Everton beat Southampton 2-1 over the weekend to lift the gloom over Goodison Park, at least momentarily, while picking up the first Premier League away win of the season. While it’s pretty embarrassing that it’s taken us into the second week of November to achieve that, it’s still a positive especially when you look at how tightly-packed the middle of the table is with three points separating fifth and fifteenth.
Youngster Mason Holgate has seized his opportunity to get some extended time in the starting lineup, coming in when Yerry Mina was injured and retaining his spot as Michael Keane struggled. Keane has also been dropped from the England national side following his loss of form over the last few weeks, but manager Marco Silva is confident that the 26-year-old is up to the challenge of coming back a better player. Asked how Keane was doing, he said -
“(He is) Strong and he will become strong. Michael Keane has all my support, like he had in the past when I joined the club, how he was and how he is at this moment.
“Of course the others are playing well. Michael Keane will keep working really hard. Sometimes, if you spend some games on the bench, it is not the end of the world and Michael Keane knows that and he will become stronger because he has quality and I believe in him. Normally I speak with all my players. When they don’t have their best moments I am always there to support them.”
That reference about in the past talks about last season. Keane’s first season was wracked in turmoil with Ronald Koeman being let go, and then the struggles continuing under David Unsworth then Sam Allardyce. However, paired with Kurt Zouma last season Keane had a much stronger season, including the earlier half of 2019 when the Blues appeared unbeatable at home running off wins and clean sheets.
Silva went on to talk about his father-son like relationship with Richarlison, and his insistence that the Blues sign the player last season despite the turmoil between the Toffees and Watford FC following Silva’s sacking by the Hornets.
“We have a fantastic relationship,” Silva said. “He came to the Premier League when he was 20 years old. He was a young boy who spoke no English. I am one of the happiest people in the world when I see him achieving what he has achieved.
“We [Everton] did a big effort as a club to sign him. He is doing well because our fans love him. Its good to see him scoring and it is good to see him recognise that we are important for him as well. Seeing Richarlison being a Brazilian international is fantastic for me and seeing how he is playing and how the fans love him as well. He deserves it.”
Last week Silva seemed to intimate that Richarlison went down too easily and wasn’t handling the physical nature of the game in England as well, but he refuted those comments.
“I am here to protect my players until the end. I have to work with them and we are working with Richarlison to be stronger.
“I said something to the referees about that situation but Richarlison is not a diver. He is a worker, he is a big, big talent and I repeat: zero yellow cards [for diving] in two seasons and a half.”
His observation about the Brazilian forward not receiving any cautions for simulation is a fair point, when players like Raheem Sterling and Sadio Mane find themselves in the referees’ bad books more often than the 22-year-old.
Finally, Tom Davies speaking after the win on Saturday indicated that the the Blues opening goal that he nodded in from point-blank range was thanks to some work at Finch Farm the squad have been putting in on set-pieces, and Silva confirmed that.
“Set pieces are really important, we work hard on them and it is good to see when they pay off. We have worked with Tom on arriving in those positions
“It is always important when you score early in the game and we should have scored more but we did really well. We spoke about starting the second half strongly and not giving them any hope of coming back.
“We did not start how we planned but we reacted very well, Southampton were desperate to win a game at home and we did well to manage the situation.
“Our second goal was fantastic, a fantastic pass from Alex Iwobi, then the cross from Sidibe and a good finish from Richarlison.”