It’s a rare occurrence that Everton head to Anfield to take on Liverpool full of confidence and belief. History has taught them that is a foolish notion.
In the 52 Premier League games they’ve played at Anfield as they’ve managed nine wins. The last of those came 19 years ago. In their last five league visits, they’ve managed two draws and three defeats. Twice in the last four years, they’ve suffered 4-0 defeats there.
Travelling across Stanley Park has become a regular pilgrimage of misery. Even last year, when Sam Allardyce’s side earned a point, there was little joy to be had. Fans had to endure 90 minutes of watching their side defend deep and scrap for an undeserved point. Wayne Rooney’s penalty offered a moment to celebrate but in reality, there was little to enjoy.The result was not secured in the Everton way. It epitomised everything that was wrong about Allardyce’s short reign at Goodison.
Much has changed in the last year, though. Allardyce is gone, so too is Director of Football Steve Walsh. In their place came Marco Silva and Marcel Brands. 13 games into the season and those two have turned things around. Silva, in particular, has done something few Everton managers have managed in recent years; he’s competed at the top six.
In games against Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea the Blues looked nothing like themselves. They travelled to Old Trafford, the Emirates and Stamford Bridge and competed. At times they outplayed these teams.
Only a suspect penalty and magic from Antony Martial stopped them winning in Manchester. Only Alexandre Lacazette’s superb goal and an offside goal stopped it happened in North London. The point picked up at the Bridge was hard earned and well deserved. Everton were worthy of more in all three games.
Much of it was down to the style Silva has implemented. Everton now play on the front foot and seek to win games. Crucially, too, they play with a confidence instilled by their manager. Silva is insistent that his teams go and compete with the big teams and Everton have done that on each occasion so far. The old mentality of hoping for a point is not good enough in his eyes. There is no point in football if you are not seeking to win, regardless of where you’re doing it.
The point at Chelsea felt like the team learning from the previous defeats to United and Arsenal. It is this mentality that has fans hopeful of this game. They are heading to Anfield in good form and with a side that is confident they can do something. The squad holds no fear of this game. They’ve played against the top six and competed with them already and can do it again.
That confidence also comes as a result of the quality that now resides in the squad. In Jordan Pickford, they have a goalkeeper who is accelerating to the top of the game.
The central defensive pairing of Michael Keane and Yerry Mina is developing and showed as much against Chelsea. The same can be said even if Kurt Zouma came into the side in the Colombian’s place.
In midfield, Idrissa Gana Gueye has returned to his best. Once again he is akin to N’Golo Kante lite. Alongside him, Andre Gomes is establishing himself as the heir to Mikel Arteta’s long empty throne. The Portuguese midfielder has returned to his best this season and gives Everton a player who can control the game from the middle while also providing an attacking impetus from midfield.
That has brought the best out of Gylfi Sigurdsson, a man who is finally looking worthy of his £50 million price tag. Six goals and two assists in 13 league games mean he has already surpassed the total he managed in the entirety of last season.
Unlike last season, too, Everton have power up front. Richarlison is quickly developing into a top-level forward. Either up front or out on the left he is proving a menace to any defence. Theo Walcott and Bernard either side of him provide plenty too. Options such as Ademola Lookman from the bench mean games can be turned on their head from the bench. This Everton squad is the healthiest it has ever been. It is a far cry from the poor side of last season.
There is also Liverpool’s form to consider. While the Reds sit second in the table and in a title challenge, they are missing something. The verve and power they showed last season has been sorely absent. If there was ever a good time to test them, this is it.
And that is why Everton head there with hope. They are in good form and their squad is as good as it has ever been. Marco Silva has instilled them with a confidence and style that has been sorely lacking in the last 19 years. There are plenty of reasons why they can win this game and start to turn the Merseyside Derby tide in their own favour.
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