This is all starting to look horribly familiar. If there was one thing you were hoping Marco Silva wouldn’t be it was the second coming of Roberto Martinez — a suave, young Iberian coach ready to tap into the supporters’ yearning for the reopening of the School of Science with ideas of adventurous, energetic passing football who ultimately shot himself in the foot with a stubborn adherence to failing methods and an incorrigible failure to organise a defence — because that's what the doubters predicted but the evidence is stacking up against the Portuguese.
Few Evertonians had many delusions about Tuesday’s win at Huddersfield, one that owed as much to the Terriers’ woeful attack as anything else. Nevertheless, the hope was that the grit that was on show from the players was a sign that, post-Millwall, there was a metaphorical spine to this team and that three points, secured despite the dismissal of Lucas Digne, would inject some much-needed confidence into the Blues’ veins.
Who knows; if, perhaps, a visibly unfit Leighton Baines hadn’t felled Matt Doherty in only the sixth minute of this game and handed Wolves the lead via the penalty spot, there would have been a chance for the green shoots that sprouted during the win at the John Smith’s Stadium to further take root.
Somehow, you doubt it, because there was little question that the better team won on the day and you found yourself wondering if Everton had hired the wrong Portuguese manager. Because Nuno Espirito Santo, while only four years Silva’s senior, was the one who looked like he had everything together; the one presiding over a confident team, capable of using the ball effectively and ruthlessly, and exposing the weaknesses of their opponents.
In some respects, even though Wolves only came up from the Championship last season, that is to be expected. Espirito Santo has patiently built an enterprising team with an impressive mix of muscle, Continental flair and goalscoring ability that has seen them live up to their pre-season billing as serious top-seven contenders. He has had money to spend and, unlike the previous regime at Everton, he has done so wisely.
His compatriot in the home dugout this afternoon has not had the same luxury but even allowing for Silva’s comparatively short tenure at Goodison Park, this performance and result can only leave significant doubts that he will ever be capable of taking Everton forward. How many times have Everton fans said that about their manager over the last six or seven years? It literally was Groundhog Day and like the beleaguered Phil Connors in the seminal Hollywood film, we keep finding ourselves stuck in this repeating purgatory with no end in sight.
Silva made one change to the team that started at Huddersfield, a baffling decision that reintroduced Theo Walcott to the starting XI with no justification other than, perhaps, satisfying an expensive player begging for game time, and kept Baines at left back just days after he had injured a muscle in his ribs. Jonjoe Kenny had acquitted himself well enough out of position for 20-odd minutes against Huddersfield and Baines would last just 36 minutes, putting Kenny right back into the role he probably should have given from the start.
Damage had already been done by that point because Baines had been unable to compete physically with Doherty as he bustled his way into the penalty area and he ended up falling onto the Wolves man’s legs leading to a stonewall penalty decision for referee Lee Mason. Ruben Neves put the resulting spot-kick away in confident fashion to hand Everton an early and unwanted set-back.
It almost got worse before it got better for the Toffees and probably should have done. Diogo Jota sauntered in behind SIlva’s high defensive line to collect Conor Coady’s flighted ball over the top but was foiled by Jordan Pickford’s quick thinking and movement away from his line.
Then, after Tom Davies had been easily dispossessed in midfield, the keeper had to make an excellent save to deny Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker was closed down as he sought to seize upon the rebound.
As usual, Everton were enjoying the bulk of possession but struggling to do anything meaningful with it. Cenk Tosun, leading the line again, was exhibiting some fine touches and nice link-up play but the Blues couldn’t consistently get Richarlison into the game and there was precious little involvement from Walcott until the 24th minute. Gylfi Sigurdsson slipped the winger in with a lovely pass but Rui Patricio narrowed the angle and beat away the shot.
Three minutes later, though, in a welcome but all-too rare moment where he took the game by the scruff of the neck, André Gomes started and finished a fine move to register his first Everton goal. It was his sweeping cross-field pass that found Seamus Coleman wide on the right and after continuing his run, he picked up Tosun’s ball, drove to the edge of the box and hammered an “Exocet missile” past Patricio.
However, the goal didn’t prove to be a catalyst for the hosts — indeed, they had played better when they were a goal down and the urgency of the situation was spurring them on — and their worrying openness at the back was almost their undoing before their familiar defensive weakness at set-pieces reared its ugly head just before half time.
Sigurdsson’s corner at the Park End was cleared where Davies gave the ball away and Wolves countered quickly with Coleman the only player in blue anywhere near the ball but the Irishman scampered back to eventually snuff out the danger.
They were on their heels once again in the closing stages of the first half, however, following yet another needless and brainless foul conceded in a dangerous area in their half that invited the visitors to retake the lead. While Keane’s lack of mobility had been exposed again by Jota as the ball was played through the defence, Kurt Zouma was in complete control of the situation but the Englishman inexplicably and unforgivably tugged his opponent back by the arm.
That set up Joao Moutinho to float in a free-kick just where Jimenez, unimpeded by anything as quaint as marking, had the freedom of the area to place a header beyond Pickford.
Not surprisingly, the second half was the kind of struggle to which Evertonians have become accustomed since the wheels fell off the season at Anfield in December. Time and again, when there was enough movement around them, players took the wrong option and eschewed the easy pass unless it was sideways or backwards.
Even then, seemingly in the simplest of situations they would just pass the ball straight to the opposition trying to play the ball out from the back, something they have shown themselves incapable of doing in recent weeks. Gomes got away with it early in the second half just outside his own box but Coleman was punished midway through the second half.
His ill-advised pass to Ademola Lookman who had come on for the ineffective Walcott in the 59th minute, was intercepted in simple fashion and fed quickly to Jota. He turned Coleman with similar ease as the defender tried to recover and though Zouma put in a brilliant sliding block to keep the Portuguese’s shot, the ball fell to Dendoncker who slammed it home on the volley to make it 3-1.
A long interlude as a black cat wandered around the pitch with a “heat map” in the penalty area that put Everton’s players to shame, afforded Silva and his charges the chance to gather themselves and regroup but, frankly, they never recovered from the body blow of conceding the third goal.
Silva threw Calvert-Lewin on for Coleman in attempt to chase the game but it wasn’t until a couple of minutes from the end, by which time many disgruntled home fans had filed out despondently, that the Blues looked like reducing arrears.
Jota muscled his way past the weak Keane once more but Gomes was on hand to shut the attack down before Wolves could inflict further damage before Keane’s shot following a corner was blocked at close range, Sigurdsson had a similar effort charged down and Calvert-Lewin had the best chance at the end but could only head straight at the goalkeeper.
All of which leaves Everton right back in the doldrums and a growing element of the fanbase questioning whether Silva and his staff will be able to prove over the remainder of the season that they are capable of realising the club’s ambitions going forward.
The answer on the evidence of the past few weeks is no. As much as you want him to succeed and as fervently as you want to avoid further upheaval at the club this summer, there aren’t enough signs at the moment that the manager is willing or able to change his defensive ethos and a failing system or inspire a badly under-performing group of players back to some level of acceptable form.
The visit of title-chasing Manchester City, essentially Wolves on a boatload of steroids, in midweek won’t offer him an easy way back to winning ways either. Another heavy home defeat to a top-six side really would intensify the feeling of deja vu among supporters and the unease at boardroom level that more difficult decisions are on the horizon as the Farhad Moshiri project continues to wobble.
Everton conceded an early penalty at Goodison Park but got back in with a brilliant Gomes effort, only to concede lamely from a stupid free-kick, with a back cat stopping play after the visitors had hammered home an easy third goal to win the game on 65 minutes.
Leighton Baines is passed fit to start. Idrissa Gueye misses out again. Theo Walcott is recalled in place of Bernard as the only change to the winning line-up at Huddersfield. Lucas Digne suspended. Tosun leads the line up-front.
McCarthy, Lookman, Bernard, Kenny and Calvert-Lewin and Schneiderlin are on the bench. No Yerry Mina, out injured.
Wolves kicked off, Richarlison getting caught by Neves early on. Baines curled in the kick but it was not attacked. However, the open early play from Wolves suggested a more appealing game, if Everton could pass it forward rather than sideways or backwards. The Everton players tried, but they were simply not on the same wavelength.
Davies played a fantastic ball to Richarlison, who challenged for it well but let the ball run away from him when he seemed in with a possible chance. At the other end, Baines had trouble holding off Doherty, and clumsily caught his trailing leg for a very poor penalty, converted confidently by Neves.
Wolves, with their heads up, Jota needed good shepherding by Coleman. But the Blues set for a massive task from the off. A long ball over the top far too easily foundJota could not quite control it and he followed through on Pickford.
Tosun returned the favour, playing for and winning a foul in a dangerous place outside the Wolves area, Sigurdsson driving it into the wall not once but twice. No imagination. Zouma lunged in on Jimenez and tapped his foot slightly: yellow card.
Wolves were able to run around the Everton defence with ease after Davies was clumsy, and Dendoncker had a free shot at Pickford with Jimenez onto the rebound, but it was cleared at panic stations.
Baines sold Richarlison a hospital ball, some terrible play from a very unsettled Everton side, getting the runaround. Walcott did get behind off a brilliant ball from Sigurdsson but he took an extra touch rather than hitting it first time and the keeper blocked it away.
Davies clumsily fouled Jota for an unwanted set-piece, thankfully punted behind by Moutinho.
But, out of nowhere, some lovely football, Gomes running forward with the ball and lashing the ball with fearsome pace into the roof of the net past his compatriot Rui Patricia. How to score goals, 101! Fantastic effort.
Gomes then collided with Jota behind Lee Mason, who just assumed the Everton player was at fault. Richarlison's cross was deflected out for the first corner from Sigurdsson, davies's pass intercepted setting up a breakaway by Jota, Coleman doing another great job to push him out wide at the expense of a corner to Wolves. But a throw-in taken quickly was called foul by Mason as Richarlison galloped away, the Brazilian lucky Mason did not see him hurl the ball away in wild anger.
Gomes and Richarlison combined well but the clever ball to pick out Walcott was covered by the defender. Jonjoe Kenny replaced Baines, who probably wasn't really fit. Kenny slotted right in, and played some great early balls. Keane did well to stop a Wolves foray just outside the Everton area. Davies tried to feed Tosun with an intelligent ball, and Richarlison was well covered on the other side of the area.
Richarlison went down and stayed down with a head knock, challenging for an aerial ball. Despite the extra space Wolves were giving them, Everton were not playing the most beautiful football, still passing backward needlessly to Pickford for the mind-numbing punt upfield.
Keane stupidly pulled back Jota off the ball and was given a yellow. Idiotic. From the free-kick, an easy near-post header from Jimenez beat Pickford with consummate ease. Utterly unnecessary. Utterly pathetic from Everton.
A Sigurdsson free-kick did not have the same effect at the other end, but won a corner, which pinged around until Mason blew his whistle for a weak challenge from Davies. The Blues played it around again without finding a decent forward ball, and the half-time whistle blew, with boos for Lee Mason in the main.
Good work by Kenny down the left won an early corner following the restart, fired in well enough into the mix, with Zouma flying in, but cleared by Wolves. Neves needed treatment and eventually went off, replaced by Saiss. A better cross in went through to Kenny but his effort on goal was not that great after he changed feet.
Gomes caused panic, giving the ball away but Kenny rescued the situation. Tosun was caught but Mason played advantage, Rcharlison playing a poor ball in, wasting the advantage. Blues were getting possession and time on the ball, but generally not using it well enough, much to the frustration of the Goodison faithful, the ball going around and about but nowhere near the Wolves goal.
Coady was booked belatedly for the foul 5 mins earlier on Tosun. Walcott got to the byeline and crossed but it was intercepted as Silva decided to switch out Walcott for Lookman before the hour mark. Lookman tried to beat two men but couldn't as the build-up showed few signs of penetrating a well-organized Wolves defence, Everton basically lacking meaningful ideas until their pass-the-parcel rotation inevitably breaks down, with Wolves looking more and more comfortable.
And when they did get the ball, they simply waltzed forward and powered the ball into the Everton net, after Jota's initial attempt was blocked, falling to Dendoncker, who smashed it past Pickford for the winning goal, with 25 minutes left.
Poignantly, a black cat ran around the pitch, refusing to be caught, as Mason halted the game, while Tiddles scampered the full length of the pitch, and finally off at the far corner. Jota looked like he would score again, Keane holding him off and Gomes dispossessing him well before he was fouled.
Davis saw a shot blocked, Jimenz fouling and Sigurdsson setting up to shoot at goal, with Coleman sacrificed for Calvert-Lewin, a desperate last throw from Silva, who will come under yet more pressure after this display. Sigurdsson clipped the free-kick to the far post, it fell to Keane but the shot was blocked.
At the other end, Jimenez danced into the Everton area and belted a tempting ball right across the face of Pickford's goal. Coady blocked Calvert-Lewin, the Blues fans screaming for a second yellow that Mason was never going to show. The free-kick from Sigurdsson was a gift spurned by the line of Everton strikers who could not get their heads on it.
Lookman wiggled the ball through to Sigurdsson who was falling as he took a weak shot straight at Rui Patricio. Richarlison launched himself after a soft bodycheck from Bennett, no foul called.
Kenny picked out a lovely through ball to Tosun who pathetically lost the ball under the slightest attention from his marker. An example of rare but perfect service played up to an incompetent striker.
Calvert-Lewin got a nice delivery form Kenny, bouncing off his head to the keeper. Why does Dominic not use his neck muscles to direct the ball? Seven minutes of "Cat stopped play" time ensued with the pattern of the game played out.
Scorers: Gomes (27'); Neves (pen:7'); Jimenez (45'), Dendoncker (65')
Everton: Pickford, Coleman (73' Calvert-Lewin), Zouma [Y:15'], Keane [Y:44'], Baines (37' Kenny), Davies [Y:76'], Andre Gomes, Walcott (59' Lookman), Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Tosun.
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, McCarthy, Schneiderlin, Bernard.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Patricio, Bennett, Coady [y:56'], Boly, Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves (49' Saiss), Moutinho, Jonny, Jimenez (89' Traore), Jota (77' Costa).
Subs not Used: Ruddy, Cavaleiro, Gibbs-White, John.
Referee: Lee Mason
The wolves are at the door for Marco
It feels like forever since we last had a 3pm Premier League game and it was good to have the full quota of us at the match for Everton vs Wolverhampton Wonders, all of us congregated in the pub in good time and all reasonably, maybe cautiously, optimistic of an Everton win. A place above us in the table but this was Wolves at home after all, and we are Everton. I guess that used to mean something once upon a time.
It was nice, at the time at least, to see that Leighton Baines had made the game and was to start at left back. Sadly, only seven minutes into the match his lack of fitness perhaps was our downfall when he managed to get himself into a bit of a tangle with Matt Doherty. Ruben Neves converted and Everton, after only seven minutes, had to do this the hard way.
There were no complaints from Leighton and he looked devastated afterwards. I was watching him closely and he looked as though he couldn’t get over it. This may have contributed towards him feeling his injury more perhaps and he was substituted on 37 minutes for Jonjoe Kenny. The question begs of course, if Leighton wasn’t fit, then why did he begin the game?
As has often characterised our first half performances, we couldn’t really get going and were hindered by frustrating gamesmanship from Wolverhampton Wanderers, and more crowd-irking decisions by another one of our favourites, Lee Mason… the pulling us back to re-take our quickly taken throw-in from more or less the exact same place my biggest annoyance in the first half.
Before André Gomes’s wonder goal, things could have gotten a lot worse when we were sliced open and Leander Dendoncker forced Jordan Pickford into a handy save, Gomes too doing well to win his tackle after that.
Things already felt rather desperate but Goodison Park roared to life when Gomes picked up the ball, wriggled past a few challenges and hit an unstoppable drive past his compatriot Rui Patricio. Game on… you hoped.
Alas not, as again, Everton conceded at the worst possible moment in injury time at the end of the first half. Go in level at the break and who knows how we might have done second half. Michael Keane needlessly fouled Jota, and I’ll bet most of the crowd nervelessly sensed what was to come as we lined up to defend the free kick.
Joao Moutinho, who had to have some involvement of course given how much he was courted by Everton under David Moyes, placed a perfect ball into the box which Raul Jiminez headed masterfully into the corner giving Pickford no chance. Great ball and great header it was, it was all far too easy, and Everton seem to have learnt nothing from the Millwall debacle only a week ago. We went in behind when we really should have been level.
The second half was horribly frustrating to watch as Everton couldn’t muster a response. Wolverhampton even lost their best player on 49 minutes but we failed to capitalise. When Seamus Coleman gave the ball away you sensed straight away that Wolves would pounce, and it was a surprise to nobody and annoyance to everybody when Leander Dendoncker eventually found the net.
There was still plenty of time left, even more so once the cat made its way onto the field (that being the highlight of the game), but Wolves had us sussed and though a lot of huff and puff, we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. Tom Davies came close amidst a bit of a scramble, Gylfi Sigurdsson had an opportunity but failed to connect and Dominic Calvert-Lewin should have scored with a great headed opportunity but Rui Patricio saved comfortably, and Richarlison I felt should have had a penalty very late in the game when he was palmed off neck height by a Wolves defender, but let’s be fair, for all Richarlison’s antics on the pitch, I probably wouldn’t give him much as a referee. He really needs to wind it in.
And that was that. Many had long since dispersed prior to the full time whistle. We stayed until the bitter end before trudging back. The good thing with so many leaving early was that at least the journey home was a lot quicker.U
nder David Moyes, Ronald Koeman and even Sam Allerdyce these games were our bread and butter, games we would generally, comfortably win. I overlook Roberto Martinez from that list as come the end of his tenure our home form was unbearably poor. Now it’s so hard to figure out which Everton will turn up as this turgid season meanders from disappointment to disappointment, with the odd win thrown in from time to time.
It really is a wretched time watching Everton. What we have to do to score a goal, compared to what opponents have to do to score against us is laughable. All three of their goals were very preventable, while ours was unstoppable. We give things up far too easily and need to find a way to defend better ASAP.
Many around where I sit have turned on Marco Silva and want him out. I’m not in that camp. The reality is we can’t afford to. I mean, yes we can financially afford to sack and replace HIM, but then the next manager needs funding and we have far too much deadwood in our squad. We need to clear out who he doesn’t need and allow him to grow his team. Stability is the key. The blame is more with the players than the manager for me right now. Only a few of them take responsibility. They aren’t playing with enough courage. Play with fear and much more often than not you won’t get the result.
Onto Manchester City then and the jury is very much out amongst supporters what result they would prefer. Some want Manchester City to win to give them a helping hand with their title challenge, others can’t bring themselves to go against their beloved Everton. Myself, I couldn’t give a monkeys what the result is, I just want a performance. I want us to be proud of our team’s effort on Wednesday and for them to have earned applause as they leave the field. Another sorry display against Manchester City would leave us in a terrible state going to smug Watford next weekend - they’ll be up for it to get one over on Marco and Richarlison. And with the Merseyside derby looming, the knives really could soon be out for Marco.
Pickford: Couldn’t be faulted for the goals I don’t think and didn’t do much else wrong, a few bits of stray distribution aside. 7
Baines: What a sorry sight that was. I really hope that isn’t our lasting memory of Leighton Baines given how key he has been to us over the years. He should never have started the game. 2
Zouma: Did OK in defence I thought. As the game moved towards it’s final stages he was at least trying to take responsibility, albeit with bad decision making. 6
Keane: Made some good challenges and interceptions first half but lost his way after their second goal I thought. 5
Coleman: Bad mistake for their third goal but he kept on going before being substituted. I don’t think right back is the problem position many make it to be. We could do a lot worse than Seamus and Jonjo. A striker is the biggest priority surely. 5
Gomes: One of the bright lights in a poor team effort. Following his goal, Andre finally seemed to get his swagger back. If he can keep that it could be vital for the remainder of the season. Great goal also. My man of the match. 7
Davies: Had a solid enough game and at least took responsibility. A shade unlucky not to score also. A good effort. 6
Sigurdsson: A really poor display from Gylfi. It wasn’t for lack of effort, but nothing went for our Icelander. 4
Richarlison: While Gylfi was poor, at least he was trying. That was pathetic from Richarlison. A really lame effort and my patience with him has worn thin. Yes he is capable of excellence, but I’m seeing this petulance far too often now and he really needs to focus on what he can do rather than trying to make sure everyone has seen that someone has given him a little kick. He needs to man up. 3
Walcott: It seems popular to dislike Theo but at least he tries. At least he gets back and defends. He was at least getting past his man a few times and getting balls into the box. Offered far more than Richarlison. 6
Tosun: A good effort from Cenk who was desperately starved of service throughout. 6
Kenny (for Baines): Did OK. Was positive and kept on going. 6
Lookman (for Walcott): He tried but it became increasingly difficult for him as the game wore on, especially once Wolves had their two goal cushion. 6
Calvert-Lewin (for Coleman): Credit to Marco for being brave enough to try something a bit different with a makeshift back three… almost a back one at times, as he stretched Kenny to right wing back and Zouma to the left. It could easily have backfired and Wolves could have broke in for a fourth so at least he tried something else, and it should have worked for one goal at least as Dominic should have scored his headed opportunity. Otherwise, Dominic did OK and worked hard. 7
Two upfront anyone? Our play is so sluggish I wonder if a more direct approach might bring a bit more out of our strikers at least??
Everton are back at Goodison Park after three straight away games to welcome Wolves as they look to build on the win at Huddersfield.
The hard-fought victory at the John Smith's Stadium was a welcome sign that the Blues can get back on an even keel following hugely disappointing performances against Southampton and in the FA Cup against Millwall.
However, Marco Silva will have to deal with the fallout of the 1-0 win over the Terriers in the form of Lucas Digne's suspension following his red card and a rib injury to Leighton Baines that forced the veteran off in the second half and is likely to sideline him this weekend.
Baines's movement was clearly restricted after he pulled up challenging for the ball with Jason Puncheon and it would be a surprise if he were passed fit when he assessed before the game.
If he isn't, it would leave the manager without a fit natural left back and, with both Yerry Mina and Phil Jagielka injured and Mason Holgate out on loan, unable even to field three centre halves instead.
As he did against Huddersfield, Jonjoe Kenny is the obvious candidate to deputise at left back with Seamus Coleman in his customary position on the opposite side.
In midfield, Idrissa Gueye will also undergo a late fitness test on the minor groin problem that kept him out of Tuesday's win. The Senegal midfielder saw a deadline-day move to Paris St Germain fail to come to fruition and there will inevitably be question marks over how he will react given his rumoured disappointment.
Then there is the question of whether Tom Davies deserves to lose his place again after his impressive display against Huddersfield.
Up front, Silva is likely to keep things unchanged, with Cenk Tosun and Bernard also putting in an energetic display at the John Smith's.
True to their pre-season billing, high-spending Wolves emerged from the first half of the campaign as genuine contenders for that seventh placed, best-of-the-rest mantle that Blues fans hoped would be the bare minimum of our club's aspirations.
Nuno Espirito Santo's outfit come into the weekend sitting in seventh, two points better off than Everton and on a three-match unbeaten run in all competitions that included a thrilling 4-3 win over Leicester two weeks ago and a comprehensive 3-0 win over West Ham last time out. They also beat Liverpool in the third round of the FA Cup after finishing 2018 with a 3-1 win over Tottenham at Wembley.
As such, they will travel to Goodison Park with plenty of confidence, knowing that, their meetings with the top two in the League this season aside, they usually score goals and Silva will know that his defence can't be as open as it was against Southampton a fortnight ago or as weak defending dead balls as they were at Millwall.
If the Portuguese is able to use the platform of Tuesday's win to get his team back to something approaching their form prior to the Anfield derby then there's a case for being confident of what would be a rare instance of Everton recording back-to-back Premier League wins, something they have managed just once all season.
In many ways, this could be a good measure of the Blues' response to their recent adversity — a potentially open game against a talented but beatable team where they can get the ball down and play in the way that we know they can but have proved singularly unable to over the past couple of months.
That's also what makes any kind of result feasible — another disappointing defeat, an entertaining but frustrating repeat of the opening day 2-2 draw at Molineux or a confide narrow defeat to a tight home win another confidence-inspiring home win. It's hard to know which Everton might turn up…
Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday, 2 February, 2019
Referee: Lee Mason
Last Time: Everton 2 - 1 Wolves (19 November, 2011)
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Zouma, Kenny, Gomes, Davies, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Richarlison, Tosun