Everton end home campaign having restored Fortress Goodison

By Lyndon Lloyd 04/05/2019 19comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 2 - 0 Burnley

At the nadir of the season back in January following the FA cup defeat at Millwall, the defensive run that Everton have been on, particularly at home, since early February would have been inconceivable.

Marco Silva’s defence was an absolute shambles at the Den and though they managed a clean sheet at the one ground where they would have been expected to do so when they beat Huddersfield 1-0 at the John Smiths a few days later, the 3-1 home defeat to Wolves deepened the sense of deja vu among supporters for whom the collapse of Roberto Martinez’s reign is still fresh in the memory.

Since losing to Manchester City in the game after that, Everton have kept eight clean sheets in 11 games, haven’t conceded a first-half goal in that span — you have to go back to the title-winning season of 1986-87 for the last time a Toffees side managed that feat — and haven’t let in a goal at all at Goodison Park.

Amid that run, the defeats at Newcastle and Fulham stand as curious and unwanted anomalies, but in the context of Silva’s recovery from what was a very low point in the season and the future under the Portuguese, they offer examples of where to improve because the foundations appear to otherwise be in place.

Goodison Park has indeed become a fortress again and this was a pleasingly routine win even if it left you feeling a little unfulfilled at the way Everton eased off the pedal in the second half. Perhaps there was a certain confidence bred from their recent home form or from the fact that in the opening 10 minutes, the Blues registered over 90% of the possession and were 2-0 up with 20 minutes gone. Silva’s side were wholly dominant in the first 45 minutes and didn’t allow Burnley to have their one and only shot on target of the match until more than an hour had elapsed.

That early pressure yielded a series of set-pieces and one chance for Richarlison when he was threaded through beautifully by Gylfi Sigurdsson but his shot deflected behind for corner. It wasn’t long, however, before the same combination yielded the first goal.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin was set down the right touchline by Richarlison himself from deep in his own half and the Brazilian would then make up the ground to be in place outside the box to receive Sigurdsson’s lay-off after the striker had drifted inside with the ball and found the Icelandic midfielder.

Richarlison took a couple of touches to set himself up and then lashed a 25-yard shot towards goal that took a slight but decisive deflection off Ben Mee and flew into the bottom corner of Tom Heaton’s goal. Mee would, unfortunately, be credited with the goal because the effort looked to be going just wide but it was a tremendous strike and the goal was everything Everton deserved.

And they didn’t have to wait long for the second which came the end of a sustained attack during which Calvert-Lewin and Lucas Digne both had shots blocked before the Frenchman smashed one of his Exocet missiles from distance Heaton could only palm into the path of Seamus Coleman alone in the box to head home.

Ashley Barnes had a well-taken volleyed ”goal” ruled out for offside at the end of a rare Burnley attack before Lee Westwood was booked for a reckless tackle on Morgan Schneiderlin but it was Everton who finished the first half the stronger with Calvert-Lewin putting a header over the bar into the Gwladys Street End and Sigurdsson firing over from a tight angle when he might have been better served slipping it square for Calvert-Lewin to convert from close range.

The second half was much more of a non-event and it was mostly consumed with Burnley trying in vain to make inroads in the Everton defence where Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma were like impregnable rocks. On another day, Keane might have conceded a penalty when he appeared to put his arm on the back of Matej Vydra and his feet accidentally tangled with the substitute’s, sending him sprawling to the turf but the officials waved play on. And Aron Gudmundsson almost got on the end of a deep Barnes cross at the back post but couldn’t keep the ball down as it skipped off the turf in front of Jordan Pickford’s goal.

In between, Richarlison was forced off with a recurrence of the rib injury that he initially sustained at Fulham and which necessitated his substitution around the same time of the game as against Manchester United. It was a shame because the Brazilian, who is been fairly inconsistent over the past few months, had been having one of his most effective games of the season.

He has been guilty at times of being too selfish, over elaborating in the final third or simply running into trouble but this evening he was alert, productive and responsible for some very intelligent balls in various areas of the pitch.

Still very much in control in the destination of the points, with Morgan Schneiderlin continuing to look like a player reborn, the home side didn’t threaten as often as they had in the first half but they did create some decent openings nonetheless.

Calvert-Lewin had time to size up a shot as the ball came out to him around the edge of the box but he swept his shot high into the Park End, Coleman saw an attempt to chip the ball across Heaton’s six-yard box foiled by the keeper when a low cut-back might have found one of four blue shirts queuing up to tap in and Digne then sent Calvert-Lewin in with a nice pass but the striker produced a weak effort that was comfortably saved.

Bernard’s industrious but mercurial evening’s work came to end when he was withdrawn with 17 minutes to go in favour of Ademola Lookman and the young forward wasted little time displaying his obvious talent. Cutting back on a run across the edge of the box, he whipped a left-footed shot that clipped the crossbar when it deserved to dip a few inches lower.

Lookman would get a simpler chance after Theo Walcott had squandered another good opening with just Heaton to beat when the ball rebounded to him around 15 yards out but his powder-puff effort failed to unduly test the keeper.

There was enough time at the end to give Phil Jagielka a couple of minutes of stoppage time to come on for what could be the final appearance of his long and impressive Everton career before referee Chris Kavanagh called time on another home win for the Toffees.

So, three points that put the ball back in Wolves’s court as they entertain Fulham tomorrow knowing that a win would put them beyond Everton’s reach and guarantee that only Leicester could deny them a seventh place finish in their first season back in the Premier League.

Regardless of where Silva’s team finish, though, there are clear signs of progress now under the Portuguese. Replacing the likes of Idrissa Gueye and Zouma, for instance, two players who were again outstanding tonight, would be very, very difficult if it comes to that but there is, at least, confidence and defensive solidity about the squad as a whole not to mention an identity and evidence of an outfit capable of far out-performing their efforts this season next term.

Reader Comments (19)

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Derek Knox
1 Posted 04/05/2019 at 08:42:10
Good report Lyndon, which sadly in some respects sums our season up, but as you so succinctly mentioned the defeats against Fulham and Newcastle coupled with the home draw against Huddersfield, stand out for me at least, as particularly low points.

Our recent form with basically the same set of players defies logic in comparison with those examples mentioned above. Now it's all dependent on Wolves, who in all honesty I can't see losing to Fulham at home (their last game in front of their own fans) despite Fulham's upsurge in results since relegation was confirmed.

While it is mathematically possible, hope springs in an Evertonian's heart and mind, and Football does have a tendency to throw up surprises, but fingers crossed this could be one of those moments.

Hate to repeat myself but we should not even be in this position, without Fantasy Football, so many results have been poor this season, that Europa League Football would have been a certainty.

Brent Stephens
2 Posted 04/05/2019 at 09:01:35
7 fecking pages in my morning paper devoted to the other lot. 7 pages from a normally sensible newspaper. I'm bitter, blue and proud of it.

City, Newcastle, Wolves - please deliver me a lovely summer!!!

David Pearl
3 Posted 04/05/2019 at 09:13:26
Come on Rafa.. you fat Spanish kopite waiter. Don't roll over and let them tickle your belly. I want this over with by Monday night!!
Derek Knox
4 Posted 04/05/2019 at 09:27:26
David, haha, I'm sure your kind words will spur Rafa and the barcodes on to victory! :-)

Brent, know exactly what you mean, didn't get to the game yesterday but watched it on Sky, even at half time during the match they were going on about Liverpool, and the outcome of the race to the Prem League Title, City hardly got a mention.

Tony Everan
5 Posted 04/05/2019 at 09:42:09
Excellent review of the game, thanks Lyndon, the foundations are definitely in place. We have become an organised unit, where there is an understanding of individual and collective roles.

These foundations we have built are underpinned by a stable defence, of which Zouma is fast becoming one of my favourite players. A 'defensive rock' as Lyndon describes.

What's more Keane has formed an understanding with him, there seems to be a growing professional friendship between the two of them. It creates a force that is more than the sum of their parts. Staying together will benefit both players careers and Everton FC for the long term.

Signing Zouma has become as important as signing the elusive goalscorer.

Then Lyndon mentions Gana, in 2019 he has gone up a level. In this form he is irreplaceable. I can't believe how good he has been. His fitness and physique makes me think he had another 3 or 4 years at the top. If he wants to go, good luck to him, but I think he should be told he is wanted and offered an improved 3 year deal.

Gerard McKean
6 Posted 04/05/2019 at 10:52:39
Brent #2 I’m with you. Just opened the same paper, which as you rightly say is normally sensible, and I just cannot understand why such a lengthy article has to appear today about the RS. I dread to see what might happen if they ever actually win something.

Very fair report, Lyndon, but I’m of the same opinion as Dave Abrahams on another thread that Silva should have used this game and other recent ones to give some playing time to young players. I just don’t see the point of keeping replacing an injured Richarlison with Walcott, who at 30 is apparently still aiming to fulfill his potential. A little more patience with Lookman was all that was needed.

Brent Stephens
7 Posted 04/05/2019 at 11:28:32
By the way, loved the Barca flag draped over the wall in the Goodison Road stand last night!
Shane Corcoran
8 Posted 04/05/2019 at 11:34:04
So for those you game-attending Blues, what's happened in the last few months to make such an improvement?

I'm reading about the defensive relationship between our two centre-backs. Coleman has definitely improved and Gana has been excellent.

I suppose a stronger defence sends confidence through the rest of the team as Bernard and Richarlison are playing the football they're capable of. DCL has also got a good run.

Is there anything else? In particular, how has our ability to defend set-pieces suddenly improved?

Kevin Prytherch
9 Posted 04/05/2019 at 11:36:59
Gerard - I have a feeling that, if 7th was out of reach, he might have played more younger players. However I think that he has had one eye on getting into Europe.

It will be interesting to see the line up against Spurs if Wolves beat Fulham.

David Pearl
10 Posted 04/05/2019 at 12:19:43
It will Kevin. Wonder if Gomes will come straight back in or if tactically Schneiderlin will stay in the team. We owe them a proper game and if they couldn't score against West Ham that gives me hope (especially if Kane and Son are out). I think they will get a result in Ajax. I'm not sure Silva will make many, if any, changes either way. Oh well, have to get ready for a summer of no Everton. Step up Brands.
Christopher Timmins
11 Posted 04/05/2019 at 12:32:11
A good end to the home campaign, it was game over after 20 minutes. Let's keep the running going next week against a team who humiliated us before Christmas.
John Raftery
12 Posted 04/05/2019 at 14:07:29
Shane (8) That is a good question. My view is that the seventeen day break without a game in February was used by Silva as the equivalent of a pre-season. After three or four days off for rest and recuperation the manager took the time at Finch Farm to get the players organised in defence and better drilled in attack. When they returned to action at Cardiff for the first time they looked as though they all knew what they were supposed to be doing individually and collectively.

In the subsequent weeks we have seen a transformation in teamwork with a huge uplift in performances, results and belief. The terrible twenty minutes at Newcastle and the whole ninety at Fulham can now be regarded as blips in what has been a very positive run.

Why was this improvement not forthcoming earlier in the season? There were mitigating circumstances aside from Silva being new to the club and comparatively inexperienced in the Premier League. Five badly needed signings, Digne, Mina, Zouma, Gomes and Bernard landed in the few days before the season started. Apart from the fact two of them arrived injured there was no time to integrate the new players before the action commenced. A combination of the unforgiving fixture schedule, players away on international duty and the manager needing time to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of his players meant there was little opportunity to invest in the development of team play until that February break.

Another question is perhaps worth pondering? Where do supporters think we would be if the club had not made any signings last summer? It seems to me without Richarlison, Zouma, Digne, Bernard and to a slightly lesser extent Gomes we might well have been languishing in the lower reaches of the league, possibly haunted by the threat of relegation. All the players mentioned have made a significant contribution, by and large improving as the season has progressed.

Kieran Kinsella
13 Posted 04/05/2019 at 14:51:47
I think it is interesting that, as a long-term ToffeeWeber, I have seen the much-asked question: "What do they do in training?" down the years. Heard it a lot this season up until February.

Brands has been talking up Silva as someone who "improves players." To that point, I saw in the presser Silva explaining he had been working with Gueye a lot on his overall game, eg, attacking, passing etc.

Sambou said also that he had trained with the first team and Silva would stop a whole session to give on-the-spot advice to a player as how to better deal with a situation. My thought is that if you bring in an old school bully boy type like Sam, you get an instant lift as he scares the beejesus out of people. Over time, people stop paying attention and slip back into poor habits.

With Silva, the process of teaching takes longer as it is about showing skills, and drilling players over and over until they do the right things without even thinking about it. On that note, I am hopeful with a good pre-season that we will improve exponentially next year as he has more and more time to do the one-on-one coaching.

Dan Parker
14 Posted 04/05/2019 at 15:04:23
Excellent point, Kieran!
Mike Gaynes
15 Posted 04/05/2019 at 15:33:23
John #12, superb post, mate. Some good points about that 17-day stretch that I had not considered in my previous harsh assessment of Silva. And agree 100% about the signings. Based on Brands's first crop I can't wait to see what this summer brings us.

Kieran #13, great point about the teaching process. That also aligns with John's point about Silva having had insufficient time for it over the first half of the season.

I'm convinced, based on what I've seen of Mina and Brands's record so far for great acquisitions, that Yerry will come every bit as good as the others. And there will be great need for him to do so, since I'm quite certain that Zouma is gone.

John Keating
17 Posted 04/05/2019 at 20:36:03
A completely utter crazy season and still not sure what to make of it

Schneiderlin I wanted out asap but in the last couple of games he’s been a star

Since Silva finally realised his game plan was shite and accepted he had to play to the players strengths he has to some extent redeemed himself

No matter what the cost we have to keep Gueye what a player. Without doubt in recent years Coleman, Cahill and Gueye have been steals

A good end to the season but so much disappointment in Silva
We can only hope a very early ditching and bringing in players to enable us a good preseason

As usual we ask ”what if”

Steven Jones
18 Posted 06/05/2019 at 14:33:42
Concur with Kieran.

All the top wining managers right now are on-field coaches, Pep, Klopp etc.

They both took more than one season the get their messages embedded into the players and then their performances have come. They then built consistency on top of that ad squad depth.

There is a teaching and developing process going on and Silva is the man to bring a style of play that can make us great again. He says it is steps to get to where we need to go - top six, compete top 4 and then title push thereafter - but his style of play is to go for the jugular and he attacks at pace and presses high, which has taken the players time to get up to speed.

High press, defend tight, grab the ball with fast transition and use the width and triangle passing movement behind opposition full backs to turn opposition defences and create havoc, space and shooting opportunities.

Cannot wait for pre-season matches and see how new set of Brands signings can be blended into this squad.

Tony Hill
19 Posted 06/05/2019 at 14:45:39
Quite right, Steven @18. I think we're one year into a five year period before we are serious challengers, but we can all live with that if we win a couple of cups along the way and if we become, as I believe we will, the most purely attractive side in the Premier League.

John @12, your last question is not allowed. It leads to uncomfortable conclusions, or should do.

Keith Dempsey
20 Posted 06/05/2019 at 23:30:29
I'm not one for over analysing what happens differently between good and bad performances, but even I've noticed how we seem to win the ball back better and made the opposition turn and chase back instead of having to defend with the ball in front of them. Surely it must be part of the reason for the improvement.

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