Marco Silva's start at Everton shows familiar teething problems
Everton travel to face Arsenal at the Emirates live on Super Sunday
By Ben Grounds
Last Updated: 20/09/18 3:15pm
When Marco Silva was appointed Sam Allardyce's successor at Everton, it brought to an end a lengthy pursuit of the Portuguese manager, but he is coming to terms with the long road ahead, writes Ben Grounds.
An opening-day point at newcomers Wolves drew positives, not least the performance of £40m signing Richarlison, who hit the ground running with a double having been reunited with his former Watford manager Marco Silva.
The trip to Molineux was expected to be a baptism of fire given the sense of euphoria swirling around their west Midlands opponents, but Everton impressed both before and after Phil Jagielka's sending off.
Silva then won his first competitive match at Goodison Park as Richarlison shone once more in the 2-1 victory over Southampton - but little has gone according to plan since the Brazilian was sent off in the draw at Bournemouth.
Everton surrendered a two-goal lead at the Vitality Stadium, and it has been a frustrating few weeks in Richarlison's absence.
While Ronald Koeman was not helped by a hugely difficult set of opening fixtures last season, further complicated by the club's Europa League commitments, Silva could not have asked for a more favourable schedule in his first five league matches.
What has not been kind are the circumstances, with Jagielka and Richarlison's suspensions compounded by a lengthy injury list and bedding-in period for his six new recruits.
The early optimism has waned with the two points dropped at Bournemouth followed by a disappointing draw at home to Huddersfield, while the 3-1 home defeat to West Ham has put on a different complexion on the start made under the new boss.
Unbeaten in four now reads one win in five, a chance to go level on points with Tottenham in sixth missed with Arsenal to come this weekend, live on Super Sunday.
Everton's abysmal record away to the Gunners coupled with Unai Emery's run of three wins on the bounce would appear to point towards only one result.
Richarlison has shown why Silva was so determined to sign him in the summer, but in the same way that Crystal Palace have shown an over-reliance on Wilfried Zaha, Everton are yet to demonstrate they can attack with anywhere near as much penetration without their new talisman.
At Goodison on Sunday, supporters scrummed for his autograph in the players' car park before kick-off. It is a club with a proud history of centre-forwards and fans have taken Richarlison to their hearts in the hope he repays the huge outlay on him.
Having scored twice on his full debut for Brazil against El Salvador during the international break, his season starts again at Arsenal, but it may be in a different role.
In the draws at Wolves and Bournemouth as well as the win over Southampton, Richarlison featured predominantly on the left with Cenk Tosun leading the line.
But the 21-year-old's current form in front of goal means he could be deployed through the middle, while Bernard's impact after coming on against the Hammers means Tosun could be dropped from the side.
The Turkey international is yet to score this term and looked bereft of confidence in the defeat to West Ham, snatching at a second-half shot after failing to trouble Lukasz Fabianski with two tame efforts before the break.
Do Everton have a centre forward problem?
|Player||Theo Walcott||Cenk Tosun||Dominic Calvert-Lewin||Richarlison||Oumar Niasse|
|Shot conversion rate||28.57||0||33.33||60||0|
|Big chance conversion||50||0||100||100||0|
Tosun enjoyed a profitable March, scoring four goals in three games, but has otherwise looked short at this level. His failure to hold the ball up led to West Ham's first goal, and a period out of the side might aid his development in the long term.
Everton's failure to replace Romelu Lukaku since his £90m departure to Manchester United continues to plague the club despite just under £400m spent in transfers since the arrival of majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri.
While the absence of a top-class striker has been seen as the obvious oversight from the first summer of recruitment under new director of football Marcel Brands, it is not just up front that Everton have fallen short of looking a side ready to break into the top six.
From a defensive perspective, Everton have had to field three different centre-half pairings already due to injuries and suspension. Silva won't want reminding that he has not kept a clean sheet in 16 Premier League games at both Watford and Everton.
Furthermore, Silva's preference of using attacking full-backs has left the centre-backs exposed, while the club's failure to sign a natural defensive anchorman was exploited by West Ham's three-man midfield and counter-attacking style.
Idrissa Gueye is at his best when harrying and pressing, not sitting in front of his two centre-backs, and Silva may look for a greater protective shield when the window reopens in January. Chelsea's purchase of Jorginho has freed up N'Golo Kante, and Gueye would benefit from a similar acquisition.
The injury to Seamus Coleman while with the Republic of Ireland added to Silva's lengthy list of absentees, with the average age of the defence that started against West Ham just 22.5.
Such inexperience has not been helped by an apparent drop-off in performance levels from the club's 2017/18 player of the season Jordan Pickford since his World Cup heroics with England.
Pickford is one of five goalkeepers to have made at least one error leading to a goal so far this season in the Premier League, with his poor pass leading to Andriy Yarmolenko's second strike last weekend.
Furthermore, only Petr Cech and Joe Hart have played more passes among goalkeepers this term, but Pickford's accuracy is among the poorest in the division.
Cech, who is asked to play a similar style of playing out from the back, boasts the third highest passing accuracy in the league compared to Pickford, who is in the bottom five.
Silva has still not been able to field his best starting XI, and should only be judged when Yerry Mina, Andre Gomes and Bernard are fully up to speed.
Is Pickford suffering a World Cup hangover?
|Player||Passes||Passing success rate|
Mitigating circumstances mean patience will be required by supporters who witnessed disjointed displays in the past two home games. But an improvement in defending set pieces will also be needed with Silva reluctant to move away from a system of zonal marking.
Bournemouth, Southampton and Huddersfield have all taken advantage of Everton's weakness from corners. Silva will hope Michael Keane makes a smooth recovery from suffering a fractured skull, while Mina has been bought for his aerial prowess in both penalty areas.
Everton's meeting with Arsenal this weekend brings together two clubs in transition, under two new managers looking implement their own methods.
While Emery's philosophy is not such a dramatic breakaway from the slick passing style under Arsene Wenger, Everton's evolution will take longer following the departure of Sam Allardyce.
When he departed Hull, Silva was viewed as a manager bound for bigger things and brighter times. His stock rose further inside his first few months at Watford as they climbed to just three points outside the Champions League places by the end of November.
But a run of one win in 11 league games either side of Christmas resulted in Silva being sacked, with Watford citing Everton's pursuit of their manager as the "catalyst" for the decision.
Comparing Allardyce's reign to Silva's start at Everton
|PL Rank||Under Allardyce||PL Stats||Under Silva||PL Rank|
The 41-year-old has previously impressed in spells with Sporting Lisbon and Olympiacos, but this is the biggest job of his career.
Having pursued their man for the best part of a year - and seen the best part of £30m spent in managerial pay-offs already under Moshiri - both Silva and Everton will be determined to make this marriage work, and identifying the teething problems is half way to finding a solution.
A trip to Arsenal represents a daunting task, but having struggled to break down opposition happy to sit back and counter-attack, coming up against a side perennially challenging for a Champions League spot represents the perfect opportunity for Silva to kick-start his tenure.