lookman.

Nice dilemmas for the manager to have with good replacements in nearly every area of the team at the moment.

Tony Everan
8 Posted 27/11/2018 at 11:15:01
Thank you, Lyndon .

I don't think he will change the front three, even though Bernard and Walcott have been below what we know they are capable of.

Bernard has been inconsisitent and I have expected a bit more from him, but there is a case that it is early days. He has a streetfighter strain in his blood that will come out in the derby. I think he could, against expectations, have a very good game.

Walcott has been inconsistent too, and quite a bit below what he can do on top form. He needs to sharpen his knives for the derby; Silva has to feed him some raw meat this week. I don't want to see a meek and passive Walcott on Sunday, if that side of him turns up I won't forgive him.

These two players can offer more, and if they turn up for the show we can really hurt Liverpool.

Richarlison will stay central I think, whilst Calvert-Lewin offers more physicality. I think Richarlison is still marginally the best choice for it as he has a bit more skill and cleverness and is more predatory. Calvert-Lewin coming in would mean Bernard dropping to the bench.

Fran Mitchell
9 Posted 27/11/2018 at 12:12:44
We have to twist; the performances at Stoke and Brighton were not exactly brilliant, so some tweaking is needed.

Bernard should be an impact sub for the time being, but I also agree that this is not a game to bring in Lookman. I'm in the camp of playing Calvert-Lewin as centre-forward (please god, don't let Tosun play), and have Richarilson on the left.

Richarilson's running should provide more cover for Digne, as Alexander-Arnold will be a handful, and Walcott should have the experience to be well tasked to helping Coleman deal with Robertson. Those Liverpool full-backs are both full of pace and attacking threat.

Lookman and Bernard can provide wonderful options off the bench to really put it to Liverpool later in the game, with tired legs (especially after they've already had a tough mid-week game in Paris).

Mike Corcoran
10 Posted 27/11/2018 at 12:43:43
Rotate the front 3. Rich left, Theo centre, Bernie right. Teamsheet looks the same, set up will confuse the reds but be comfortable for our three. Pace through the middle will keep their centre-halves pinned back and open up the midfield for us
Ajay Timothy
11 Posted 27/11/2018 at 13:09:48
I don't know if it is me but I'm more optimistic about this game than I have been for some time. It could be that we have more players with a winning mentality than we have had for some time. Players like Mina, Richarlison, Gomes and more.

As loyal an Evertonian as Baines, Jagielka and Davis to name a few are/were, I never got the impression that they were up for the derby. Certainly having this inferiority complex ingrained by Moyes and others solidified this mindset.

Not sure if this optimism is well founded, especially at Anfield, but I haven't felt this good since my first Anfield derby back in 1972 when some no-name called Cormack scored for them and then Emelyn Hughes scored 2 in the return at Goodison for the dark side. Oh well.

Long time ago but anyone else remember those games?

David Hallwood
12 Posted 27/11/2018 at 14:02:37
Great article, Lyndon and not forgetting its the anniversary of the shameful defeat by Southampton. For me, we've got enough quality in the squad for a case-by-case approach.

For the derby, he's probably pondering whether to play 3 at the back to counter their front 3. I'm not a fan of it but, as a one-off way to neutralise the RS, so be it. Let's face it – you stop the front 3, you stop the RS.

I'd drop Walcott and ask Bernard to play off Richarlison.

Any thoughts?

Tony Abrahams
13 Posted 27/11/2018 at 14:52:19
Loads of permutations further up the pitch if you go with a back three, David, but only a very brave manager (stupid, some would say) would change things for this fixture, the way things are going!

I expect the change to start against Newcastle, but that's just my own opinion, the same opinion that thinks it's also going to make us stronger, more competitive, and also harder to play against in the long run.

Mark Taylor
14 Posted 27/11/2018 at 14:54:53
What Silva should do and what he will do are perhaps not the same.

Barring injury, I think he'll stick with the same side that has turned a corner on the basis of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Also I suppose that mini run of good results will have greatly helped confidence among the current starting XI.

Personally, I would bring in Lookman for Walcott because his cameos suggest he would be much more of a threat and that is as good as way as any to keep the full-back from charging forward. As others have said, Bernard, for all his small size, seems to have a degree of aggression about him that is better suited to a derby.

While I think the odds remain against us, we are better placed than normal given we have a developing team growing in confidence and, with a bit of luck, PSG will have run them all round the park in the Champions League game. So it's perhaps our best chance for a while.

Amit Vithlani
15 Posted 27/11/2018 at 15:06:28
"The home game with Newcastle would seem to be a much more obvious test case."

Interesting view, Lyndon, in respect of including Lookman this weekend. I actually think Lookman starting at home against a side we are expected to beat may weigh on him.

Personally I would put him on Sunday for a couple of reasons.

First, cast your mind back to his cameo at Anfield in the FA Cup defeat in January. He had a hand in the equalizer, and I recall a thrilling turn and run where he had the shite defence back peddling.

Secondly, he may find space behind Robertson & Alexander Arnold, who both enjoy bombing forward. I recall that we struggled to contain Wan-Bissaka of Palace down our left, and Bernard seems incapable of exploiting space as he is not a natural left-sided winger. Lookman found space in that match when he came on and delivered a brilliant cross for Calvert-Lewin's header.

Rob Halligan
16 Posted 27/11/2018 at 15:13:36
Nowhere to really post this, so I'll put it on this thread seeing as it's derby related.

The referee for Sunday is Chris Kavanagh. We had him for the Carabao Cup game against Southampton. However, more interesting is one of the assistants is Sian Massey.

Will she be able to cope with the intensity of a Merseyside derby, particularly with that shower of shite hurling abuse at her? I'm not entirely happy with this appointment.

Jerome Shields
17 Posted 27/11/2018 at 15:33:11
I agree with your assessment but I would add the right-back position as having been brought to Brands's and Silva's attention as needing more competition. Zouma did say at the start of the season that he did not see himself as a long-term Everton player. The present midfield trio are one of the best in the Premier League; getting Gomes to stay will be a priority. The forward line is the main problem area.

Whilst Richarlison would be better on the wing, he is more of a threat than Calvert-Lewin and Tosun, maintaining the high press and keeping the opposition defence from pushing their defensive line up, Both Calvert-Lewin and Tosun where a gift to opposition defences.

Walcott takes up good positions and helps Everton to maintain their shape, though, in play, he is peripheral and struggles with the dual role that Silva expects of him. Bernard is not up to Premier League speed; I was expecting him to be more of a commanding player. Lookman is getting better all the time.

Against Liverpool, I don't expect any changes; Silva is making do with what he has – especially in the forward line. Everton still need to get a good centre-forward.

John Raftery
18 Posted 27/11/2018 at 15:47:27
Hi Rob (#16), I see no reason why she shouldn't. She is better than some of the muppets we have had the misfortune to witness in recent years.

Ajay (#11), I well remember both those matches. The first was in October 1972. Cormack scored the only goal with a header after about 80 minutes at the Anfield Road End after we had more than held our own.

By the time we played the return in March 1973, we were really struggling with the likes of Joe Harper and Rod Belfitt having been signed in a forlorn attempt by Catterick to replace Joe Royle who had suffered a back injury in late October. On a wet, muddy pitch at Goodison Park, Hughes scored two second-half goals at the Park End. The following month, Catterick stepped down to be replaced by Billy Bingham in the summer.

Bingham was happy to settle for several 0-0 draws as part of his contribution to our seven-year famine. More than 40 years later, we have suffered an even longer famine; over eight years have elapsed since we last won a derby.

I have attended every league derby since 1969-70. That is 98 games with only 16 victories for our club... 5 at Anfield.

Brian Williams
19 Posted 27/11/2018 at 15:47:48
Rob #16.

Bit sexist, that, Rob. Be prepared to be lambasted! Lol.

Frank Crewe
20 Posted 27/11/2018 at 15:59:45
Why people keep criticising Bernard, I'll never know. Take the ball he played into Sigurdsson whose shot was kicked off the line in the Cardiff game. If Sigurdsson had put that away, it would have been 2-0 and game over.

He does that in every game he's played in. If the forwards don't finish it that's not his fault. Sunday is our biggest game of the season so far and big games require your biggest players. If I was Silva, I would name an unchanged side.

My only concern is that both Mina and Keane are not the quickest centre-backs so the Reds' nippy forwards will cause them problems. On the other hand, we have pretty quick forwards ourselves and, since the onus will be on them to attack, I'm sure we'll get opportunities to counter-attack on the break.

At least this time we'll be going into the game with a realistic chance of getting something from it instead of blindly hoping for the best.

Lyndon Lloyd
21 Posted 27/11/2018 at 16:12:35
Rob (16), Sian Massey has my utmost respect. What she must have to put up with in what I'm sure must be every single game would test the patience of a saint. I'm sure she'll be just fine.
Dave Abrahams
22 Posted 27/11/2018 at 16:22:10
Lyndon (21), does what she has to put up with forgive the many poor decisions she makes?

Sian was at Goodson early in the season and she couldn't even get some of the throw-in decisions correct; she even waited once or twice for the referee to indicate which team got the call before she put her flag up.

I've nothing against a lady being in charge, as long as she is good enough. I shudder to think how the Liverpool crowd will intimidate her.

Joe O'Brien
23 Posted 27/11/2018 at 16:31:53
I'm very optimistic about this match. As David @12 said... you stop their front 3 and you stop the team.

I was talking to a red at work and he said Henderson is a massive loss for them. I don't think he'll change the team, although I agree with a lot of the previous posts that I'd bring Lookman in for Walcott.

I'm looking forward to this match... and I never look forward to playing them. The players will obviously be the difference but I think Silva will be also the difference — he's streets ahead of Klopp tactically.

Klopp has Plan A which normally works due to their front 3... but, if you nullify those (I know that's easier said than done), Klippity hasn't got a Plan B. Marco has Plans A, B and C!!

David Pearl
24 Posted 27/11/2018 at 16:50:41
I've a feeling he won't change a thing and set up similarly to the Chelsea game; if it doesn't work, I'd expect him at some point to again add an extra defender. This is a different test though.

Up front, if he was pondering a change, that might've come against Cardiff. One thing I'd think about is switching the front 3 with Bernard right, Richarlison left, and Walcott through the middle. We don't seem to do enough of that. They stay on their respective sides whether it's working or not.

Rob Halligan
25 Posted 27/11/2018 at 17:05:24
I've nothing against Sian Massey as an assistant. As John # 18 says, she is no worse than some assistants we've seen down the years.

My point is, will she be able to cope with the hostility that will surely come her way should she give a few bad decisions against the RS?

As rightly pointed out by Dave (#22), she got a few throw-in decisions wrong in the Carabao Cup game against Southampton earlier in the season.

Let's hope she has the skin of a rhino to cope with any dog's abuse hurled towards her if she does give some dodgy decisions against them. I know male assistants get abuse hurled at them, so really it shouldn't be any different for Sian Massey. It's how she copes with it that concerns me.

As Lyndon says, she'll be fine. Let's hope so.

Kev Jones
26 Posted 27/11/2018 at 17:14:55
A woman might get shit from men. So what's new?

She will be fine, as good or bad as mean who run the line.

Stan Schofield
27 Posted 27/11/2018 at 17:21:02
Rob, I'm also concerned, but then I'm increasingly concerned about the quality of officials generally at the moment.

Incompetence and corruption know no gender boundaries.

John Pierce
28 Posted 27/11/2018 at 18:04:49
All I hope is that other assistant referees get name checked from now on. Can posters name others assistant referees so readily and comment so precisely about their ability?

Can you name the lino who gave the offside goal at Arsenal? If it doesn't spring immediately to mind then perhaps a rethink on the viewpoints above is necessary. Otherwise, the comments made are, to my mind, well off the mark.

Evertonians' mindset needs to shift from looking at the officials for a get out and focus on the promising side we have and forget about the ready-made excuses we like to pivot to following a defeat at Anfield.

I think we have a very decent chance. Our better performances have been away from Goodison Park with both Silva and his players more comfortable on the counter.

For me, the same team bar Lookman for Walcott. He gets more from Coleman and takes up a different space to Seamus. Walcott and Coleman, both vertical players, direct and athletic. Lookman brings a cerebral touch.

2-0 to the Toffees, Andre the Giant Gomes with the coup de grace.

Kev Jones
29 Posted 27/11/2018 at 18:05:29
Thanks for a good article, Lyndon. Great to have dilemmas and choices in the team.

I'd stick with team and formation. I can see the sense of the team building cohesion. Even though Bernard and Walcott are frustrating, I think Silva is really giving them a chance to find their best form, which takes time. I just think he should sub earlier when it's clearly not working and then exercise our choices up front. Put on Lookman and vary Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.

Brian Williams
30 Posted 27/11/2018 at 18:21:52
Can you name the lino who gave the offside goal at Arsenal? If it doesn't spring immediately to mind, then perhaps a rethink on the viewpoints above is necessary. Otherwise, the comments made are, to my mind, well off the mark.

Could it be that being the only female assistant referee makes her easier to remember rather than anything of a "sexist" nature your post might seem to suggest, John?
Stan Schofield
31 Posted 27/11/2018 at 18:25:32
John @28: This season, a number of officials named on ToffeeWeb prior to a match have resulted in concerns being expressed about their past performance and possible biases. Such concerns are often expressed within wider concerns about incompetence and corruption.

John Pierce
32 Posted 27/11/2018 at 18:26:04
Nice effort that, Brian... but it's sailed into the Park End and still rising.

John Pierce
33 Posted 27/11/2018 at 18:36:40
Stan, whilst I'd agree the referees have had star billing this season on TW, but to suggest a ‘named assistant referee' has had a myriad of posts is stretching it a touch.

If you can find a post/thread with a named assistant referee rather than the generic ‘lino' then that's fair dos.

Darren Cann perhaps or Andy Garratt? I cannot recall a debate about their individual skills before an important game? Why does Sian Massey-Ellis get a name check and not even her partner for Sunday? [I'll take my chances with that statement.]

Let's be clear: I'm not pilloring anybody, I suggested a rethink if any unconscious bias exists. Ironic since that's what many on here believe officials have towards the bigger clubs.


Stan Schofield
34 Posted 27/11/2018 at 18:55:02
John, this particular official is the subject of the posts here simply because Rob mentioned the name and some aspects of past performance that give concerns.

I'm concerned about quite a few officials, and have expressed those concerns openly in response to specific namings on ToffeeWeb. If you trawl through some recent threads, you'll find a fair amount of discussion on the topic.

A particular official being female would not prevent me from commenting in the vein being discussed, because to do otherwise would be patronising towards women (IMO).

Derek Taylor
35 Posted 27/11/2018 at 18:56:36
It will be a very unusual derby if we don't find ourselves bleating about the shortcomings of the game's officials.

Perhaps, at long last, it will be the turn of our neighbours to claim 'they wuz robbed'!

Ian Bennett
36 Posted 27/11/2018 at 19:04:11
I would play 5 at the back against their front 3. We simply aren't going to win if we are shipping in a lot of goals.

Pickford

Coleman
Digne
Keane
Mina
Zouma

Gomes
Sigurdsson
Gana

Richarlison
Walcott or Calvert-Lewin

Jay Harris
37 Posted 27/11/2018 at 19:25:23
Frank, there is no doubting Bernard's skill but, as you rightly say, it's the forward's job to score and Bernard is... well, a forward. He hasn't shown any composure in front of goal and has recently been physically out-manoeuvred by his markers.

Walcott, on the other hand, is always potentially a scorer although he has been below par recently.

There is definitely a case for Lookman, who is pushing to get his chance, and Calvert-Lewin may just have the physicality to occupy the RS defence so, for that reason, I would put Calvert-Lewin up-front, Richarlison out left, and give Walcott and Lookman a half each depending on how the game is going.

I do worry about the speed of their breakaways, so Coleman and Digne may have to be less adventurous on Sunday.

Stan Schofield
38 Posted 27/11/2018 at 19:28:37
I'd keep an unchanged team. We've rattled Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea with our high pressing, it's working, and we just need a bit more luck. Let's rattle Liverpool, and win.

The goal deficit sequence from those games is -2, -1, and 0. Next in the sequence should be 1.

Dave Abrahams
39 Posted 27/11/2018 at 19:35:37
John (28),

To be clear about the referee's assistant, I'm not looking for excuses in case we lose this game. I'm backing Everton to win and fully expect them to have a good go at Liverpool.

I agree, the lady assistant is probably no worse than some of her male counterparts; nevertheless that doesn't make her a competent line person.

I had a go at her in the game I saw and apologised to the young lady who sits in front of me, and told her I wasn't having a go because she was a lady. The young lady told me there was no need to apologise because she agreed that the referee's assistant was crap. (Her words!)

Karl Meighan
40 Posted 27/11/2018 at 20:15:57
I don't think the cameos are enough as yet to be starting with Lookman. I think Walcott is being hard-done-by as, although I think he can offer us more, fans seem to be jumping on the bandwagon regarding him and Bernard. Yes, they can both do better but the team is improving and, more important, we're getting results.

Richarlison was shite on Saturday — nobody was asking for him to be replaced against Cardiff. I agree that Bernard improved in the 2nd half and Walcott has to do better against Cardiff-type teams at home; his form hasn't been as bad as lots would have us believe and the rumblings seem a little unfair, imo.

It's nice to see Lookman wanting to be part of the team and working hard and his time will come over the course of a long season.

Dermot Byrne
41 Posted 27/11/2018 at 20:17:08
To me, the only change is Lookman for Walcott.

But, is this a big game for Walcott to use his big-game experience with Lookman eager on the bench?

I have to say... I am running away for the day... or am I?

John Pierce
42 Posted 27/11/2018 at 20:17:54
Dave, criticism is fine for any official if you feel it's warranted. At no point did I suggest anyone was above being criticized.

They are all assistant referees or ‘Linos' if you prefer. There is absolutely no need to mention gender, why is gender even important? That's the point I'm making.

They stand or fall on their ability. If that truly was the case, then perhaps her partner should have been mentioned in the same breath. Using gender rather than a collective title and then criticizing, warranted or not, still looks misjudged to me.

It's just my thoughts on how I've interpreted the comments. I cannot read someone's mind and hope the comments were made in good faith. 😊

UTFT

Dave Abrahams
43 Posted 27/11/2018 at 20:31:18
John (42), fair enough, gender shouldn't and doesn't matter. If Sian was a man, she still wouldn't be a good football official...

And let's be honest — there are one or two lady ToffeeWebbers who know more about football than many of us on here.

Paul Birmingham
45 Posted 27/11/2018 at 21:31:52
I reckon we've a fighter's chance; if we believe and don't make any gift wrapped errors, aka the last 4 derbies there, we could do the business.

I see our use of the ball and press as key, similar to the Chelsea game, but we must maintain clear communication onto and on the pitch.

The officials, as ever, have their work cut out and I'm sure the officials will get the usual verbals, but they can't melt as is mainly the case when we play them.

I expect the same line up to start but with real onus on Walcott to show real guts, hunger, passion and composure to deliver. He must know he's playing for his place now and I expect Lookman to start vs The Barcodes.

Hopefully we can convert the chances we create and also have some vision and get some shots in from outside the box.

I'm hoping for Bernard to get third-time lucky on the next “sitter”. A few RS have been pretty quiet this week, and are using the PSG game as of higher importance.

Let's hope so and the Gods of football smile kindly and provide a blue victory on Sunday. That would be nice.

Anton Walsh
46 Posted 27/11/2018 at 23:02:21
Richarlison out left in place of Bernard, Calvert-Lewin in the middle, and Walcott holds his place for this game. Same everywhere else. Spread the tackles on salah and mane about amongst the team.

But a good trick is to wait for an opportunity when the ref is looking for the big fellas pushing and pulling and get someone to stamp on Salah's foot. The old tricks still work the best.

Laurie Hartley
47 Posted 27/11/2018 at 23:42:14
Great summary of our current situation, Lyndon.

Don't mess with the back four or midfield for this game under any circumstances, barring a training injury.

The derby is a test of character – that is why they have had the drop on us for so long.

Based on the above, there is no way I would drop Bernard – he is a fighter who will produce at least one moment of magic during the game. He also works to the game plan.

Last week, when Pickford had caught the cross (and Harris clattered him), Bernard had already taken off up the left wing like a cut cat in anticipation of our goalie launching one for him. We need that sort of intelligence in a derby.

On the centre-back pairing, Keane is undroppable at the moment. I really like Zouma but Mina has to start also.

The only change I can see is Lookman coming on for Walcott or Bernard after 60 minutes.

I am nervous about this one – as opposed to anxious. Always a good sign.

Damian Wilde
48 Posted 27/11/2018 at 00:14:21
Stan (34) could you post me the link to the pages where you have discussed 'assistant referees' before? I have seen referees discussed before, but never assistants (specifically by name). If it was a male assistant, they would not have been discussed.

And all this from some 'Oh, how will she cope with reds having a go at her?' As if she hasn't heard it all before! All clearly sexist.

But, yeah, if an assistant misses an offside or some other big decision on Sunday, I'll give them stick whichever one it is, but I won't harp on about worrying if they will get upset by the stick dished out by the reds. Perhaps one of you can carry her bag for her... you know, she might not be strong enough...

Brian Williams
49 Posted 28/11/2018 at 00:22:59
Why should he post you the links?
Who died and put you in charge?
Put down your pitchfork and get a life.

Always someone ready to show how perfect they are and start something that doesn't need starting.

Peter Gorman
50 Posted 28/11/2018 at 00:31:35
White knights don't carry pitchforks, Brian.
Rob Halligan
51 Posted 28/11/2018 at 00:58:38
Damian, I started this debate about Sian Massey, so now I'll finish it.

I'm not saying she's a poor assistant, far from it. What I'm saying is, will she be able to take any dog's abuse thrown at her by the RS if she gives a few dodgy decisions against them? That lot will go to any lengths to make sure they get a result. You've only got to look back to last season's attack on the Man City team bus to see that.

Doing a game like Brighton v Leicester last Saturday is a whole lot different to doing a Merseyside derby. Of course she's heard all the comments before, and she probably just laughs it off.

All I'm saying is she will get (or might get) some horrendous verbals thrown at her if she gives decisions against them, and I hope she won't be affected by any such abuse and start giving all 50/50 decisions in their favour.

As regards the point about naming assistants. Seeing as she's the only female assistant, it's not very hard to remember her. We played Arsenal 10 weeks ago this Sunday when an assistant missed an obvious offside for one of their goals, so of course nobody can remember his name. If in 10 weeks time we are still going on about an offside goal missed by Sian Massey, then of course we will remember her.

Even the referee for Sunday, Chris Kavanagh is inexperienced, in my opinion, for this game. He has only officiated about 25 Premier League matches, and as we all know how feisty Merseyside derbies can become, he could easily lose control of the game.

Let's just hope that, come Sunday night, we are all celebrating an Everton win and not talking about the officials.

Brian Williams
52 Posted 28/11/2018 at 00:59:28
Peter, they don't ride a donkey either, mate... lol!

Heehaw, heehaw!

Jerome Shields
53 Posted 28/11/2018 at 06:58:11
I agree that Everton will be set up the same as the Chelsea game.

Walcott will play, because of his experience regarding positioning himself to maintain the team shape. Lookman is an out-and-out forward, but Silva demands that a player fulfils a dual role. Bernard is more a dual player but is better more inside than on the wing. Because of Digne's crossing ability on the right, he edges in more than Lookman as a result.

Liverpool's defence isn't that great. I have a long-term Liverpool friend and he has always had doubts about Klopp's ability in organising defence. Walcott, Bernard and Richarlison are the bigger counter-attacking threat and the Liverpool set-up will suit them.

Stan Schofield
54 Posted 28/11/2018 at 09:25:26
Damian @48: You'll have to do the work yourself, I can never be arsed trawling back amongst threads. But I do clearly recall that the previous discussions were about named officials who are male.

Just because this particular official is female does not imply that the criticism is sexist. Indeed, IMO it is consistent with an absence of a patronising attitude towards women.

Let's just hope the particular official, given the concerns expressed, doesn't fuck up. We've seen enough fuck-ups and apparent bias from officials this season.

Simon Smith
55 Posted 28/11/2018 at 13:28:37
Me personally, I'd go with same as last two games, I'd leave Richarlison up top as Calvert-Lewin or Tosun would be trying to dominate Van Dijk in the air which is near on impossible, whereas it's very possible for Richarlison to tear him a new hoop on the floor.

I did flirt with the idea of Lookman for one of the two wide lads, especially as they were both so poor at the weekend, but I think we need the poise that Bernard can bring and I genuinely believe Theo can be the match winner. Lookman on after an hour if any of the two are struggling would be my preference.

Mina over Zouma for me as Mina kept back-to-back clean sheets and offers a huge presence in the opposition's box. He also likes to play the ball around on the deck, this is something that's needed as Gomes, Sigurdsson and Richarlison want it that way.

So, for me, it's a case of we go again – but this time it's time for one of the wide men to become heroes and win the game for us. If they don't and Lookman comes in and does it after the hour mark, then they won't get their place back.

David Chait
56 Posted 28/11/2018 at 19:12:06
I hoped Richarlison would show himself a natural striker but he is honestly just a much better winger... the best we have.

I'm of the mindset to actually put Walcott up-front. It gets the Brazilian back to his best position; we can play Lookman or Bernard on the right and Walcott has the experience to do a good job... and pace!

Makes sense to me.

Peter Roberts
57 Posted 28/11/2018 at 23:00:29
Anyone questioning Sian Massey's temperament must have very short memories. She's been around longer than people think (in fact, comments about her off air saw Keys and Gray resign from Sky).

And those questioning her ability to do the job on the basis of waiting for a referee's call – is that not teamwork (she might not have seen who the ball came off last and wanted an opinion first)?

I know it's derby week but the paranoia level seems to have ratcheted up several notches here if we're questioning the assistant, never mind the referee (who I've not heard much of which can be a good thing as he's not known for any controversy).

Damian Wilde
58 Posted 28/11/2018 at 00:05:46
Brian (#49), you're getting a bit antsy there old fella, go and take a lie down.

Rob (#51), fair enough. I suppose my point was why debate how she'll handle the stick from the fans? If the assistant was male that point would not have been made. You're implying as she's female, she may struggle with the mass of verbal abuse, hence my comment. As I said, she's heard it all before, I doubt she'll crumble if some fat ale-house calls her a bitch.

Overall, most officials are poor though (imo).

John Boon
59 Posted 28/11/2018 at 00:18:22
To even have options is so different to last season when we usually had one bad option to replace another. I have confidence that Silva will assess the opposition and pick the players and the system most likely to succeed. Liverpool can be beaten and it would only be appropriate that we would be the team to do it.

CYOB — there are 40,000 people who want you to win, plus a few million more in the UK who would love to see the so-called "Red Tide" subside and shrink.

Geoff Lambert
60 Posted 29/11/2018 at 00:52:47
Not another bloody women involved in a man's game! Every time you put the telly on, there are women expressing their views on football.

What next? Women commentating on boxing? Back to the kitchen, wench!

Jerome Shields
61 Posted 29/11/2018 at 08:13:03
Attacking officials is pointless. Everton may be able to beat Liverpool, but they will never beat the officals. As for attacking an official because of their gender, particularly one deemed capable enough and selected to officiate at a high-profile game, that is wrong at every level.

I am of the same opinion as Lyndon, that Sian Massey will do a fine job.

Joe McMahon
62 Posted 29/11/2018 at 08:48:09
Err, Geoff @60, I assume you are being tongue in cheek. Admittedly the media can be very anti-men, but also remember the majority of head chefs are men. So we can cook also. There are also female boxers, ask Nicola Adams.
Brent Stephens
63 Posted 29/11/2018 at 09:01:48
Massey will have come up through the ranks, from local league stuff. I think the latter would be more intimidating than the Premier League these days. I have no lack of confidence in her.
Brian Porter
64 Posted 29/11/2018 at 10:08:27
Lyndon, far be it for me to correct anything in your excellent articles, but in your piece above you talk of Ademola Lookman wanting to join Red Bull Leipzig.

Please can I point out that the RB in Leipzig's name stands for RasenBallsport (lawn ball sports), NOT Red Bull. They were forbidden by Bundesliga rules from using Red Bull in their name as those rules prevent clubs being named after their sponsors.

They do however play at the Red Bull Arena and are known by the nickname of 'The Red Bulls') but there is no club known as Reb Bull Leipzig.

No such naming restrictions apply in Austria where the club's sponsors own and operate Red Bull Salzberg.

Hope you don't mind me pointing out the discrepancy but I'm sure a lot of people also think as you did about the RB part of the name.

Dick Fearon
65 Posted 29/11/2018 at 11:48:44
I do not quibble with team selections of previous writers except in their choice of a central striker. Of all games, the derby is one where we need a strong agressive target man with the presence of a leader.

Calvert-Lewin has none of those attributes, at least not yet.

We seem to have a surplus of central defenders, why not give one of them the task of getting at Loveran and Van Dijk.

Some of the best strikers were converted defenders late in their careers. Fred Pickering was that type.
Just a thought like.

Mike Corcoran
66 Posted 29/11/2018 at 12:51:54
Where's Mick Lyons when you need him, Dick?
Stan Schofield
67 Posted 29/11/2018 at 14:13:42
Jerome @61: No official has been 'attacked' as such. Some concerns have simply been raised based on past performances of some individuals, in this thread and in some previous threads. Raising such concerns is quite legitimate, and certainly not 'pointless', given that ToffeeWeb is a discussion forum for relevant issues, one of which is the competence and biases of officials.

I don't think any criticisms of officials have been made based on their gender (and most officials criticised are male). However, it could be that some responses to valid criticisms are defensive responses possibly influenced by current gender political trends, and could be interpreted as patronising towards women. I think that is pointless.

Jerome Shields
68 Posted 29/11/2018 at 18:38:47
Stan #67 . I don't think that criticism of officials will result in any change in the officials selected or the match result.
Scott Williams
69 Posted 29/11/2018 at 19:04:17
I would like to see something different.

As we defend

Pickford
Coleman Mina Zouma Keane

Gueye Gomes
Walcott Sigurdsson Bernard

Richarilson

As we go forward Coleman pushes forward as Walcott goes more central to support the front man (Richarlison) and maintain a back three with Gueye loitering ready to drop back. And as we drop back Colman comes back to create a back four along with Walcott and Bernard on the wings. The RS have been good this season at the back conceding only 5 and I think we'll need more than a single man upfront in the centre. Calvert-Lewin, Lookman and Digne to come on depending on how the match is going. Hopefully the RS are a bit rattled after yesterdays defeat.

Attacking

Pickford
.Mina Zouma Keane

Gueye
Gomes Sigurdsson
Coleman Bernard

Walcott Richarilson

Geoff Lambert
70 Posted 29/11/2018 at 19:09:26
Joe #62 there is always one that bites Haha.
Steve Ferns
71 Posted 29/11/2018 at 19:10:52
Scott you highlight the problem with a back 5 or 3. When we’re attacking we’ve got 3 players doing nothing. Add in Pickford (4) and Gueye (5).

With a back 4 as per Silva’s last couple of sides when we attack you will see we have only the centre halves back and gueye covering like before but the fullbacks are pushed up as well as Gomes. It pulls the play across the pitch by adding width and so creates space.

5 at the back is shite. It doesn’t work unless you have a beckenbauer-esque defender who can do away with the need for Gomes or Gueye by being good on the ball, a good passer, and able to bring the ball out of defence and set things in motion himself. We don’t have that. In fact other than say David Luiz I don’t think there’s a real player like that in world football, and I would play Luiz as a centre half as I don’t think he’s good enough.

Tony Abrahams
72 Posted 29/11/2018 at 20:25:14
Good teams will exploit a team who only have two centre backs and one covering midfielder back defending imo, Steve.

I am convinced Silva is eventually going to go with 3 players in the middle of our defence, and I honesty feel this could benefit the present squad.

Surely a system is only shite if it doesn't suit the players, and I think Bernard, Lookman, or Walcott are all more suited better to attacking rather than defending, which is something this different system could bring about.

Jerome Shields
73 Posted 30/11/2018 at 10:11:51
Silva used five defenders when he brought Jagielka into the midfield against Chelsea, which seemed to close the game down nicely. I think this is the only way you are going to see five defenders on the pitch. Jagielka seems to have been coached for this new role.

Anyone know what Mina is like as a defending midfielder? He can pass.

David Ellis
74 Posted 30/11/2018 at 10:38:19
I wouldn't change the team. Can't understand the call to play Walcott down the middle. He can't hold up the ball or shoot very well... or head it very well. He's not cut out to be a central striker.

I would however keep him and Bernard for this game. Richarlison is better suited in the centre when we have less of the ball – but I agree that long-term, he's better on the left wing.

Bernard and Walcott have both played at the highest level and I think we need that mentality at Anfield. Lookman's time will come!

Brian Furey
75 Posted 30/11/2018 at 17:29:26
It's quite hard to fathom that the last time we won in that shithole was 1999 and I'd say a lot of people were surprised we did that night.

1984-85 is the last time we beat them twice in the league in the one season.

I know it's hard on some of our loyal ex-players but there does often certainly seem to be an inferiority complex and lack of self-belief. However, as a few have already eluded, I get the feeling M&M have built a more solid ship already this season with pace and guile in abundance.

Our keeper and back 4 look a lot more solid than the first few months. Gueye looks like he's found his excellent tackling and spoiling form again and seems to work a lot better with Sigurdsson than Slumberland. Walcott's pace still creates panic even if he does lack a lot of finished product and misses more than he scores or sets up.

Compare that to Richarlison's pace, strength and finishing and they are very different at the moment. Saying that, though, Walcott's pace scares defenders as he runs at them and wins frees and maybe penalties or gets yellow & red cards.

I would imagine Silva will continue with the plan of letting Theo run his legs off for an hour and then bring on the trickery and fast feet of Lookman. I'd say it's only a matter of time before he scores an amazing solo-run goal — and what better place to do it than this Sunday into the Kop? He looks like a man who knows he has to start taking his chances in this team before he blows it and is shipped off to a slower league.

I am usually quite negative about the derby but I have a feeling this time that the 19-year drought is to end. They will expect themselves to simply bounce back from their midweek defeat. However, I think Silva is very clever and does his homework on teams and will have something up his sleeve. Lookman and Richarlison.

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