Everton Closeup: Tactics, Stats, Richarlison and Sigurdsson
MERSEYSIDE DERBY – Blue’s Stats, Tactics and Richargudsson
It’s the second edition of our “Opposition Corner”, and there couldn’t be a better game at this stage than the Merseyside Derby. Particularly on the back of the not so humbling as annoying defeat to PSG, the Oscar-deserving theatrics of a certain player, unbelievable officiating, and an under-par showing from our beloved Reds. It’s a perfect opportunity for a reaction, and Farrell and I are hoping for one.
Take a walk with us as we dissect Marco Silva’s Toffees and the players we need to keep quiet on Super Sunday.
Where are Everton now?
Everton are yet another club to undergo a considerable upheaval in a short space of time, with Marco Silva taking charge towards the end of May, following the club’s owner’s – Farhad Moshiri – decision to sack Sam Allardyce.
While some may argue that finishing 8th in the Premier League doesn’t constitute a terrible season for Everton, the points drop from 2016/17 to 2017/18 (61 to 49 respectively) did merit concern.
As much as it pains me to say it, Everton are a club too big for the likes of the king of relegation scraps, Big Sam. Certainly, after the sacking of Ronald Koeman in October, the appointment of Allardyce seemed something of a step-down.
The arrival of Silva, on the other hand, seems to have reinvigorated the club’s fortunes, as the Toffees have enjoyed a far stronger start this term.
Thirteen games into the 2018/19 season, Everton sit ahead of Manchester United at 6th, on twenty-two points, their strongest start since 2013/14, back when Roberto Martínez held the reigns.
Marco Silva – Gifted but Overambitious?
It seems a rather pointless exercise to judge the Portuguese manager on his last eleven games at Watford, given that Everton’s interest at the time had clearly affected Silva’s focus, and consequently, results.
Prior to the club’s late November meltdown, Watford had earned six wins, three draws, and four losses from their opening thirteen fixtures, including an impressive win against Arsenal. This put Silva on a 46.2% win rate.
In the same number of games at Everton, Silva has produced an almost identical start, instead taking four draws and only three losses thus far, leaving him with the exact same win rate.
At his previous clubs, Silva has been hailed as a tactical genius and excellent man-manager, earning the love and respect of his players in a short space of time.
At Estoril, his first foray into club management, Silva presided over the side’s return to the Portuguese Primeira Liga and subsequent qualification for the Europa League the season after, following a fifth-place finish.
Ask Estoril’s captain, Steven Vitoria, about who was responsible for the club’s sudden meteoric rise and the answer comes quite easily:
“Even now, if you asked anyone involved in the recent history at Estoril to point to the one person who was responsible for all of this, whether it was players, staff or fans, they would all come up with the same name. It was Marco Silva.”
There’s never been a question mark over Silva’s talent, however, one has to wonder how far his ambition will propel or ruin him.
Indeed, with the exception of Estoril (2011-14), Silva has yet to manage to stay at a club longer than a year, a fact which may raise concern among Everton fans.
Silva’s bold, pacey, wing play couldn’t have been more sought after by fans following the solid, if unexciting, Allardyce era.
That’s not to say that under Silva Everton will throw their defensive sensibilities out the window.
Generally favouring a 4-2-3-1, a Silva side tends to prioritise pressing high up the pitch to retrieve possession and launch quick counter-attacks, while maintaining defensive organisation.
Against Chelsea, Everton moved the ball quickly and, despite often surrendering possession, as one might expect against the West London side, forced Chelsea to play deeper to find chinks in the Everton defence.
One notable facet of Silva’s pressing style is the blocking of passing lanes rather than pressing of the opposition player in possession, or the player who’s looking to receive the ball. The only time pressing becomes more aggressive, or ‘pack-like’, is when the ball has been sent out wide and options have become so narrowed that winning back possession is more than likely.
This allows the midfield two to maintain their positions ahead of the back four, thus preventing Everton from exposing themselves in midfield.
Going to the midfield, Silva’s system does depend greatly, in his own words, “on the profile of my No.6”.
Not trusting Schneiderlin in that role alone, as of yet, Silva has adopted a double pivot of Idrissa Gueye and André Gomes. This has offered considerable protection to the back four, with the Toffees leaking only three goals in their last five matches (including against Chelsea and Manchester United) and scoring seven in the same number of games, since Gomes’s debut against Crystal Palace.
Further afield, Silva started the season with Cenk Tosun operating at the top, and Richarlison and Theo Walcott either side.
Tosun was initially tasked with disrupting the opposition defence with his physicality in order to make room for runs from the wide players, which worked particularly well for Richarlison’s goal return early on.
Most likely due to poor goal return, the Turkish striker has been limited to a number of substitute appearances of late, with Silva pushing Richarlison up top as his main striker.
While Richarlison proved capable in that position against Brighton and Hove Albion, his talent appears somewhat wasted when removed from his natural left-wing position.
Against teams that defend deep, Richarlison lacks Tosun’s level of distribution, which arguably more than makes up for his lack of goals, and physicality to create room for Everton’s wide runs into the box.
In many ways, it’s a pity that Everton couldn’t manage to sign Olivier Giroud from Arsenal, as he’d have been a perfect fit for Silva’s system in holding the ball up and playing it on.
The Men the Reds Must Stop
Since it’s arguably the game the Kop look forward to a win in the most every season, I thought it necessary to single out more than one player that our boys need to stop the most. There’s no denying that the Toffees look a rejuvenated side under Silva. Idrissa Gueye, André Gomes, Seamus Coleman, Theo Walcott, Cenk Tosun, and all the others have put in a shift, no doubt. Special mention must also be given to Jordan Pickford, who’s been immense and keeps improving with each passing game for club and country. However, the following two stand out above the rest:
In his second season with the Toffees, Gylfi is showing why he was the club record signing for 2017/18. Sigurdsson, in the EPL, has scored 6 goals this season, creating 37 chances and three assists. He’s completed 586 passes this season with a passing accuracy of 77%, of which 76% were forward passes. In about half the games he featured in last season (13 out of 27), he’s already bettered last season’s goal tally of 4.
In addition to his ability to utilise spaces and create something out of nothing, Sigurdsson is also something of a dead-ball specialist. The Reds will do well to avoid unnecessary free-kicks around the 18-yard box in this game.
The Brazilian new kid on the block has flourished after reuniting with his former manager at Watford, Silva. Richarlison is joint top scorer for the Blues, tied with Sigurdsson, netting 6 goals in 11 Premier League appearances. Similar to his teammate, he’s improved on his goal tally from last season, having scored 5 goals for Watford in 2017/18 season.
The Reds will have to keep Richarlison in their sights at all times, in view of his pace and them looking to counter.
All in all, the 232nd Merseyside derby is a must-win game for us. Especially to assuage our dented pride from the CL loss on Wednesday, and for bragging rights of course.