“You're right Mr. Moshiri. We're not a museum anymore. We're a circus,” a wag formerly of this parish posted on Twitter earlier. As Everton's season descends further into the doldrums, there’s plenty to agree with in the sentiment but circuses are at least designed to be entertaining. There’s almost nothing entertaining about the Blues at the moment.
Add one more “L” to the results column after today’s defeat at Watford, a return to Vicarage Road with an all-too predictable outcome for Marco Silva. Since Everton edged their way past Cardiff on the 24th of November, there have been nine of them in 14 Premier League matches, with a humiliating FA Cup defeat at Millwall to go on top of it.
It’s relegation form and enough for Evertonians to start looking nervously at the bottom of the league table rather than frustratedly at the top. With 33 points already on the board, only a complete collapse could see Everton under threat of going down this season but when it’s hard to see where the next win is going to come from, it doesn’t bode well for the manager’s continued employment.
Silva has already received his vote of confidence from Farhad Moshiri but it surely won’t be unconditional and the Portuguese’s problem now is that he doesn’t seem to be have an answer to his side’s slump since the Anfield derby. The performance against Manchester City in midweek was adequate from the perspective of attitude and effort but ended in fairly routine defeat and the first half at Vicarage Road was decent enough without ever really quickening the pulse.
Baby steps towards regaining some of that shattered confidence, you would think, but not enough to avoid yet another loss that has means that since the Blues’ misleading 5-1 win at Burnley, only doomed Huddersfield have a worse record than Silva’s Everton.
A discussion over the motley crew over which Silva currently presides is best left for a more detailed analysis on another day but, suffice to say, there are “un-droppables” in the squad like Gylfi Sigurdsson who need to be shoe-horned into the starting XI and that was the case today as the midfielder returned after being given an hour’s rest against City in midweek.
Given how well Tom Davies and Idrissa Gueye played in that game and how important André Gomes is to the Blues’ midfield, it was not surprise that all three were retained but it meant that Sigurdsson was played in the wider left midfield role to which he proved to be so ill-suited under Ronald Koeman.
The result was a fairly predictable nothing showing from the Icelandic international bar one instinctive moment early in the second half where he was about six inches away from giving Everton the lead but saw his stabbed effort bounce off the top of the crossbar.
Sigurdsson had none of the influence on the game you would expect from a £45m signing and was withdrawn with 15 minutes to go as Silva threw on his final striker in the form of Dominic Calvert-Lewin in a vain effort to salvage a point.
Sigurdsson wasn’t alone. Richarlison, barracked and jeered at every turn by the Watford fans until they got bored during the second half, endured a wretched return to Vicarage Road, some early promising runs in the match eventually giving way to him spending more time on his arse whingeing than producing anything of note with the ball.
Up front, Cenk Tosun ran about gamely enough and had a pretty decent crack at goal 11 minutes before half-time but saw his shot saved by Ben Foster but ultimately looked several shades short of what Everton desperately need up front. Movement and pace would be near the top of the list of requirements and, unfortunately, the Turk is lacking in both. (A first half incident where Sigurdsson was released down the left and crossed invitingly only to find a yellow jersey because Tosun was 15 yards behind the play was a case in point.)
However, while they were game and committed enough during the first 45 minutes, led by the energy and determination of Davies and Gueye, Everton largely toiled with an unsuitable system and with precious little penetration despite enjoying around two thirds of the possession.
Their one other moment of note in the first half was another more routine stop that was asked of Foster when Kurt Zouma glanced a header goalwards while at the other end, Jordan Pickford proved to be the difference between Silva giving a half-time team talk at 0-0 rather 0-1.
Troy Deeney had chested the ball forward in the box to Etienne Capoue in the 11th minute, inviting the Frenchman to lash a half-volley that was destined for the roof of the net but Pickford made himself big and diverted the shot over his crossbar with his head.
Other than that, Jonjoe Kenny had been keeping Gerard Deulofeu on a tight leash, the Spaniard really only getting one real sight of goal which Digne blocked superbly and Everton managed to survive two nerve-jangling set-pieces late in the half following infringements by Michael Keane.
Whatever platform Everton had given themselves in terms of confidence to take into the second half quickly crumbled as Watford began to assert more and more pressure following Sigurdsson’s brush with the woodwork. Jose Holebas raked a shot across goal and narrowly wide in the 52nd minute and then tried a similar effort 13 minutes later but with the same result.
Unfortunately, in the second instance, referee Lee Probert deemed Pickford to have got his fingertips to the ball as it fizzed across his six-yard box and awarded the corner that would lead to the winning goal. Zouma headed the dead-ball delivery away from inside his six-yard box but Craig Cathcart’s first-time lay-off put Will Hughes into space behind Lucas Digne and his low cross was begging to be turned in by substitute Andre Gray who duly obliged from close range.
Silva, who had already put Theo Walcott on for Gomes two minutes earlier, had been preparing to introduce Bernard which he then did, bringing Richarlison’s ineffective afternoon to an end, and he swapped Sigurdsson for Calvert-Lewin 10 minutes after that.
Everton had been desperately poor in the final third all afternoon, their execution sorely lacking where it mattered but they did fashion a few openings in the closing stages that might have earned the point they probably would have deserved on the balance of play.
One of Walcott’s few contributions of note was to chase an overhit ball to the byline and cut it back for Tosun but the striker could only poke it wide. Then, after Walcott was shoved over unnecessarily wide on the right by Holebas, Digne swept a free-kick from a tight angle onto to the top of the crossbar.
The best chance would fall to Calvert-Lewin, however, and it came from the unexpectedly skilful feet of Zouma. The centre-back had stayed forward following a corner and after twisting his marker, he clipped a tempting cross that was met by the striker but he guided his header a couple of yards wide of goal when he had to at least hit the target.
He did with the final chance of the game, this time from Bernard’s centre but his header lacked power and Foster was able to gather.
As if things weren’t bad enough, one of the better performers on the day, Zouma, would be sent off after the final whistle for remonstrating with the referee over what he regarded as a poor decision to award the corner that led to Watford’s goal. That will earn him a one-game ban that rules him out of the trip to Cardiff in two and a half weeks’ time.
That game now takes on added significance for Silva who badly needs a win to alleviate the pressure that is increasing with each defeat. The thought of going through further managerial upheaval at Goodison holds all the appeal of… well, watching Everton slog their way through another fruitless 90 minutes, to be honest but at some point it will become patently obvious that the current incumbent of the hot seat isn’t capable of reversing the slide.
It’s beginning to feel like we’re already there because Silva’s Everton have no identity, no workable system or formation, no consistency in defending set-pieces, no threat up front and, seemingly, no inspiration from the dugout. Not all of those problems are of the manager’s making but it is job to resolve them. Again, with Moshiri likely to give him until the end of the season to show progress, he still has time but with five of the 11 games against the top six, it’s not going to be easy.
Everton are back on their travels this weekend as Marco Silva faces a reunion with Watford at Vicarage Road just over a year after he was relieved of his post as the Hertfordshire club's boss.
Marco Silva has made three changes to the Everton team for his return to Watford. Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Cenk Tosun have been recalled after being dropped to the bench for the midweek game with Manchester City. Theo Walcott, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Bernard are the ones to make way.
Jordan Pickford is in goal with Jonjoe Kenny, Michael Keane, Kurt Zouma and Lucas Digne making up the back four. Silva has kept faith with a midfield three of Tom Davies, who captains the side again, Andre Gomes and Idrissa Gueye.
Yerry Mina has not been passed fit for the game and so birthday boy Morgan Feeney is part of the travelling party but did not make the bench.
Everton started well, Digne swinging in a decent cross, and Davies getting fouled, but Digne put the set-piece into Foster's hands. Tosun overlapped well enough but served up the ball easily to Foster. But, after a couple of spicy challenges from Deeney and then Davies, Watford came into it a lot more and applied some firm pressure that Everton had to defend.
A tremendous chance was created by Deeney chesting down to Doucoure whose fierce goalbound shot was deflected over point-blank off the top of Pickford's head! A fantastic save. A good cross in from Richarlison was aimed at Tosun but intercepted.
Everton were playing the ball around well enough, Richarlison getting his ankle clipped down by the corner flag. Sigurdsson's header came off Mina then Keane, and softly to Foster. It was very lively stuff with sides playing open but competitive football. Digne picked out Zouma with a fine cross, whose glancing header unmarked lacked the power to beat Foster.
Sigurdsson tried to release Tosun down the middle but overhit his through-ball. Richarlison was playing wide right, and getting roundly booed, as Everton went around the houses dropping back into their annoying side to side until a Digne foul throw went behind.
The pace of the game was vibrant, as Davies tried to break through but Foster was out fast. Watford had a threatening spell, Deulofeu denied the chance to shoot.
Tosun and Cathcart clashed heads, while Capoue caught Richarlison sneakily off the ball with an elbow to the face. Then Holebas slapped him on the head when challenging for an aerial ball, and our big lad went down like a sack of spuds until he got treatment.
Tosun got a gift, spun and shot, forcing a good parry from Foster. Watford put on some decent attacks the first initially repelled, the next winning a corner, but no pressure on the Everton zonal nonsense.
Keane did well to win the ball in midfield but Davies's touch let him down. Richarlison beat three men on his own but ran into a wall of Hornets. Sigurdsson again played a good through-ball for Tosun who had strayed offside.
Richarlison did well to collect a long pass, turn and run goalward but the ball wasn't running for Tosun and Davies as they struggled to create a chance. Keane's high arm caught the ball, giving away a dangerous free-kick that Holebas curled in and zonal marking defended away.
Deulofeu, wide left, did his usual step-overs and Gana blocked his shot behind for a corner, zonal winning out again. Under pressure from Deeney, Kenny headed back to Pickford from close range. Then, Digne had to be brave to block what looked like a nailed-on chance for Deulofeu to open the scoring.
A couple more foul throws from Digne on the left led to nothing, and another free-kick central. Pickford came out a long way, leaping like a demented salmon and fumbling the aerial ball, luckily it was played backwards by Watford and their last chance of the half was gone. A good half of football but, as seems standard now, few chances created.
Hostilities resumed, Gana wasting a long crossfield pass well beyond Richarlison. Davies played a lovely ball out to Deulofeu.... unfortunately. A half chacne from Sigurdsson bounced off the top of the crossbar as Capoue made a back for Richarlison, who was [not!] badly injured in the fall!
Holebas got a sniff but lashed wide after Kenny had hooked the ball away. Keane gave away a corner, and the zoners lined up, headed behind by Keane. The reprise was swung in and five players crashed into Pickford at the far post, a lengthy conference ensuing. Free-kick Everton.
Davies's care of the ball was frankly shocking for a professional Premier League footballer, sloppy sloppy half-passes given away time and again. Another corner for Watford, Holebas's delivery again headed away by a Blue-shirted zonal defender. The second-half had seemingly been played entirely in Everton's half, as the time for subs approached.
Richarlison got behind the Watford line and seemed to have a chance but Holebas was back in a flash to very easily take the ball off his toe. Walcott came on for Gomes. Digne was called for a strange challenge, another dangerous free-kick, Pickford punched but it was picked up and worked around by Watford, winning another corner despite a massive and vociferous protest from Pickford that he never touched the ball driven across his goal and behind. Zouma in the zone again, heading away. But in the second phase, Hughes got to the line and it was an easy goal for substitute Gray at the far post, zonal not at fault this time. Richarlison exchanged for Bernard.
Everton were now in chaos, as Watford looked to hammer home their superiority since the break, Silva looking less than pleased on the sideline as the Watford fans revelled in their advantage. Zouma appeared to get clipped by Deeney, demanding a card that Probert eventually showed.
Kenny played a lovely ball forward for Walcott who stepped a foot offside. Silva went for it, with Calvert-Lewin on for Everton's supposedly most creative player Sigurdsson, who had done absolutely nothing in this game. Everton won a free kick and ventured forward but were immediately repulsed and the game was back in their half.
The quality of Davies was shown up yet again with a hoof forward straight into touch. Calvert-Lewin got wide of the Watford area but simply passed it to a defender. On the other side, Walcott set up Tosun, his bizarre half-poke going behind but not for a corner, much to the Turk's annoyance.
Davies again lazily fed a ball forward that Tosun could never ever reach. A far better ball for Walcott, Hoelbas pushing him over and getting a yellow card. From a difficult angle out wide, Digne clipped the bar with the free-kick, ust above the far post, it was very close and would have been a fantastic goal... but wasn't.
Kenny overlapped and put in a fantastic cross that Walcott tried but failed to head, and nothing came of the corner. At least Everton were pressing now, but too little too late. Zouma did really well to set it up for Calvert-Lewin, on a plate, perfect service, and Calvert-Lewin this time uses his neck muscles to power the header 8 feet wide of the goal. A simply astounding miss from the youngster.
Gana was fouled but Bernard's ball in from the free was so so poor. Janmat was called for a foul on Bernard wide left, Digne, another free header for Calvert-Lewin, this time straight at Foster.
Bermnard clipped a perfect ball for Tosun who headed horribly high and wide when it looked easier to bury the goal, but he had stepped a yard offside. Zouma went mad at the ref at the end, and was shown two yellow cards by the referee, getting himself ridiculously shown the red and thus missing the
derby Cardiff game.
That pretty much summed up yet another game where Everton under Marco Silva, at the ground where he presumably somehow caught Farhad Moshiri's eye, failed to score and did not deserve.
Scorer: Gray (65')
Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas [Y:83'], Doucoure, Capoue, Hughes (90' Chalobah), Sema (46' Gray), Deulofeu, Deeney [Y:70'].
Subs not Used: Gomes, (61' Cleverley) Masina, Penaranda, Kabasele.
Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Keane, Zouma [Y:90+5';YR:90+5'], Digne, Gueye, Davies, Gomes (62' Walcott), Sigurdsson (74' Calvert-Lewin), Tosun, Richarlison (66' Bernard).
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, Coleman, McCarthy, Lookman.
A terrible game
I met Stuart at the bus stop and arrived at Lime Street for the 8:34am train to Watford Junction, via Birmingham New Street. Stuart bumped into a gaggle of Evertonians who he knew and we all got the train together. A good laugh it was on the rattler. A lot of banter which helped the journey go quickly and before we knew it we had arrived at Watford Junction.
A friend, Dan, who’s a Watford fan, met us at the station and took us to a decent pub called Molloy’s, where we watched the Fulham vs Manchester United match with some food. Dan was quick to clear something up with us, about a so-called Watford supporter's rivalry with Everton. I frankly find an Everton/Watford rivalry absurd, and there is apparently no such thing; their issue is with Marco Silva, not Everton. “All invented by the media” said Dan. I think you’ll also find many Evertonians' issue is also with Marco Silva but more on that later.
A few other Southern-based Blues joined up with us and there was quite a crowd of us making our way to Vicarage Road at about 2:30pm. We’d had the team news by then and Cenk Tosun led the line this time with Gylfi Sigurdsson deployed out on the left. It felt like Marco was trying to accommodate Gylfi when I’d have prefered to have seen Ademola Lookman given a go. That said, Gylfi and Richarlison are the only ones in the team who score any goals so I can see why they were both wanted in the team.
It was nice to hear Z-Cars ring out pre-kick off and we attacked the opposite end in the dire first half. So little happened on the pitch that I spend most of the half having a good old chat with Ian who was stood next to me, while keeping an eye on proceedings. Watford had the best chance of the half when Etienne Capoue was thwarted from close range by Jordan Pickford. Though I haven’t seen it since (I seldom put myself through the misery of watching Match of the Day these days) we felt Capoue may have been offside but, nevertheless, it was an excellent save from Jordan.
Otherwise, I’d say we probably had more of the play. Cenk Tosun forced Ben Foster into action and Kurt Zouma had an effort at goal but that was about all. There was one moment when Gylfi Sigurdsson put a ball into the box but Cenk Tosun criminally didn’t attack the space and it came to nothing. At the break we went off goalless which was all the turgid game deserved.
Into the second half and the game followed a similar pattern. Watford did have us pinned back for a little while with a succession of corner kicks but just when it looked as though we had withstood it, Will Hughes was set free down our left and his inviting ball was put into the net by half time substitute Andre Grey. I didn’t know why at the time but, refreshingly unusually for Everton, four of our players were incensed with Lee Probert and remonstrated with him for some time.
As it turns out, and I haven’t seen it since, the original corner kick should not have been such, as Jordan Pickford didn’t touch the ball so it should have been our goal kick. When you’re in a struggle, these things work against you I suppose. Credit Javi Gracia for making a positive change at the break and putting Andre Grey on I suppose. Watford with the goal which proved to be enough to win the game.
That said, and I guess The Hornets were swarming all over us once they had an advantage, but I’m not having it that they were better than us. We didn’t play well. Actually we were very poor but so too were they. We definitely should have got a point out of the game. Things don’t quite run for you when you’re struggling, and I’d say Gylfi Sigurdsson deserved better with some outstanding improvisation which saw his dinked effort clip the top of the crossbar and bounce away. Somehow it didn’t clip the bar twice and bounce back into play to our waiting striker.
Lucas Digne also pinged the top of the crossbar with an exceptional effort which also might have deserved better. Cenk Tosun hit wide when he should have done better, and substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s header was wayward when he really should have scored. He also missed another presentable chance later in the game; as too did Cenk. He didn’t know he was offside but he really should be putting that into the net. He seemed pretty upset about that miss at full time.
And therein lies our problem - we just can’t score goals. If you’re strikers miss chances as good as those ones, and you don’t quite get the rub with your more high quality efforts, I don’t really know what Marco is supposed to. Couple that with a bad decision at the other end and he and the players must feel a bit like the world is against him. Have negative vibes and negative things will happen. They need to get that feeling out of their system somehow. That doesn’t defend our playing style or Marco’s tactics but, at the end of the day, if you pass up chances as easy as them it’s difficult to get something out of any game.
I’ve only just found out that Kurt Zouma was sent off after the game also. Obviously I’ve no idea what he said to Lee Probert, but is the referee really going to make that same decision if it’s Vincent Kompany, or Virgil van Dijk, or David Luiz et al? Of course he isn’t. There would be uproar. I don’t know about the fitness of Yerry Mina and Phil Jagielka, but with a 17-day spell between now and our next game away at Cardiff City, you’d assume at least one of them can get themselves fit in time.
These 17 days are a really key moment. It gives us a lot of time to work on our next two games against Cardiff City and Liverpool. I’m not normally a fan of their little getaways to Dubai or Qatar around this time of year when we’re out of the cups, but maybe a change of scene for a few days might do the players morale some good at least as they seem so flat. Maybe even get a friendly against ATV Irdning to bang 22 goals in again.
We have to be targeting 6 points from these next two games. We just have to. Back-to-back wins, including a long overdue Merseyside derby victory, would make us feel a lot better about ourselves. I don’t think I’m being too dramatic when I say this is a critical time for Marco. He’s losing support with the fans rapidly and we’ve already seen how trigger happy Fahred Moshiri is. I personally don’t see the value in sacking him now. I just don’t want more players coming and going and don’t want the next guy lumbered with more players he didn’t sign and doesn’t want. While things are awful now, I’d like Marco to be given the opportunity of the summer to get it right.
That viewpoint may change should we crash and burn in these next two games of course. Our form may make his position untenable. Players, Marco and his staff – it’s time to stand up and be counted. More so now than ever before.
Pickford: I haven’t seen the goal since but I thought he had a solid game. His popularity seems a bit divided amongst supporters but I think we’ve got much bigger problems on the pitch myself. 7
Digne: Maybe he was sliced open a bit too easily for the goal but I thought he had a solid enough game otherwise and was unlucky not to score. 6
Zouma: Had a good commanding game. I’ve no doubt he will be missed at Cardiff City. 7
Keane: Did okay. 6
Kenny: Coped with Gerard Deulofeu pretty well but maybe didn’t get forward quite enough. 6
Gueye: My man of the match. Made countless tackles and his passing contribution was above par. Kept going until the end. 7
Davies: Worked hard. Not everything worked out for him but he kept on plugging away. He’s a better option than the others at the moment I think. 6
Gomes: Did nothing. 3
Richarlison: I can’t be doing with him. I’m sick of this wimpish attitude. He needs to man up. I wouldn’t have started him in the game as he doesn’t strike me as someone who can override the boos and jeers and he doesn’t respond well to be being kicked. He was always going to get that treatment today. 2
Sigurdsson: He worked hard and was very unlucky not to score but I don’t see his value out on the left. He probably would have done okay playing central instead of Gomes. 6
Tosun: Not enough movement for me and you never felt he was going to score. 4
Walcott (for Gomes): Did OK down the right. I’d have started him over Richarlison for sure. 6
Bernard (for Richarlison): Didn’t impact the game. 5
Calvert-Lewin (for Sigurdsson): I like Dominic, he seems a good lad and he works hard. Managers must see something in him because Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce and Marco Silva have all utilised him. However, at some point a player has to move on from ”promising” to “established”. I don’t like to criticise a 21-year-old but he really has to lose this habit of missing great headed opportunities. There were two against Watford, one against Wolverhampton Wanderers, one against Apoel Limassol and that’s just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are more if I think long and hard enough. There was also that sitter in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park last season which he skyed into the Gwladys Street. Dominic has now played 99 league games. Everton are desperately missing a striker. There is an opportunity there and unfortunately he isn’t taking it. If and when we finally get a striker in there may still be room for Dominic as back-up, but unless he goes on an unlikely scoring spree, surely that will be all we can offer Dominic. The opportunity is still there, Dominic. Grasp it! 3
Everton are back on their travels this weekend as Marco Silva faces a reunion with Watford at Vicarage Road just over a year after he was relieved of his post as the Hertfordshire club's boss.
The Portuguese has endured in recent weeks a similarly traumatic run of results to that which prompted owner Gino Pozzo to fire him but he will be looking at the positives to be taken from Wednesday's game against Manchester City as signs he can turn things around with the Blues.
Everton lost to the Champions 2-0, conceding goals in stoppage time at the end of each half, one of them the kind of routine set-piece that has been their undoing for so much of Silva's first season in charge.
Silva indicated in his post-match press conference in midweek that he would no longer be addressing the issue of his side's set-piece vulnerabilities in public but it's one that Watford, who scored following a free-kick in the reverse fixture in December, are likely to try and exploit.
Indeed, if Troy Deeney's comments are anything to go by, the Hornets won't be rolling out the welcome mat in any way for Silva. The striker said that, “the people at Everton are fantastic; not the manager,” but he has urged his supporters not to goad their former boss but to let the players make a statement to him.
“We'd prefer it if you left him alone,” was Deeney's message to Watford fans. “It'll only motivate them more. Leave him alone, let us kick the shit out of them.”
Even without that call to arms, there was always likely to be some spice about the encounter from the Watford side with their supporters seemingly intent on fomenting a rivalry between the two clubs on social media following Silva's acrimonious split in January last year.
How the Blues deal with what promises to be a more physical game and hostile atmosphere remains to be seen, as does Silva's team selection. Some of the five changes he made against City could just as easily have been passed off as a response to the disappointing display against Wolves last weekend as they were a nod to the fact that this will be the fourth game in the space of 11 days.
However, what looked to be a more effective midfield unit of Tom Davies, Idrissa Gueye and André Gomes, combined with the industry and aerial presence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, may have given him pause for thought over starting the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson who was rested in midweek.
Richarlison is likely to return to the starting XI, however, either at the expense of Theo Walcott or Bernard while either of the wingers who played against City could be sacrificed if Sigurdsson is restored to the team to play off Calvert-Lewin at the expense of width on both flanks.
While there were glimmers of optimism to be taken from the spirit and character that was on display from Everton on Wednesday evening, the fact remains that a failure to win this weekend would extend the recent sequence to just one Premier League win in eight games.
Defeat would be a fifth in the last six games and regardless of Farhad Moshiri's recent vote of confidence in the manager, it would make for an uncomfortable 17-day spell until the next match, an away clash with Cardiff City.
Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday 9 February, 2019
Referee: Lee Probert
Last Time: Watford 1 - 0 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Kenny, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Gomes, Gueye, Davies, Bernard, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin