I recently explained, statistically, why Marco Silva has not played Tom Davies much this campaign. You can read that article here. The main point, for the tl;dr crowd is that Tom Davies’ ball retention statistics (mainly how often he is dispossessed and how many unsuccessful touches he has) do not stand up to a Premier League standard.
Nevertheless, coming off the international break Silva inserted Davies into the lineup for what the manager admitted was a ‘must win’ match and the young player excelled. This is why.
The biggest reason, right out of the gate, is that Davies wasn't dispossessed and had the highest pass accuracy of all his teammates the entire match. Part of this was working well in tandem with Andre Gomes in the midfield but mostly it was simply Davies playing intelligently. He attempted no dribbles and played within himself. If Tom can take care of the ball similar to this game in and game out (no one expects him to never turn the ball over again, that would be an unfair expectation), he has a role to play in this team, no doubt about it.
Davies had 52 touches in this game, one of them was an on target shot off a set piece that he really should have scored (the chance had an xG of 0.59), one was an accurate cross, and four of them were long balls, two of which he completed. Tom wasn’t asked to be a creative force but he didn’t need to be. He was a part of a very successful midfield engine. If he can complete 85% of his passes on 40 passes per 90 with 10% of them being long balls the manager is going to be very happy.
What is interesting to me about Tom’s numbers about this game is that he was far less active defensively than usual. No tackles, one interception, a blocked shot and one clearance (to go with two fouls) is a bit less than his usual defensive output. My interpretation of this lower defensive output is that Tom is at a point in his career where he can either be defensively disruptive or he can be reliable in possession, not both. That’s completely fine, nothing wrong with that, but if this match is a forerunner of a new Tom Davies he might not be the high energy bumblebee we’re used to out there (and I consider that a very good thing).
Simply put, Davies the way he played yesterday can fill in either across from Gomes or in place of him, and is a real asset to the team. Cleaning up his ball retention allows his other good traits to shine through and keeps him from being a liability on the pitch. Everton gave up no big chances tonight and a lot of that stemmed from a lack of turnovers in midfield. I’ve been very critical of Tom but when he plays like this there’s nothing to criticize because he’s the exact player Everton need. Let’s hope he can repeat it against Watford and Tottenham.