Signs of Spring

Martin O'Connor 09/09/2018 12comments  |  Jump to last

Four games into the League season and an annoying international break pops up. But with this early interruption to the season, we can reflect on the start of the new era under Marco Silva and Marcel Brands.

Let's start with the clear out of the bloated and not fit-for-purpose squad that Silva and Brands inherited. 24 players have been moved on in the transfer window since Silva and Brands came into the Club. Some moved permanently (Wayne Rooney, undisclosed but believed to be around £12 million to DC United, Funes Mori £9.5 million to Villarreal, Davy Klaassen £12 million to Werder Bremen). Others were released (Jose Baxter, Sam Byrne, Callum Dyson, Connor Grant, Louis Gray, David Henan, Joel Robles). Meanwhile a host of players (Mo Besic, Yannick Bolasie, Callum Connolly, Luke Garbutt, Cuco Martina, Kevin Mirallas, Henry Onyekuru, Matty Pennington, Sandro Ramirez, Antonee Robinson, Shani Tarashaj, Nikola Vlasic, Ashley Williams, Joe Williams) are all out on season-long loans.

There are still a number of players hanging round the Club who in my opinion could be released, but one cannot quibble. The work in slashing the numbers in the squad during the transfer window has been exceptional. To get this number of players shipped out of the Club permanently, or on loan for the season, has been nothing but a herculean effort by Marcel Brands and is to be highly recommended.

One more note on outgoings should be made in the case of a number of the young players who are out on loan. First off is Antonee Robinson. Robinson was in the Championship on loan at Bolton Wanderers last season making 34 appearances, and also becoming a USA international to boot. He now has four caps to his name at the time of writing, including a deep learning curve dished out to him by Douglas Costa in his latest appearance for the USA against Brazil. Having just turned 21 in August, Robinson is a player who has real potential. Robinson signed a new three-year contract with the Club and played in most of the pre-season friendlies before being sent out on loan for the season to Wigan Athletic. He will only improve further playing another season in the Championship. With Leighton Baines in the autumn of his career, it would seem that the Club see Robinson and new recruit Lucas Digne as the future from next season onwards. The loan to Wigan for the season is a very astute move.

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Henry Onyekuru is another player were exception can be made. Signed in the summer of 2017, he spent last season on loan at Anderlecht due to work permit issues. After his season at Anderlecht, he is now at Galatasaray for the season. He will again, like last season, play in the Champions League for Galatasaray. It is hoped that he will again do well while at Galatasaray, and that next season he will have a work permit and be given a chance at Everton.

Finally, we have three other young players on loan, Nikola Vlasic (CSKA Moscow), Joe Williams (Bolton Wanderers), and Callum Connolly (Wigan Athletic). Connolly also signed a nthree-yearear contract before going out on loan. These three may or may not have futures at the Club, (not in my opinion), but they should clearly be seen as different prospects compared to the rest of the dross we have sent out on loan.

When we look at the incomings during the transfer window the early signs are that Silva and Brands have brought in a number of quality players who will/have increased the standard of the squad. First is the recruitment of Richarlison for £40 million.

Richarlison, it seems clear, was the one signing Silva wanted from his time at Watford. He was also a player Marcel Brands had on his radar while he was at PSV and before Silva signed him from Fluminense for Watford. With the frosty relationship between Everton and Watford over the Marco Silva saga, it is a great credit that Marcel Brands was able to pull this deal off. Richarlison has hit the ground running with three goals in three and a half games. The petulant sending off at Bournemouth is something he will have to learn quickly from; opponents will have no second thoughts in chopping him down or trying to wind him up. But the early signs are that the Club in Richarlison have a real gem on their hands. A first call up to the Brazil squad for the two friendlies against the USA and El Salvador during the international break show that his star is certainly on the rise. He came on for the final 15 minutes in the first of these friendly games against the USA and may also get some playing time in the second game against El Salvador (this is written before it has been played).

When we add Lucas Digne, Bernard and Yerry Mina signed permanantley plus Andre Gomes and Kurt Zouma on season long loans, the work Marcel Brands has done on incoming transfers is as good as the departure lounge players. Digne and Zuma have both looked very acomplished in the games they have played. With Mina, Gomes and Bernard, a small cameo apperance at the international break, the squad is much less bloated and higher in quality than the squad Siva and Brands inherited. We have also signed the 18-year-old goalkeeper Joao Virginia from Arsenal.

Moving on from the transfer window to the football itself, we have made an encouraging start to the season in our first four league games plus the 2nd round Carabao Cup win over Rotherham United. Nobody could expect Marco Silva to come into the Club and instantaneously turn things around. We have been a mess since the final season of Roberto Martinez, while the Koeman & Walsh, and then Allardyce & Walsh eras were, to put it politely, abysmal. We were a bloated, aging under-performing mish-mash of a squad, who under Allardyce, hardly ever had a shot on target in a game. Clearly Silva could not change this situation overnight. Pre-season went by with the players clearly needing to get to grips with Silva’s new ideas. But the transformation in the first five games since competitive action has started has been as different as night from day.

Straight from the off, in the first league game away to Wolverhampton Wanderers, we were a team which bore no resemblance to the team which ended last season. We were fitter, faster, playing on the front foot, and actually having attempts on goal. This, it should also be noted, with ten players starting the game who were playing last season under Allardyce. The only new recruit who started at Wolves was Richarlison, yet Silva had the team playing attacking front-foot football. Compare this to the Allardyce nightmare — no comparison.

In games against Wolves and Bournemouth away, plus Southampton at home, we have played attacking on the front foot football. When we take into consideration that we have played the two away games with a player sent off before half-time, the way we have regrouped under Silva and still looked to attack and score, even when down to ten men has been a revelation. The only downside to these three games is that we have not taken at least seven points, if not nine from them. The collapse in the last 20 minutes at Bournemouth, throwing away a two-goal lead, and allowing Wolves to grab an equaliser in the last 10 minutes, shows we still have a lot of work to do, to be able to manage and see out games.

The Huddersfield Town home game, though, was a bit of a reality check to the opening three league games. Against Huddersfield, the team were unable to break down a deep-siting opponent who looked to strike on the break. The team against Huddersfield, with – it must be said – a number of injuries, was nowhere near as good as it had been in the previous matches. Against Huddersfield, we resembled the team of last season, moving the ball slowly, a lack of creativity, and only one attempt on target, Calvert-Lewin’s equaliser.

To be critical on this game, I would say that Silva got his substitutions wrong. Kieran Dowell should have been brought on, he was the one player on the bench who was capable of playing a killer pass to break down the Huddersfield defence. But just as this is a learning curve for the squad under a manager with new ideas and tactics, it is also a learning curve for Silva himself as he settles into his role. Teething problems in the way the team plays and in Silva’s tactics are bound to appear. The biggest teething problem being the way the team adjusts to the zonal marking system that we employ under Silva. 6 of the 7 goals we have conceeded so far have come from set pieces. But, as they say, practice makes perfect.

So, as we endure the international break, where does our start to the season stand? We have off loaded a large amount of dross permanently or at least for the season, while making some extremley good incoming transfers. We have gone four games undefeated and, although we should proably have more points than we have at present, the Bournemouth slip being the main disappointing, the start of the season has been very encouraging. We play on the front foot and actually play attacking football. When we add the Carabao Cup victory into the mix, with a very winnable home draw against Southampton in the next round, then the start to the season looks brighter still.

It is early days and there is a long way to go in the Sivla - Brands plan. I don’t think we will really have a real Marco Silva team until two transfer windows from now, meaning the start of next season. But the start we have made has exceeded what could have been expected. The cold dark winter of Allardyce is well and truly gone. The buds of spring are now starting to sprout under Silva and Brands. There is a long way to go and we will have setbacks along the way, but we can look forward with optimism.

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Reader Comments (12)

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Tony Everan
1 Posted 09/09/2018 at 22:08:17
Thanks Martin, I enjoyed reading

I am very optimistic too. I am especially looking forward to seeing how Bernard slots in. He can be the key to unlocking organised defences like Huddersfield had.

Also, the introduction of Mina into the team will give us something extra with his aerial strength and goal threat from set pieces.

A win against West Ham will set us up nicely for having confidence going to Arsenal. For the first time in a long time, I would feel that we could hurt them, win or definitely get something out of that game.

I too think the substitutions were misguided against Huddersfield. Dowell should have been used.

I suspect there will be more teething troubles as the team coalesces into a consistent force. But I think we will get there, and by November, we will causing a few upsets.

I don't think it's being overly optimistic to say we can make the top 6. We have a strong squad, strong kids pushing for places, and a strong manager with first-class backup from the Director of Football.

In short, I think we can get on a roll, and keep it going.

John G Davies
2 Posted 09/09/2018 at 22:52:28
Marco Silva's first 100 days.

100 days? We should get rid of this manager. He's crap, we should be in top four and have won a trophy by now.

Alan J Thompson
3 Posted 10/09/2018 at 04:32:07
John G (#2); It is a little early and we all hope Silva comes good but it is a worry that the defensive problems he had at Watford now seem to be the problems he has at Everton, and somewhat reminiscent of Martinez.

I'm not calling for him to be replaced but I would hope that he is better than just hoping that the unplayed signings are the answer or that injuries and sendings-off are the sole cause of the problem.

Greg Anderson
4 Posted 10/09/2018 at 05:25:17
Springtime indeed. Well put. But it is a little harsh on Koeman to dismiss his entire reign as "abysmal." Lest we forget, in his one full season, he won the "best of the rest" title with room to spare.

Even if his team did not set the world on fire and he himself did not kiss the badge enough for our liking, he improved visibly on the previous two years, where Martinez wantonly squandered arguably the most talented teams we have had during the Premier League era, sacrificing them on the altar of a quixotic "philosophy".

Lest we forget too, for perspective, Everton averaged around 15th place through the entire first decade of the Premier League, bettering 12th only once. Now that was "abysmal."

Sam Hoare
5 Posted 10/09/2018 at 08:16:28
Greg, I think the “abysmal” reference to Koeman reign applies as much to the terrible re-shaping of the squad that he oversaw as much as the performances and results under his tenure.
Gerard Carey
6 Posted 10/09/2018 at 09:17:50
A fair start so far. Probably like the old school report, could and should be doing better. We have played what would be considered bottom half teams so far.

Acid test will come in the shape of arsenal away, and the other tough away games in the run up to Christmas.

I know it's been done to death, but we need to sort the defence and this zonal marking. Hopefully Mina coming in, and partnering Zouma will go along way to sorting it. Coleman needs to get back to near his best as well, cause he's been poor so far.

Early days though, and hopefully better to come.

John G Davies
7 Posted 10/09/2018 at 10:00:57
Alan J,

Steve Ferns called it correctly some months back. He told us on TW that Silva would play two giants at centre-half (Mina and Zouma signed after Steve told us).

Let's give the manager a chance to get his own centre-halves in before he is condemned as not having a clue defensively on set pieces.

Brent Stephens
8 Posted 10/09/2018 at 12:11:07
Martin, Avery good and very balanced piece in my view. I’m very encouraged by the start to the season, outgoings, signings and performances. Optimistic, cautious and patient. That’s the Everton Patient.
Dan Hollingworth
9 Posted 10/09/2018 at 13:04:41
Solid description here of Marcos first few months in charge, in large I am happy with what I have seen. Players take time to adjust to a new system, or way of thinking. But the early signs are there. I just hope the set piece/zonal marking issue gets resolved quickly, because we have lost at least 3pts already form that.

One thing that is not really addressed in this article is Tosun. I am just not convinced hes going to be what people think he is. He gets his head down, makes good runs. But hes just not the answer. I hope Marco finds a good system for him, otherwise we need a striker in January. Again.

Tony Abrahams
10 Posted 10/09/2018 at 13:41:14
A good read Martin, although it really is going to be hard to get Allardyce out of our system so quickly.

Huddersfield, was a nap really once we saw the team, but the three players Silva, has brought in all look good, and if the other signings can be equally as good, then this Everton team is only going to get better, or even much better, hopefully.

The set piece defending is a major worry, but the overall picture, is something that should only be looked at around Christmas imo, unless things suddenly go downhill rapidly?

Alan J Thompson
11 Posted 10/09/2018 at 16:04:17
John G (#7); And what do you think, JG, another month at best before we see Mina? A case for coaching until then.

My hope is Bernard, the most likely to be fit soonest, will, despite his size, prove to more of a concern to the opposition than our defence.

Steavey Buckley
12 Posted 10/09/2018 at 16:22:29
The signs are promising of a better team than of previous seasons, but Everton still look like a team that will concede too many goals, especially, from set pieces and corners, while giving away possession too easily.

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