Everton’s 2-0 victory against Chelsea over the weekend was deeply satisfying in so many ways. Not only was it our first victory against a top-6 side for over two years, it was done so by a complete team performance in what was a stellar second half for the Blues. While the first 45 minutes were easily forgettable, the team created a bunch of clear-cut chances after the break and, crucially, restricted the visitors to very few of their own.
The most encouraging thing, however, is that it isn’t the only time we’ve performed like that against a side of this calibre. With the exception of Spurs in December, we have done ourselves proud in every game against the proclaimed ‘Big Six’ and in some were unlucky not to come away with a better result.
While results are more important than performances, Marco Silva’s tactics in these games have definitely helped us put up a stronger fight. I can’t help but cringe over last season’s disasters at Arsenal and Tottenham, as well as the completely embarrassing 5-2 defeat at home to the Gunners that got ex-Blues boss Ronald Koeman an early dismissal. I don’t expect Everton to win these games — I think that would be asking a lot of a team still trying to build chemistry and confidence in our manager’s first season. I do, however, expect my team to show their commitment, handle the intense pressure, and give the fans something to feel optimistic about. This, I’m happy to say, is exactly what they’ve done.
The thing that frustrates me most — and I’m sure I’m not alone with this thought — is that we don’t continue this momentum into games against teams below us. Teams such as Brighton, Wolves and Newcastle know exactly what we are capable of on the counter and crosses from Digne’s wand-like left foot — Calvert-Lewin, Sigurdsson and Richarlison have consistently bagged us goals using these forms of attack this season. But when they try to defend for their lives and play 10 men behind the ball, it seems to completely stump us. Bernard’s quick feet and Sigurdsson’s occasional brilliance have created just a handful of chances in these games this season, as far too often we concede a silly goal in one of their few attacks and give up a share of the points in the process.
These games have highlighted certain key areas that Silva and Brands still need to improve before we can seriously consider ourselves a contender for a top-6 place. The right-back position has been filled by Seamus Coleman for 10 years now, but sadly I think his broken leg a couple of years ago has brought a premature end to his first-team status. He’s no longer capable of being the modern full back as much as it pains me to say it, but there will be nobody better for our next recruit to learn from.
The Idrissa Gana Gueye transfer saga in January perhaps highlights that we need to rethink things in the centre of the park come the summer, especially with the future of Andre Gomes uncertain. The striker situation is also one that continuously evades our managers, having failed to replace Romelu Lukaku for two years now. Failure to address these things is typical Everton, but I’m not passing judgement on the current management this early as it’s clear Moshiri doesn’t want to throw his money around like he has done in the past.
After our Christmas form, one would be forgiven for thinking that the run in from the Merseyside derby onwards would be a seriously miserable period for the Blues — one that might actually see the end of Marco Silva’s reign as Everton manager. While the jury is still out on whether he is the right man to lead our challenge for top 6, nobody can deny that the feeling inside Goodison Park in the last few games has been much more positive. The occasions will have played a massive part in this — we only play games of this nature a handful of times every year — as will the spine-tingling air raid sirens played before Z-Cars. The last few games have shown that the crowd’s chanting and the team's performance go hand-in-hand. Get the crowd up for it and the players deliver.
So what does it take for this to happen in every single game we play? I personally think it starts with the fans chanting and motivating even before the players emerge from the tunnel. 35,000 Everton fans roaring in song visibly encourages the players but, after that, they must repay us. Commitment and desire in the early exchanges will keep the fans intrigued, and then we can both bounce off one another. Anybody who remembers Goodison Park in the glory days will recall the chilling, hostile atmosphere we were able to create in basically every game, making our wonderful stadium one of the most difficult for a visiting team. Now, our team needs us more than ever; if the players really want the success that they claim to, then it’s as much our responsibility to get behind them as it is theirs to deliver.
I have no concerns over us playing our part because we’re not just any group of fans. We’re Everton fans, and nothing but the best is good enough to us. An Everton fan is a special kind of football fan, and now it’s up to the players to prove that those who wear the blue jersey are a special kind of footballer again.
Reader Comments (10)
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1 Posted 20/03/2019 at 15:18:28
Moyes built a team to be best of the rest, we are now building a team to break into the top 6 – fundamentally different purposes and styles.
We are seeing young players growing into the team. That is clearly the intent of Brands. Money is available for youth and potential, not for expensive talent & experience off the shelf.
There is a clear blind spot over Christmas when we try to play two-three games a week, squad depth is sorely needed, as is mental toughness.
Note that Brands has explicitly come from a background of developing talent that is for sale as long as the money is right. This is very much treating the club as a money business rather than trying to build a dynasty (what did PSV win other than in a relatively weak Dutch league?), though the same can be said of any team, not in the top few – even the likes of Liverpool will sell first and foremost if the offer is good.
2 Posted 21/03/2019 at 12:21:44
3 Posted 21/03/2019 at 17:54:22
I say 'improved upon' in the respect, as Paul @2 so succinctly mentioned, we could have been 2-3 goals down at half-time.
4 Posted 22/03/2019 at 01:34:15
Full marks to the Goodison crowd for its second-half energy – it responded to the players' increased commitment and in turn pulled them to higher levels – but consistent victory requires a full game of passion like what the team showed in both derby games.
And Matthew, I strongly disagree with your sentiments on Coleman. I said here many times that his was a two-year injury, and that he would return to his previous level by spring of 2019. And I believe he has. The pace and strength are back, and he need only tighten his always-sloppy crossing technique to be fully returned.
Also, your history is erroneous – Seamus has been our full-time right back for only about six seasons, not ten. He returned from Blackpool for the 2010-11 season and played almost exclusively midfield that year and the next. He didn't become right-back until 2012-13. That's seven years ago. And he lost more than a full season to the injury. So that's six.
5 Posted 22/03/2019 at 04:08:03
6 Posted 22/03/2019 at 07:40:30
I was happier after the Newcastle game, because I saw a much greater “footballing display” until the manager really messed things up. (I Honestly don't want Europe next season.)
I'd sooner Silva learn, than some of the players, who are never going to be good enough to take us to the next level; although we won last Sunday, this manager still has a very long way to go.
The biggest positives were Calvert-Lewin and the crowd, because they stayed behind the team, despite a very poor first half, and this must have really helped the players as the game wore on.
I've said the biggest job for any manager who wants to be successful at Everton is to engage the crowd; hopefully, we are seeing this begin to gradually happen?
This is Massive!
7 Posted 22/03/2019 at 09:47:49
Everton are now a good footballing side but there are problem areas. Because of being only 9 months into the Brands - Silva tenure and the constraints of the legacy of the old regime and previous managers, there has been limited progress and the necessity to make do with what is available. Also, players haven't had time to adapt to the new culture and there has been little change in the backroom Management.
I agree that some players, namely Coleman and Walcott, are not of the standard required and that Gomes and Schneiderlin are not the finished article. But I don't think that a saviour striker will make the difference you expect. Lukaku would not be selected consistently by Silva, because he is weak tracking back, implementing a high press and maintaining an offensive shape. As Brands stated, Everton need to be able to score from all positions.
The inconsistent selection of Lookman and Kenny is because they are not as good as Coleman and Walcott in maintaining offensive shape. Though Kenny is way better than Lookman.
The current improvement in Everton is in supporting and play in the final third and being able to maintain that. Silva has made tactical mistakes in defensive tactics, has difficulty dealing with a swamped midfield, and there are areas where poor or no coaching is evident. But there is an overall sense of improvement as a team, though it can feel a bit like a roller-coaster ride.
Silva will see out his contract and the Summer will see a further attempt by Brands to continue to sort out the mess, Money will be limited in transfers, but the winding down of contracts should leave some room for manoeuvre.
Next season with Silva will be less of a roller-coaster ride as it was with Nottingham Forest. I am beginning to think the 3-year plan is back on course and a template is beginning to emerge. The fans do help, but the template has to be in place.
8 Posted 22/03/2019 at 13:03:44
I don't want to be too down after a good win and 3 points against a top 6 team but I think it has papered over the cracks somewhat again. Some fans are even claiming Silva deliberately had them playing rubbish in the first half to 'lure' Chelsea onto us?!
I would be more inclined to give Silva time if he actually showed progress or that he is learning from what isn't working. For me, though, I think next season will be more of the same and a bit of a lottery in terms of wins and where we finish. I worry, like this season, that a few results the other way and we would be in a relegation battle that he wouldn't be able to handle.
9 Posted 22/03/2019 at 14:24:27
10 Posted 22/03/2019 at 17:17:06
We need to start having consistent performances before we can say we are building off solid foundations.
Our players have a lot of talent, I think we need to get mentally stronger.
We need to be able to keep focused during spells of adversity instead of losing the plot . We need to learn to keep mentally strong, focused and weather the storm, come off the ropes and fight back.
The second half against Newcastle a couple of weeks ago was painful for any Evertonian.
Newcastle [2nd half] seems an aberration as since Cardiff we have been better. Marco is slowly recovering some trust and will be here next season . I am hoping these green shoots we are seeing now mean that next season we will be a force again.
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