Another loss away to a big six side — the more things change, the more they stay the same, right?
And yet, in both Everton’s 2-0 loss at Arsenal earlier in the season and in this weekend’s 2-1 loss at Manchester United, there was definitely a new and different feeling during the match. There were periods in both during which the Toffees were playing the better football, and that Everton came away from these two matches with zero points is probably a little unfair.
It’s frustrating to call that progress, especially given that Arsenal and Manchester United were both certainly beatable teams. But, the Toffees were very competitive in both matches — and who knows how Sunday’s match turns out if Jon Moss doesn’t give a nonsensical penalty against Idrissa Gueye?
You can grumble about finishing and Theo Walcott’s failure to track back (and you’d be right to do so), but the fact that you’re grumbling about specific instances in the match, rather than Everton being overwhelmed by the opponent as they have in the past clearly indicates there’s movement in the forward direction.
A few other thoughts from this one...
Andre Gomes - the key to the midfield?
In his second match for Everton, Andre Gomes once again improved his side’s ability to build through the central channel. Take a look at his passmap, combined with Idrissa Gueye’s.
It’s certainly not Barcelona-like, but it at least has started to look less like Stoke City as well.
The upshot is Gylfi Sigurdsson getting the ball more frequently in the central channel, where he is usually at his best.
Again, it isn’t a ton of touches, but it’s a step closer to the ideal situation for the Icelander, who often this season has had to wander into wide areas to get onto the ball.
Gomes, in addition to helping to facilitate possession, looked at least as though he won’t be a defensive liability. That combination will be more than enough to keep him in the lineup going forward.
Richarlison at striker
I truly did not think that Richarlison would get the start up top in this match, given his mediocre showing in the role against Crystal Palace. Clearly, I was wrong.
It was the Brazilian’s pace and guile that ultimately got Everton its lone goal of the match, after he latched onto a long ball and Chris Smalling weirdly tried to murder him for no discernible reason. With him up top, there’s always a danger of that sort of play from a long ball.
But, those potential moments of promise are generally overshadowed by Richarlison’s shortcomings as an out-and-out striker. The same issues that plagued him against Crystal Palace predictably reappeared against Manchester United.
His passing and holdup play simply aren’t good enough, especially when facing a team against which the Toffees may struggle to keep possession.
Just as important, he adopts a far too freeform attitude to his positioning as a striker — which means he wanders into the same areas as Gylfi Sigurdsson, rather than putting consistent pressure on the opponent’s backline.
As a striker for Brazil, he can (and probably should) play that way. As a striker for Everton, it simply doesn’t work.
When the season started, Everton was utterly plagued with injuries, and the club’s depth was tested. Now that the squad is basically back at full health, Silva’s spoiled for choice — and it’s yet to be seen exactly how he will handle things going forward.
For the second week in a row, Silva utilized all seven of his top attacking players in the same match, with Bernard, Sigurdsson, Walcott, and Richarlison starting, and Cenk Tosun, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Ademola Lookman coming off the bench.
Silva clearly has faith in all of them — to varying degrees, surely — but there’s just no way to get more than four of them into the same starting lineup. It’s a good problem to have, but it means a week-to-week selection headache for the manager.
At the back, Silva opted to go back to Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma after last week’s clean sheet against Crystal Palace. You’d be hard-pressed to find either of the center-backs at fault for either of United’s goals, continuing a reasonable run of form for the pair.
But there’s still a Yerry Mina-sized elephant in the room, with the Colombian now healthy but yet to feature. The Toffees travel to London in two weeks to take on Chelsea — a match in which Zouma cannot play.
Does that mean Mina will get a look next week against Brighton as a warmup for Eden Hazard and co.?