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Under Marco Silva, Everton are starting to fuse style with substance

The Blues’s gradual progress under new boss continued with resolute stalemate at Chelsea on Sunday

Everton FC v West Ham United - Premier League
Silva’s Everton are just one point off the top six
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

As much as continuity is an underrated commodity in building a successful team, sometimes an overhaul simply becomes a necessity.

To explain in microcosm just how much change has been overseen at Everton in the past two years, only Seamus Coleman started both the 5-0 drubbing at Chelsea in November 2016 and Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge.

As imperious as Chelsea, the eventual champions that season, were that night, they were helped massively by Ronald Koeman’s shambolic side, who were as disjointed in attack as they were porous in defence.

This weekend, the Toffees were back at the Bridge, with the same points haul as they had going into the 5-0 loss, against a Chelsea side with more points and a greater goal difference.

Chelsea v Everton - Premier League
Diego Costa and Chelsea ripped Everton to shreds two years ago, but it was a different story this time around
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Under new manager Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea are unbeaten in all competitions and have scored in every home game; only the seemingly unstoppable Manchester City have found the net in the league more times than them.

For Marco Silva to guide Everton to a clean sheet, then, is an enormous achievement, and though he could not end the club’s 24-year wait for a win at the Bridge at his first attempt, rarely has Silva appeared more tactically astute than on Sunday.

Everton may have seen off teams like Brighton & Hove Albion, Fulham and Leicester City with the aid of stunning, free-flowing football, but it would have been incredibly naive of Silva to expect to get the better of Sarri by fighting fire with fire.

In his three years at Goodison Park, Roberto Martinez stubbornly persisted with this attitude; though it was perceived by some as the antithesis to the overly negative approach of his predecessor, David Moyes, to these games, a win at Manchester United (against Moyes, ironically) proved to be Martinez’s only league victory away to the ‘top six’.

Koeman and his replacement, Sam Allardyce, were similarly misguided in trying to contain the Premier League’s big boys; it would be unfair to overlook the former’s wonderful 4-0 victory over City, but in the main, both were on the receiving end of a fair few thumpings.

Arsenal v Everton - Premier League
Allardyce’s game plan against the big six was painfully unambitious
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

But in Silva, Everton appear to have finally landed on a happy medium; a manager with more facets to his ability to coach as the cynics would have you believe.

Those who had reservations about the Toffees’ decision to appoint the Portuguese manager in May cited his leaky defences at Hull City and Watford as one of Silva’s main shortcomings.

But with the Blues, Silva looks a far cry from the man who presided over 7-1 and 6-0 home defeats during his spells with the Tigers and the Hornets respectively. He appears to be a manager who has learnt from past mistakes and is adapting accordingly, which could hardly be said for Martinez, in particular.

Whereas Martinez was intent on winning at all costs, Silva was pragmatic enough to accept a point away to one of the league’s most dangerous sides, and his decision to bring on an extra centre-back in Phil Jagielka should be lauded, not derided.

It is particularly telling that, in the Spaniard’s three visits to Stamford Bridge as Everton manager, Chelsea scored a winner or equaliser in the 89th minute or later.

His team’s inability to see out a win having gone 3-2 up in stoppage time rather epitomised a man with no discernible game plan, a manager who admitted to not seeing the benefit in practising the defending of set-pieces.

Everton v Chelsea - Premier League
Everton played excellent football under Roberto Martinez, but imploded far too often
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Under Silva, by contrast, there was never any real danger that the Toffees would cave in, or that they were danger of losing their grip on a point they had worked so hard for. But for Marcos Alonso striking the woodwork, and Álvaro Morata scoring an offside goal, Jordan Pickford’s clean sheet rarely looked under serious threat.

For all of Allardyce’s bitter platitudes that Everton played good football under him last term, any regular viewer of the Blues will know that he oversaw a side which were, at best, functional.

Under Allardyce, no Premier League outfit had fewer shots or created less chances than the Blues, further emphasising the enormity of the task Silva has taken on.

It also says a great deal about Silva’s ability to coach that he has managed to get more of a tune out of centre-back Michael Keane, who has recovered brilliantly from a nightmare first season at Everton, than more defensive-minded managers in Allardyce and Koeman ever could.

There was a definite impotence in attack about his side on Sunday, but that will be rectified with more time, both on the training field and in the transfer market, with the aid of another superb summer recruitment, director of football Marcel Brands.

Silva may have amassed the same points tally as Koeman in his first 12 league games, but the mood emanating from Goodison Park is entirely more upbeat this time around.

Unlike any of Everton’s recent bosses, he is a man who seems able to strike a sensible balance between risk and reward, and his evolution as a coach is clear for all Evertonians to see.