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Everton show their progress under Marco Silva against West Ham
Everton produced an impressive performance to beat West Ham
Last Updated: 31/03/19 9:44am
It has been a difficult season for Everton but are they finally on the right track under Marco Silva? Nick Wright was at the London Stadium to assess their progress as they claimed a 2-0 win over West Ham.
Back in October, during a sit-down interview with Sky Sports at Everton's Finch Farm headquarters, Marco Silva laid out his long-term vision for the club and asked for patience as he attempted to shape the team in his image. That patience has been tested since then, with performances routinely falling below expectations, but is it finally beginning to click?
That's certainly how it looked at the London Stadium. West Ham were abject, seemingly half-asleep on their return from the international break, but the scoreline owed as much to Everton's excellent display as it did to the ineptitude of the hosts. Remember, West Ham had not lost here since December. Everton ended that run in impressive style.
It is a small step, of course, but after their 2-0 win over Chelsea two weeks ago, Everton have won consecutive Premier League games for the first time since October. Silva's side are up to ninth in the table - only a point behind Leicester and Wolves. There is cause for optimism ahead of their upcoming meetings with Arsenal and Manchester United.
The first goal here came from a corner, with Kurt Zouma rising above Issa Diop to head Gylfi Sigurdsson's delivery into the net, but it was from open play that the visitors looked most dangerous. With Richarlison and Bernard either side of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Sigurdsson linking it all together behind him, they sliced West Ham open at will.
Indeed, the scoreline would have been far worse for West Ham in the early stages if not for Lukasz Fabianski's saves. Both Bernard and Richarlison found space behind their full-backs repeatedly, and with Declan Rice and Pedro Obiang unable to get a grip on Sigurdsson, the Iceland international was free to pick his passes, laying on three scoring chances in the first half alone.
The second goal typified Everton's slick combination play as Seamus Coleman played a one-two with Richarlison before drilling his cut-back across goal for Bernard to finish from close range. Everton almost extended their lead when Richarlison found his way in behind again soon afterwards - only for his cross-shot to be repelled by Fabianski.
Of the attacking quartet, Richarlison was particularly impressive. The Brazil forward was benched for Everton's recent meetings with Manchester City and Liverpool, but that treatment seems to have served as a wake-up call. This dymanic display was a reminder of why he is so important to Silva.
There was no goal - although he did rattle the crossbar with a header late on - but he was a menace right up until his substitution and his energy was invaluable too.
Indeed, it was that energy which allowed Everton completely overwhelm West Ham. In the opening period, the hosts could barely even get out of their own half. On the rare occasions that they did win the ball back, Richarlison and his fellow attackers were ready to pounce, forcing mistake after mistake from the hosts as Everton piled on the pressure.
Off-the-ball intensity is integral to Silva's approach and the tracking data underlined the gulf between the two sides. By the final whistle, Everton had run more than six kilometres further than West Ham, making 146 sprints to the hosts' 132. It was the attacking players who set the tone, with Richarlison (21) and Calvert-Lewin (26) ranking second and first for sprints respectively.
Bernard was not far behind them, making 17, but the little Brazilian was way out in front for possession gained. In total, he made 14 ball recoveries - twice as many as any other Everton player. His pressing helped Silva's side exert their dominance.
Everton dropped the intensity slightly in the second half, instead controlling the game in midfield, but it was exactly what Silva intended. "Of course we are very satisfied and proud of what we did this afternoon," he said in his post-match press conference. "It's everything we are working towards, to achieve this type of performance and be more consistent."
Andre Gomes drew loud cheers from the travelling fans when he twisted and turned away from Michail Antonio at one point in the second half. This was another classy performance from the Barcelona loanee, but the man alongside him in Everton's midfield was even more influential.
Idrissa Gueye is the kind of player who tends to pass under the radar - he rarely scores goals or assists them - but Everton's clean sheet - their fourth in five games - owed a lot to his defensive diligence. In total, there were nine tackles - more than twice as many as anyone else on the pitch.
His performance provided a sturdy platform for Everton's attack and it was also a key factor in limiting West Ham's chances. In fact, over the course of the 90 minutes, Everton only allowed West Ham three shots in total - and none from inside the box. It was the first time since 2012 that they have achieved that feat and it owed a lot to Gueye.
Everton will need the Senegal international at his best once more in the big games which lie ahead, but right now Silva can just take satisfaction from another important step forward. The season has not been straight-forward and patience has been tested more than once, but recent evidence suggests they are finally heading in the right direction.