Sometimes it takes one performance for a new manager to get going at a club. For Marco Silva and Everton, it may prove to be the win over Fulham.
Describing Silva’s first few weeks in charge at Goodison Park as frustrating would be accurate. His desire to attack regardless of opponents is a welcome change for fans who were bored into submission by Sam Allardyce’s football. His attitude towards the club is another point in the plus column.
Whereas Allardyce had little regard for the fourth most successful club in England, Silva has made it clear he knows this is a big job. He has also made it clear that existing is not enough. Everton have to compete.Yet, despite the intent, results have not gone Everton’s way. In truth, the Blues have wasted a comfortable start to the season. Dropping points against Bournemouth and Huddersfield was poor. A 3-1 defeat to West Ham at Goodison was another bad day at the office. One win from five games had some questioning if he was a viable long-term solution.
Despite the positives, he still hadn’t fixed a leaky defence and Everton’s struggling forward line was another problem he was yet to find a solution to. Then, Everton headed to the Emirates and put on their best display of the season. It was a game they ended up losing but the positives were plentiful. On another day they would have been comfortable winners.
It meant that when they hosted Fulham on Saturday the game had become must win. A dire first-half performance, in which they were fortunate not to be behind, suggested that wasn’t on the cards. Stern words from Silva at halftime and a revitalised second-half display turned that around and gave Everton a victory that may end up kick-starting the Portuguese boss’ reign.
The performance in that 45-minute spell showed Everton are onto something with their new manager. Several players stepped up and showed they are ready to flourish under his leadership.
In central defence, Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma were superb. The inform Aleksandar Mitrovic was forced into obscurity as a result. The watching Yerry Mina will know he has a battle on his hands to get a starting role. At left back, Lucas Digne showed he has all the qualities to replace Leighton Baines with another outstanding display.
In central midfield, Idrissa Gana Gueye was once again impressive. Tasked with being a midfield destroyer he fulfilled the role impeccably. His tally of nine tackles and five interceptions epitomised a Kante like performance. Indeed his tally of 19 tackles in his last two games is better than 376 players the league have managed so far. It suggests he is ready to flourish under Silva’s guidance. His dominant display coupled with those of the two centre-backs limited Fulham to zero shots on target and a much-needed clean sheet.
In front of him, Gylfi Sigurdsson’s man of the match display helped Everton to end their struggles up front. It had looked like being a disappointing afternoon for the Iceland midfielder. A missed penalty was set to epitomise a poor afternoon. Instead of wilting, though, he rose above it, handing his side the lead with a glorious opener from outside the box and grabbing a second late on with another superb finish. Those goals and his game-high tally of five key passes showing how crucial he is to this team.
Even striker Cenk Tosun had a solid afternoon. His headed goal from close range was extremely welcome for the goal-shy forward. His goalless start to the campaign was presenting a problem for Everton but the hope will be that the duck is now broken. The relief was there for all to see as he celebrated his goal. Across the board, key players showed that they can perform in Silva’s system. It also showed it is a tactical plan that suits them.
For Silva, it provided justification to both the players and the fans. The latter want better football but they also need results too. There is no point playing attractively if you are incapable of winning games. The fact that they have finished their last two games with 28 shots in total and 11 on target is enough to win most over.
The Fulham win was a demonstration that this team is on the right track. It was something Silva and his squad can build from. The key now is that Everton do just that, starting with winnable fixtures against Southampton and Leicester City next week.
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