Marco Silva is about to set out to do something that hasn’t been done in 20 years. And he’s going to do it with his top three choices in the center of midfield watching from the sideline.
That’s the level of challenge facing Silva and Everton on Wednesday, when the Toffees head to Anfield to take on Liverpool. This game marks the 20-year anniversary of Everton’s last win away at Anfield, and it’s hard to see the streak ending in this match.
Silva put out a relatively coherent XI over the weekend against Leicester City, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Foxes — and he now faces the same challenge against the league leaders.
Tactics and Formation
Jurgen Klopp came to Liverpool and implemented a high-pressing style of football that’s become increasingly common across the Premier League. The great irony, of course, is that while teams like Everton, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Norwich City are adopting high-pressing styles, it has been the ability of Klopp and Liverpool to pivot away from such tactics that has led to one of the best runs in club history.
In Klopp’s first 2-3 seasons, the way to beat his Liverpool side was not to challenge that high press, but instead sit deep, take it out of the match, and play right over the top of it. In 2017-18, Liverpool dropped points against Watford FC, Burnley, Newcastle, Everton, West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City, and Stoke City — nearly costing them a Champions League place.
But after some growing pains at the start of last season, Klopp and his key players have improved drastically against low blocks — their last Premier League loss against a non-traditional top-six side came on January 22, 2018.
I don’t suspect that’ll change Silva’s tactical approach much — he’s just not got the personnel in the midfield to try to play through the Liverpool press. But it displays quite clearly how switched on all 11 players will have to be on Wednesday if Everton are to have any success bunkering and countering against the league leaders.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne - 10/10
Yerry Mina - 10/10
Michael Keane - 7/10
Keane returned to the side when Silva was forced to go to a three center-back system over the weekend, and I suspect he’ll replace Mason Holgate in the starting lineup on Wednesday. Holgate’s good run has been teetering on the edge for a couple of matches now, and I suspect Keane’s experience will be valued more highly by Silva than Holgate’s speed.
Djibril Sidibe - 10/10
Seamus Coleman remains out injured, but you’d have to expect Sidibe would keep his place anyway. His assist on the Richarlison goal against Leicester was sublime, and after a shaky defensive start to the season, he’s leveled out quite nicely. Every week, it looks a little more likely that the Toffees will look to keep the Frenchman long term.
Tom Davies - 10/10
Morgan Schneiderlin - 7/10
Schneiderlin wasn’t fit enough to start against Leicester, which triggered the transition to a back five. I don’t suspect that Silva really wants to play in that formation, especially with his job potentially on the line.
As such, looks like we’ll see the Frenchman in the midfield again, with Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Andre Gomes, and Fabian Delph all still hurt (and Delph maybe just not good anymore).
Richarlison - 10/10
The man with the new contract will be the first name on the team sheet, though it’s anybody’s guess who he’ll partner with in attack. He could feasibly wind up wide left, wide right, or as the central striker — though in this particular guessing game, I’ve got him out on his preferred left.
Alex Iwobi - 7/10
Gylfi Sigurdsson didn’t quite do enough to keep a place as the No. 10 over his last two matches (though he was more of a true central midfielder over the weekend), so we’ll slot Iwobi in here tentatively.
Theo Walcott - 7/10
Silva declared the Englishman ready for action earlier this week, and based on his form before getting hurt, it seems most likely that he’ll return to action Wednesday. Can he finally turn all his positive play into a goal?
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 6/10
DCL gets the nod at striker, marginally, primarily by process of elimination. Cenk Tosun is at his most useful when his team has a lot of the ball (it won’t against Liverpool), and Moise Kean remains a bit too young and inexperienced to start a match like this one, even though he looked lively when he came on against the Foxes.
He could go to Richarlison, but the Brazilian has tended to get physically bullied when isolated up top in matches against teams that own possession, and Silva can’t afford to risk not having a reliable outlet up top against the Liverpool press and counterattack.
Beni Baningime - He picked up a knock with the youth team that kept him from appearing over the weekend, but hopefully he’ll be ready for this match. Beni has proven regularly over the past 18 months that he’s advanced beyond the youth setup, and deserves his shot with the senior team. The injury crisis in the center of midfield might just give him that chance.
Bernard - When the Brazilian went down injured against Brighton and Hove Albion, I was genuinely concerned it was the last we’d see of him this season. The nature of the injury screamed ACL tear, so I was thrilled to see him on the bench over the weekend. He remains a real threat off the bench when his team needs a goal — which it very well might come to in the second half of this match.
Can this XI really hope to do what no Premier League team other than Manchester City has done in over a year?