Mission Impossible?

By Lyndon Lloyd 15/12/2018 48comments  |  Jump to last
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Manchester City 3 - 1 Everton

Those concerned by the implications an Everton win over Manchester City would have on Liverpool’s newly-buoyed title aspirations needn’t have worried. The Toffees reverted to type on the turf of a top-six side, at least in terms of the result, with a defeat by two goals… albeit one that, depending on your point of view, might have masked some decent moments that could, on another day, have yielded a point for Marco Silva’s men.

Richarlison had good opportunities, one in each half, and Theo Walcott put another decent chance over the bar after he had come on as a second-half substitute, misses that Silva would rue in his post-match press conference. City would in all likelihood have had too much for them in the end but with better finishing Everton could have made much more of a contest of this one.

Pep Guardiola’s team can be frighteningly good and they exhibited those strengths in flashes but you didn't get the impression they ever needed to hit top gear. It says something about their depth that despite David Silva out of action, Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling only starting on the bench and Sergio Aguero not even making it onto the pitch, Everton still never really looked like they could beat them.

And yet, with more composure in the opposition box and tighter defending in their own, the Blues could have made this very uncomfortable for City. That they didn’t ensures that this poor record on the grounds of the “big six” continues with just a trip to Tottenham later in the season left in which to improve upon it.

With an injury problem of his own with which to contend, Silva made his first real change in formation with the deployment of three centre-halves for the first time this season in a vain attempt to keep Guardiola’s fearsome attack at bay. Sadly, none of Kurt Zouma, Michael Keane nor Yerry Mina covered themselves in glory — the Frenchman was arguably the pick of the three while Mina’s display evoked some concerns — the defensive setup didn't really work, and Everton were ultimately beaten by headed goals from two of the smallest players in City’s team.

And that was after Mina had ruined the Blues’ solid start to the game with a double error in the 22nd minute that gift-wrapped an early Christmas present for Gabriel Jesus.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin had forced the first save of the game from Ederson in the first few minutes, the keeper turning the young Englishman’s shot around his post before play was pulled back for a very tight offside call. And Richarlison had spurned what would be Everton’s best chance of the game when Lucas Digne picked up the ball following Kyle Walker’s error and picked the forward out with a cross from the byline but the Brazilian couldn’t keep his volley down and sent it crashing over the bar.

At the other end, Fernandinho’s over-hit, long-range effort and a close call with an own goal for Keane that was rescued by the fingertips of Jordan Pickford aside, City hadn’t threatened Everton’s goal for the first quarter of the contest. That changed, however, when Mina pulled wide to near the touchline to receive a pass from Pickford and simply dumped an aimless ball into the middle of the park, straight to Ilkay Gundogan.

A team with City’s ability to pivot into attack mode in the blink of an eye doesn’t usually pass such opportunities up and with one quick pass to Leroy Sané and another to Jesus who was being played onside by Mina, City had the lead when the Brazilian striker slotted confidently passed Pickford to make it 1-0.

This was in many ways a study of two sides committed to the high press and given to quick passing in transition and playing it out from the back but where one has mastered it and the other still has a long way to go under their new manager.

Nevertheless, a neat interchange between Seamus Coleman and Richarlison whereby the latter’s reverse pass put the fullback into space behind the home defence down the right flank where he forced Ederson into parrying away his cross offered hope that Everton could cause problems of their own.

But it was City who closed the half stronger, Pickford called into the action to beat Riyad Mahrez’s shot away to safety after Bernard was beaten to a loose ball in midfield by Fernandinho and Gundogan’s cross bounced off Zouma into the Algerian winger’s path.

The second half featured few clear-cut openings but City had effectively killed the game within five minutes of the restart after half-time. Playing their customary possession game, the hosts dragged the ball from the right flank, back through the centre circle and then back out to Walker before his attempted cross was cleared only as far as Sané over on the left.

The German international had plenty of time and space to dink a cross onto the head of Jesus who stolen between Keane and Mina in the middle and he powered the ball past the hapless Pickford for his second goal of the afternoon.

Everton were back in with a shout a quarter of an hour later, though, with a similar goal, albeit finished less emphatically by Calvert-Lewin. Digne initiated a quick break from his own byline, one that went swiftly through the ever-impressive André Gomes, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ademola Lookman, on as a substitute for Bernard, before the ball was cleared back to Digne by a City defender. He whipped in a cross, Calvert-Lewin made contact and Fabian Delph’s cranium helped it on its way past Ederson to make it 2-1 with 25 minutes to play.

Any hope that Everton could push on and try and grab a point were largely extinguished by Sterling who scored less than three minutes after coming on himself. Once again, it was all a little too easy as City sped through an open midfield, Zouma was slow to close Fernandinho down as he drove to the byline and he lofted the ball over Mina where Sterling was completely unmarked to head home.

Still, the Blues had their chances to make a game of it. Once more Lookman, who had another impressive cameo performance, was involved as he sprinted forward on the counter, held the ball up intelligently before laying it square to Richarlison but the Brazilian again failed to get any control on a first-time effort and missed the target by some distance.

Then, Lookman’s cross fell invitingly to Walcott about six yards out but he stubbed it into the ground and over the bar before Calvert-Lewin’s tried to cheekily heel-flick a cross past Ederson but the keeper was equal to it.

With just one win in the last six and another defeat away at a top-six team, it’s tempting, as some have done, to write the progress made thus far by Marco Silva off as either no improvement or even a regression from the days of Ronald Koeman Sam Allardyce. After all, Blues managed a 1-1 draw in this fixture last season (albeit against 10 men for much of the game) and registered wins over the likes of Huddersfield and Newcastle where the Portuguese has failed.

To carry over thoughts published on that thread to here, however, it is surely preferable to be at the stage where we are now with the likes of Digne, Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Pickford, Zouma (if we can sign him), and Gomes (if we can sign him) et al, together with the potential that exists in Bernard and Lookman and knowing that Marcel Brands has only just got started, while still evolving a style than being in a similar position with a dead-end manager like Allardyce in charge.

We still have plenty of room to develop and grow within the framework of what Silva is putting in place and, frankly, it’s more encouraging going to City, having a go and coming out annoyed that we didn't put a clear-cut chance away than travel to these top-six grounds and barely muster an attack in 90 minutes.

Write this season off (the FA Cup aside) as a season of transition and growth. We're not finishing in the top six this year but we're putting the foundations in place for being able to challenge next year. Until then... patience.

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Reader Comments (48)

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Jamie Crowley
1 Posted 16/12/2018 at 05:31:08
I'm not ready to put the stop on a top 6 finish. Not yet.

We've played Man City, Man Utd, the stink, Arsenal, and Chelsea all on the road. Home games against those 5 in the Spring may garner points.

I believe sooner rather than later, we will begin to see three points instead of a single point against the likes of "lesser" teams.

Tomorrow we'll probably be 5 points off 6th. Not an insurmountable amount of points for a team who will gel more, under a new coach and system, as time passes. Especially considering our away fixtures, and the fact they will be home fixtures the second half of the season, against some of the "big" teams.

Keep the faith. Even if we're 10th after next week and drop points against Spurs, sitting on 24 and Man Utd on 32, it's 8 points. I'm not saying we will, but I could see this team going on a tear in 2019 and making up those 8 points.

At a minimum, even if that's a bridge too far, I'm happy to say there's some hope, in my opinion, we're capable of putting it all together and going on a run.

And one thing I disagree with slightly. I'd not lump Keane into the didn't, "cover themselves in glory" camp. I thought he was good today. One of the few that was. He's been excellent this season, and today he certainly was not the problem. He played well. He's been a rock for us at the back this season in my opinion. He did very little wrong today.

Tough day against the best. There's still signs of hope. Let's not give up on a late-season gate-crash just yet, please. Lot of "soccer" to be played yet.

Tony Everan
2 Posted 16/12/2018 at 07:35:36
We need to reset the clock now, the most toughest games are out of the way. We have 21 games left and in my mind this team has the ability to do well in all of them. The way we have played against the top 6 teams away has been creditable, why not beat them in a bear pit Goodison? From what I've seen, we are well capable, especially with a fired-up faithful creating that special atmosphere.

I have been thinking lately a lot about our front three configuration. Silva must spend some time thinking about it too. The conclusion I have come to is that in the front line you need, on top of the skill, massive strength of character. Who do we pick if we start thinking about their relative psychological attributes? This will lead us to the strongest line up, one that will force goals and wins through not only ability but sheer desire for the win.

I think that Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin, and Lookman all have that strength of character. I see that single-minded desire and focus to attack and score. They are young and unafraid. They all can and want to achieve great things. They need to be given their head and develop as an attacking 3.

During the second half of the season, I think that Silva should tell the three of them to be ready to work together. Then deploy them as a 3 more and more, with the present and future in mind.

Joe McMahon
3 Posted 16/12/2018 at 08:20:55
Jamie, I'd like to believe you, but our record against any of those teams you refer to even at home is embarrassing. We can't even beat the likes of Huddersfield, West Ham Utd and Newcastle at home.

I think it's gonna take at least another 2 transfer windows and somehow offload the Championship-level and ageing players. We also have to remove the "Mental Hex" that has plagued Everton FC for the past 20 years.

Ajay Gopal
4 Posted 16/12/2018 at 09:11:58
Tony (2), that is a good, positive post. I agree with you that Silva should persist with Calvert-Lewin and Lookman – the 3 (with Richarlison) could well be our future front line for years to come. Add to that, Bernard and Walcott with a new forward and we have a decent forward line that we could build on. The midfield of Gomes, Sigurdsson, Gana, Davies, McCarthy and Baningime will do until the end of the season and the back line is good for now.
John Keating
5 Posted 16/12/2018 at 10:26:30
Lyndon, I agree the error was Mina's for City's opener; however I don't think he had much option than to lump it anywhere. We have this fixation now that we have to play it out of defence regardless how well-marked our players are.

We had two defenders either side of the penalty area, both closely watched by City players. Regardless, Pickford decided to pass it to Mina. In my opinion, a ridiculous decision by the goalie. We know the result.

How many times this season have we done this pass out from the back that's either put us in trouble or finished up after one or two square balls back for Pickford to lump it forward?

There are a couple of teams presently in the Premier League who have the players and movement to carry out, almost faultlessly, this tactic. Unfortunately, we are not one of them.

Max Murphy
6 Posted 16/12/2018 at 10:41:29
Jamie, your optimism is misplaced. We are going nowhere with this manager. Forget the big boys, and just look at our performances against Newcastle and Watford.

We'll get nothing against the top six clubs at home.

John Raftery
7 Posted 16/12/2018 at 10:50:34
Lyndon, a slight correction: the 1-1 draw last season was under Koeman.
Rob Dolby
8 Posted 16/12/2018 at 11:24:09
Mna City must have been pleased seeing the 3 giants at the back yesterday against the pace and movement of their only fit striker who hadn't scored in ages.

Conceding headers against small strikers 8 yards out is criminal.

We never targeted the left-back until Walcott came on the pitch.

We have some quality players but tactically looked too rigid. We seem to have one way of playing –regardless of who we play against or who is in the team. That's why we struggle to break teams down who come to Goodison to defend or against teams who have better movement as we don't adjust or, if we do, it's too late.

Spurs will drag us all over the place next week; their movement is the best in the Premier League. How can we beat them?

I would start by playing 2 strikers – just like Arsenal did in the 2nd half of their derby game. Rest Mina... otherwise, it will be the same story as yesterday.

Brian Harrison
9 Posted 16/12/2018 at 11:38:15
I wanted Silva and think the side are definitely progressing under him, and we have to be mindful he has only been here a matter of months and has only had one transfer window. When he was at Hull and Watford, it seemed that both these teams under Silva created chances in most games but failed to convert them and very rarely did either of these teams keep clean sheets. I would have hoped that, with more money to spend, we would still see chances created and more clean sheets than at his previous clubs. But it seems the same problems apply to us as they did to Hull and Watford; for us to move forward, he needs to remedy both these faults.

I am also not keen that, every goal-kick we take, both centre-backs go to either side of the box and stand about a yard away from the goal line. And about 90% of our goal-kicks are played to our centre-backs, so it's no surprise to our opposition. So good sides like Man City press high on goal-kicks and neither Keane or Mina or Zouma look comfortable receiving the ball there; yesterday, it led to City's first goal.

Now I like to see us playing out from the back but mix it up – don't pre-set the centre-backs for every goal-kick; keep the opposition guessing. I have to say, at this moment in time, I prefer Zouma to Mina but understand the problem that Silva has: one is a permanent signing, the other is only on loan.

Regarding our attacking options, we have Bernard, who is industrious and has some lovely touches but, despite starting most games, has failed to score. And I don't think as yet he has completed 90 minutes in any one game. Then we have Walcott on the other wing, who hasn't scored since August, so it's no wonder we are struggling to win games when 2 of the front 3 aren't scoring. Lookman has looked good when he has come on as a sub but he hasn't scored and, when he starts, he hasn't looked as effective as when he comes on as a sub.

So I would say to Marco, we need to address our striking options and please drop the plan from goal-kicks as it plainly isn't working. The real test of a manager is how he can change the way his side plays to make them more effective. As I said earlier, we are having the same problems that were prevalent at his 2 previous clubs. We have played all of last season's top 6 away, apart from Spurs, and in each game created enough chances to have got something from them but, apart from Chelsea, we have lost the lot. I notice our neighbours are not as exciting as last season but their manager has made them more resolute in defence yet they still manage to score and are still unbeaten in the Premier League.

As I said at the beginning, it is very early days for Marco at Everton and I think he was definitely the right man for us. But, if we are to compete for a top 6, then top 4, we need to get players in that can convert the chances we make, and stop giving preventable goals away at the other end. Man City are a class act and it's no shame to lose to them at the Etihad; when they can have Aguero, De Bruynne and Sterling on the bench and no David Silva available, it just highlights the gulf between us and them.

I would finally say, how do two of the smallest players on the pitch score two headed goals when we had three centre-backs – all well over 6-ft – on the field???

Jimmy Hogan
10 Posted 16/12/2018 at 11:43:35
John #5, I was watching very carefully whenever Pickford elected to go long with his clearances. We conceded possession every single time. This is why teams try to play out from the back. We're just not good enough at it yet...
Amit Vithlani
11 Posted 16/12/2018 at 11:43:40
As pointed out, Koeman achieved the 1-1 draw at Man City last season. Allardyce oversaw the 1-1 away draw at Liverpool.

Unfortunately, my crude calculations suggest we are behind on points gathered in the same set of fixtures versus last season.

Hoping for a good transfer window and a second wind so we can finish the season strongly.

John Keating
12 Posted 16/12/2018 at 11:49:30
Jimmy,

We also give possession to the opposition almost every time we try to play it out from the back, it just takes an extra pass or two. As you quite rightly say, we do not have the players good enough to do it.

The thing is, when we lose possession trying to play it out, we immediately put ourselves under unnecessary pressure... so why keep doing it???

It's like watching us play under Martinez. If it doesn't work, no matter — just keep doing it!!!

Andrew Cunningham
13 Posted 16/12/2018 at 12:25:52
We were absolutely carved up by a far superior team yesterday. You can look at this with as many rose-tinted glasses as you like but the fact remains we were hammered. I think we did well not to concede five.

I'am not trying to have a go at Silva or any of our players but, in my opinion, we were simply outclassed. We have a long way to go to break into the top six but I'm hoping we are on the right track and this is not another false dawn.

Paul Birmingham
14 Posted 16/12/2018 at 14:20:43
The dust settles and loads of promise in this squad but the rebuild goes on and there's plenty to do in terms of getting to the promised land of genuine top 6, consistent contenders.

It's gonna take a few transfer windows but, in life, you live and learn. Marco Silva will have learnt loads yesterday. I'd say a couple of top strikers – easy to say and hard to find – a right-back plus back-up, and back-up for Gana, or a Gana with Arteta scope for passing and shooting. An alternative also for Walcott if Lookman can't develop into the killer player on the wing.

I still see McCarthy, if he can get back to fitness, being a key squad player, perhaps in an Alan Harper type role. He had the guts and the grit and team presence and played for the team, if (but a big 'if') he gets his fitness back after such a terrible injury.

Time and patience but we've basically been waiting decades, and, in some cases, lifetimes, for the “resurrection of Everton FC”.

Hopefully soon, but let's hope for a good FA Cup campaign and get the galvanised play back that we showed at Chelsea and in the first half at our old ground.

Graeme Beresford
15 Posted 16/12/2018 at 14:35:50
I've said it before and will repeat myself: Pickford, in my opinion, is not ready to be a Number One goalkeeper for us. I think he masks his failures by saving one or two shots during a game which make us all forget his inability to save shots in the calibre of a class goalkeeper.

In my opinion, he has no need to run out of his goal like a lunatic for the first Man City goal. If he stays on his line and covers his near post, Jesus may not have got his shot off and it certainly would've had to have been some strike to beat the keeper from that angle. But, he makes the decision, is slow off the line, slides along the turn, and literally leaves the angle of the shot into the near post open, exactly where Jesus found. Poor goalkeeping.

Also, it was actually a poor decision from Pickford to play the ball to Mina. Any class goalkeeper would've seen the danger here and waved his players upfield for a long keeper kick.

Now I totally get the arguments that will come about the second and third goals but, to me, Pickford reminded me of Tim Howard towards the end of his Everton career. The ball is powered at him and, instead of standing strong and putting your hands about your head, Pickford looks more concerned about the Hollywood save, diving backwards and twisting in the air. Would Alison, De Gea, Hugo Lloris save them goals? I think they would have.

I like the guy, I think he's a good keeper, but he doesn't strike me as our long-term answer. As harsh as it sounds, I would much rather have a bigger guy in goal then a smaller guy. Shay Given and Casillas are the only two keepers I can think of that made a decent career as the little guy in goal. Give me someone bigger with more dominance in goal any day of the week.

That derby goal in my eyes is just unforgivable. Imagine that was England in the World Cup final... just poor. I would happily sell Pickford and get someone like Schmeichel in, even Joe Hart to me is looking the better option at the moment.

Neil Cremin
16 Posted 16/12/2018 at 15:35:02
Graham and John,

I have been slated many a time on calling into question the ability and temperament of Pickford. His failings are his inability dominate the 6-yard area and to catch and hold the ball to take the sting out of attacks. He too often chooses to parry or punch the ball which means if the opposition win the resulting ball the defense is under more pressure.

His second failing is he is a very poor distributor of the ball (maybe Silva recognises this and instructs him to give short passes to teammates). The kick-outs rarely find one of our players and have often gone straight out of play.

He is also erratic, remember he clattered into Williams last season and when I blamed Pickford on that thread (who had the best vision as he was coming from behind) I got slaughtered on TW.

He is a very good shot-stopper but is also too prone to dramatics running out an giving out to the defence when, in fact, as the anchor of the defence, he should be taking the responsibility for managing the danger by directing who should advance to cut out the delivery and who should take up positions to mark a player(s) which he himself cannot cover.

He will be a very good keeper if these failings can be coached out of him, and if he himself realises that he is far from the finished article and has lots to learn.

David Hallwood
17 Posted 16/12/2018 at 15:45:09
Great report, as ever, Lyndon. Playing the best team on the planet is never going to be easy, but I'm undecided whether Silva's approach to the game was underthinking or overthinking, because we were the architects of our own downfall.

The first goal was straight out of the Martinez handbook; how many times did we see a team press high on the defenders, giving them no options, steal the ball and bingo! Where's the Plan B? Why not either knock it long, or have someone on the wing about 10 yards from the halfway line (just like Digne was) and pass it to him? It takes the 2/3 attackers out of the game and it sets us off higher up the pitch.

Next point that's been made umpteen times is 3 at the back. IMHO, you either play that formation all the time, or you don't touch it, because it always ends up like the Chuckle Brothers+1 "To me, to you, to 'im" — Nobody takes responsibility and the amount of times I've seen a team switch to 3 at the back getting done with free headers or the lone striker totally unmarked in the box.

Even allowing for the quality of the crosses and the movement of Jesus and Stirling, 3 6-ft+ centre-backs should not be getting done by players that are 5'-5" and 5'-8".

There's little doubt how Man City keep the ball under pressure and move it with rarely a misplaced pass, as well as their movement both on and off the ball is disturbingly good, so there was really no need to make it easy for them.

Andy Meighan
18 Posted 16/12/2018 at 15:48:09
I agree with Greame @15: Pickford made Jesus's mind up for him and should have been off his line far quicker. Also, he should never have passed that ball out to Mina.

I said it all last season, the lad is an average keeper and is a mistake waiting to happen. But I got called down for it big time.

As for the comparisons with Howard, my opinion is Howard was a far better keeper than Pickford. Howard got some terrible grief on here towards the end of his career and it was unwarranted in my opinion. He was a great servant for us who loved the club and the fans and never gets tired of telling anyone who'll listen.

This current keeper gives me the impression he 'll be off IF a bigger club comes calling. Personally, I doubt any bigger club will because I don't think he's that good...

Tom Bowers
19 Posted 16/12/2018 at 15:56:17
Whichever way you dissect it, the bottom line is that the squad isn't good enough. Some players are excellent and some youngsters may make it eventually but fans who expected a one-season turnaround were dreaming.

It's okay to dream but it was always a work in process for this season and things have improved but somehow, as usually happens, they go crazy after a derby defeat. They will bounce back this season but only if the right moves are made in January.

Dissing Pickford and a few others is ridiculous. They did well in patches yesterday but, against Man City, any defensive lapses will be severely punished, as they were.

On a sidenote, Liverpool will do the same to a frail Man Utd defensive strategy today.

John Boswell
20 Posted 16/12/2018 at 17:02:59
Okay, first off, I don't like losing. I love Everton and every season, when the fixtures are released, I go through them and mark out our wins and occasionally I concede that we may have to settle for a draw. Fantasy results, yes, but I am optimistic and why not?

Of course, the real world is different. It takes time to change things. It has taken our new owner time to get his first choice Director of Football in place. Mr Brands has had a phenomenal first transfer window and our new coach is getting his style across to the squad that he is developing.

I pointed out on another thread that we have a new board running the club and positive progress is being made regarding the new stadium. New income streams will be delivered, Mr Moshiri is not a small-time businessman, but it takes time to put in place and develop.

This first team squad will improve as the season progresses and I am convinced that it will prove the impatient contributors wrong when they start winning games at Goodison Park against the usual top 6 suspects, later this season.

Change is happening now; keep the faith; our time will come again; COYB.

Lyndon Lloyd
21 Posted 16/12/2018 at 17:57:02
John, Amit, thanks for catching that. I’m not sure what I was thinking (perhaps my addled brain mixed it up with the Liverpool result under Allardyce) but I’ve corrected the piece above.
Simon Smith
22 Posted 16/12/2018 at 22:28:56
7th to 9th is our level, imo. If we achieve this whilst playing a better brand of football than I've sat watching over the past 5 years then I'll be happy.

Player for player, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and Man Utd all have better than us, squad wise they are all much stronger than us, so therefore only over-achieving will place us in the top 6 and asking Silva to over achieve in his first year is a big ask.

If we can bring in someone in this upcoming window of the level of Digne, Gomes, Mina or Richalison then we will be doing well, then I'd expect major changes in the summer.

Back to the game and basically City are too good for us, that said we are now a team who create chances and you simply can't win without chances.

Yes, we missed our big chances, but over the past few seasons I've seen spineless performances vs the top few sides, now we are starting to see us play football and create genuine match winning chances.

Gomes and Mina in the derby, and today it was Richalison and Walcot who missed big chances, hopefully we can bring in a wide man similar to Richalison for the right (or Lookman will become this player) and a forward who will take the chances created, along with Richalison back in his favoured left-hand side roll were he will get a fair share of goals.

I seen a stat today with win percentages on, Big Sam v Silva, fat head Sam currently has a better percentage but I know as a season ticket holder who's Everton team I want to watch each week.

Things take time in football, look at the red shite, Klopp has turned them into a true force but it's taken 4 years, same with Poccettino at Spurs. I genuinely believe Silva, with the right backing, can transform the Blues into a good footballing side who can genuinely challenge the top 4 for Champions League places.

John Boon
23 Posted 16/12/2018 at 23:05:16
As usual, your reports are concise, accurate and try to look at the positives along with valid and useful criticism. The reader does not see blind anger and rage directed towards any player who dares to make a mistake. To think logically almost every goal scored by every team is usually due to a mistake.

Unfortunately, when we play a team as talented as the present Man City team, players are forced into making mistakes that they wouldn't usually make. Note I used the word "present" when referring to Man City.

You don't really have to be all that old to remember the time that Man City had to beat Gillingham to get out of the Third level of English football. We can proudly say that we have been in the top level since 1954.

As a 15-year-old I was ecstatic when we beat Oldham 4-0 to move up to Division 1. I was even more delighted because the RS took our place in Division 2. Since then we have had years of glory along some very poor years.

And even today we are better off as Evertonians than at least 82 supporters of all other teams in the Football League. So be grateful and for your own good and sanity try not to give two shits about those foreigners over the park.

Back to the future. Yesterday we lost to a very good team. They deserved to win but we were in the game and with a bit more luck and skill we could have tied. Looking ahead, I think we are on the right path. This era reminds me of the early Eighties when we were developing a very good team and did become Champions. Similar to the early sixties when again the patience of Evertonians was rewarded with a Championship in 1963.

From experience, I can honestly see good times ahead in the next few years. It is never easy but most Evertonians need to have inbred patience.

And if you really feel sorry for yourself, look down the league to Notts County in 91st place. The oldest team in the league and they have never won anything worthwhile in 150 years. I am sure they have fans who love them just as much as you and me love Everton. You know what I just love – even saying the word 'Everton'. CYOB

Stan Schofield
24 Posted 16/12/2018 at 23:52:53
John@23: Good post, wise words. The vast majority of other clubs and supporters would love to be in our position, ie, a constant presence in the top flight, average Premier League position 8th, and 8 major trophies during my time as a supporter.

But we think of 8th as midtable mediocrity. We want and expect to be at the very top, and anything less just won't satisfy us.

David Pearl
25 Posted 16/12/2018 at 00:10:48
John, Are you on the egg-nog already!?

I think Silva has some very good players to work with, a lot better than any other manager has had in a while. Maybe a little short on confident at the moment but who will keep improving. We have Walcott who has scored a lot from a central position but he has yet to play him there. Maybe Niasse deserves a shot on the bench again... we need goals.

Most people are saying Silva chose the wrong tactics but I don't think he did. A few mistakes cost us. We need to work on that shape in training... though, when Gana is fit again, I'd probably drop Sigurdsson. Too many times our players look better as impact subs.

If he reverts to his 4-2-3-1 and doesn't find a way to get the forwards firing, confidence will continue to drop. Important to gain momentum and confidence now so that, if we do sign players in January, they come into a team not relying on them to pick them up. Over to Marco....

Kieran Fitzgerald
26 Posted 17/12/2018 at 07:38:18
I think the summer window has improved the squad drastically. The upcoming January and summer windows will tell a lot in terms of where Silva and Brands want this squad to be.

People who were able to watch the game on Saturday felt that the tactics and team formation were off. Again, this is something that I will hold off on being overly negative or worried about until the first five or six games of next season.

We are currently looking at a top six of Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Man Utd. Six teams that have consistently outspent, outcompeted and attracted better players and managers, than most of the top teams in Europe for several years. The aim for me between now and the start of the next season next is to bridge the gap to these six teams in terms of quality, a settled squad, and suitable tactics.


Dick Fearon
27 Posted 17/12/2018 at 07:46:47
My main worry about Marco is the length of time he takes to decide where things are not working and how to correct them.

There is always another way to skin a rabbit and other managers are quick to act on it.

After 20 minutes against Man City, it was blindingly obvious where we were failing... yet the changes, when they came, were far too late.

Jerome Shields
28 Posted 17/12/2018 at 09:47:06
I think you are right, Lyndon. It had slipped my mind that the wise advocacy of a five-year improving plan on ToffeeWeb, in the dark days of the Big Sam debacle, was what was needed.

Everton are not that far off the level of Man City, with the obvious weaknesses in the team being highlighted, and we do have the able Brands available to sort them out. Everton have come a long way from last season and, in the time available, progress has been made.

But it does raise the hackles when:

We witness the recurring inability to cut out a cross from the right wing, allowing a short forward get between two six-foot centre-backs and score;

The goalkeeper gives a hospital throw out to the centre-back, who passes the ball across the defence, with alarm bells attached.

Forwards can't hit a barn door from 10 feet.

Well done to Calvert-Lewin and his positioning to score on Saturday.

After waiting 20 years, five more years is neither here nor there. . .

James Lauwervine
29 Posted 17/12/2018 at 12:17:15
Whilst the last four games have all been disappointing (to say the least), I find it odd that we can be written off for a top 6 finish yet we're only 2 points off that position with a superior goal difference.

It's the top 5 that's a real challenge, though with 63 points still available even that is possible. Optimism rules!

Craig Walker
30 Posted 17/12/2018 at 13:24:19
Graeme @15.

In my time of supporting Everton, I've still only seen us have two truly world class goalkeepers: Southall and Martyn. If Howard, Gerrard or Wright had made that error in the derby, they would have been castigated. Pickford also cost us the FA cup game there in January.

I like Pickford but he isn't as good as he thinks he is. One of the biggest myths in the media is that his distribution is excellent. Not when I watch him it isn't. He tries to start attacks quickly and gives the ball back needlessly. He shanks balls out of play. He hits it over players' heads on the touchline.

Why would we trust him with a moving ball when he could just kick a dead-ball from the off? That goal was reminiscent of when Howard gave it Osman on the edge of the box against Sunderland on Boxing Day 2013. Osman lost it, Howard legged up their player and we lost.

We only needed to avoid defeat to go a whole calendar year undefeated at Goodison. Of course we messed it up.

Jesus couldn't score in the Premier League. You just knew he'd get at least two.

Pat Waine
31 Posted 17/12/2018 at 13:55:29
There is no doubt about it, Koeman wrecked this club. The repair work is on the way but it will take as long as our stadium to finish the project: 3 years.
Clive Rogers
32 Posted 17/12/2018 at 15:03:35
I fail to see the point of those daft goal kicks where the central defenders stand outside the box right next to the goal line. I realise the aim is to keep possession, but the defender is quickly under pressure and has 20 players in front of him with most of his team mates too far away for an easy pass. It's not working.

We are losing possession because of it and Mina's hurried pass with City players bearing down on him gave a goal away. Both centre-backs next to the goal line is asking the opposition to press forward and they can't be offside if they get possession quickly.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

33 Posted 17/12/2018 at 15:23:27
Clive @ 32.

The point of the 'daft goal kicks' is that they have served us very well this season. Just because you now have one example of failure after Saturday does not mean the tactic is a total failure.

Usually, Pickford has four options from goal kicks. The default one is the centre-backs split to either side of the penalty area and a midfielder – usually Gomes – drops short centrally outside the area, so he has 3 options for a short goal kick. If Pickford doesn't consider those options are on, he waves the two centre-backs forward, they slot back into their central positions, and Pickford kicks long.

The first 3 options dares the other team to risk pushing up 3 men to close off Pickford's short kick. If they do, for the most part, we have comfortably – very comfortably – passed around them and out of defence, leaving the opposition short of numbers as we move forward. Most teams don't take this risk, preferring to fall back to the half-way line and regroup. Thus, unpressured, we are ably to comfortably build from the back, largely unpressured.

Man City and Pep Guardiola are different animals from the overwhelming majority of the league and they played dare in this scenario and won.

Pickford, Mina and Silva would have learnt from the loss of the 1st goal, but be prepared to see a continuation of this strategy, because it has been working very well for us.

Ray Roche
34 Posted 17/12/2018 at 15:52:27
Jay, those “daft goal kicks” were sussed out by Watford who closed Mina down so quickly that Pickford eventually resorted to long balls – meat and drink to their big defenders.
Jay Wood
[BRZ]

35 Posted 17/12/2018 at 17:29:58
Agreed, Ray. I said as much post-Watford game also, that teams are getting wise to how we play, all the more so with the default starting XI Silva has been going with for too many games.

That's the beauty of football; you set up to play one way, it works for a while before teams counter it, then you have to counter their counter.

Silva will persist with this because it works for him and not all teams take the gamble as Watford and Man City did. The very best teams can persist with this strategy because the manager has full confidence in his better-quality players to pull it off, no matter how tightly pressed.

We don't yet have that level of player. Silva will in all likelihood persist with this, even with the present squad, until it reaches a tipping point where the risk outweighs the reward and he finds another way to play from goal kicks.

Ray Roche
36 Posted 17/12/2018 at 17:37:33
Hit the nail on the head, Jay, "better quality players". Until Marco and Brands have had the time to gather together a team of "better quality players" we'll have to do the best we can.

People forget that Man City have spent hundreds of millions and had several more years to assemble the most expensive squad in history. They'll win more games than they'll lose!

Steavey Buckley
37 Posted 17/12/2018 at 18:07:45
Considering how much money Everton have spent since the summer of 2016, Everton have not progressed much since Moyes was manager in 2013, who had little or no money to spend on new players.

Tosun and Walcott combined cost £50 million a year ago, yet, both do represent value for money, and have lost their places recently. Everton rely heavily on Richarlison to be their match-winner because the rest don't contribute enough in scoring goals.

Dermot Byrne
38 Posted 17/12/2018 at 18:15:00
4 months. 4.
Bill Gienapp
39 Posted 17/12/2018 at 18:27:49
I'm not taking 6th place off the table, for the simple reason that Man Utd don't look equipped to pull away from anyone. Let's be honest, it's not a Top Six this season; it's a Top Five.
Derek Taylor
40 Posted 17/12/2018 at 18:59:16
Mission impossible, indeed – and it is already becoming clear that Marco Silva is no more a managerial nirvana than were his three predecessors – at least.

Little blame attaches to Silva, himself, although apart from being the antithesis of the man he followed, few, apart from Moshiri, could see much virtue in his appointment.

However, for good or ill, he is the man in charge and we have all wished him well as, at least for much of each game, we see some decent football. The trouble is that, for the most part, winning football it just ain't as a mere 6 victories in 17 games will testify.

A continuance of that form would see us with around 54 points and almost certainly a top half-place. In other words, going nowhere but to the land of safety. So, enjoy the journey because there is no point in expecting more. Then, there's always next season!

Tony Everan
41 Posted 18/12/2018 at 10:13:18
I will not rule out a top 6 finish either.

It is looking like a duel at high noon between us and Man Utd for it.

Lee van Cleef [Everton] vs Dirty Bandit [Man Utd] ...cue the Good the Bad & the Ugly soundtrack.

The possibility of achieving 6th will represent good progress in Season 1 for the new regime. It is well within our grasp; we have a better team, more stable, more motivated. Most of the, on paper, toughest games are behind us. There is no reason we cannot do well in all the remaining games. Including at home against teams above us.

Top 6 and the FA Cup are both still on the table, get on a run in the league and a bit of luck with the draw in the cup and this squad can do it.

Steven Jones
42 Posted 17/12/2018 at 10:15:13
Bit of a comparison with Man Utd at Liverpool:

Possession: 35%, shots: 6, on target: 2

Everton vs Man City

Possession: 33%, shots: 9, and on target: 2

Man City: 13 shots, 6 on target
Liverpool: 36 shots, 11 on target

Interesting... we are in better shape than Man Utd?

We did have other great chances as well and I think the goals scoring predictor thing shown on MotD was quite close to City's, refelcting the positive play and chances we had.

Steve Ferns
44 Posted 18/12/2018 at 11:07:10
Derek Taylor,

54 points is five better than last season. We've played a lot of good sides away already this season: Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd and Wolves. That's 6 of the 7 sides above us, all away.

I'd expect much better returns in the reverse fixtures as not only will we be at home, we should also be further down the line in terms of being a better side.

Rob Halligan
46 Posted 18/12/2018 at 11:45:33
Tony # 41. Love your positivity. Brilliant.

I too, don't see any reason why we can't go on a decent run. We've played 5 of the so called top 6 away. We don't play spurs away until the very last game of the season. After spurs on sunday, we've got 8 games, which, while no games in the premier league are easy, are games which you'd hope we can get a few points from. By the way, I'm expecting something on Sunday.

Time for everyone to get behind the team.

Steve Ferns
48 Posted 18/12/2018 at 12:42:44
I don’t get it with Pochettino. He’d be great for us. Probably the best man for the job of taking us to the top 4 or even beyond.

But, he’s been a slow burner of a manager. Gradual progress through top coaching and player development. Limited funds were spent on players (comparative to the top 4) and reasonable expectations from his board and total backing from the fans.

Man Utd don’t want this. They want to win it all and to do so now. They’ll chuck a load of cash at it, and you best play good footy whilst you’re at it.

That’s not Pochettino. It’s the opposite of him. And Pochettino still has not won a single trophy. Do the so called biggest club in the world really want to appoint a trophy less manager?

It’s also not Simeone. What they actually want is an Ancelotti type. It’s hard to profile Zidane as he coached in the turbulent world of Real Madrid, but won 3 Champions League is 3 years. I suppose he could work with a DoF and replicate what went right at Real Madrid. He’ll have the players eating out of the palm of his hand, he is Zidane after all.

Last summer you had Sarri (good fit for Utd), Emery (ditto), Ancelotti, Zidane, and a few others on the move. I think the big name managers will be unavailable even in the summer. United have bad timing here and need to go all out for Zidane as there is simply no one else.

James Hughes
49 Posted 18/12/2018 at 13:44:54
John #57 — what's happened then? Please tell. I had a quick look on t'internet, nothing jumped out...
Marcus Taylor
50 Posted 18/12/2018 at 14:05:56
Manchester United in disarray, their worst ever Premier League points tally after 17 games... and yet they are still 2 points above us.
Steve Ferns
51 Posted 18/12/2018 at 14:14:06
We'll find out the answer to your final point next year. But, yes, 70% + is far too high. And this shows why Brands is saying, one in, one out. He'll get that wage bill down, so don't expect mega signings without it being significantly reduced.

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