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Marco Silva comes into his own at Everton

Two big wins in a row.

West Ham United v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

First things first - I have no intention of overreacting. Everton has played 32 matches this season, and the last two are not enough by themselves to decisively conclude that their issues from the course of this season are entirely ironed out. However, what we have before us is a trend that should it continue would make me very optimistic about Marco Silva’s role in the Everton project going forward.

Second, let’s define what we mean by this trend continuing. The Blues have two wins in a row, but their momentum will not suddenly be completely ended if they do not get a win at home against Arsenal this Sunday.

How they play is more important than results at this moment. Everton are one point back from 7th - though Wolves have a game in hand - and while I would like for the club to get back to Europe, things will not be a failure if they do not with Arsenal, Tottenham, and Manchester United left on the schedule.

Let’s back things up for a moment. Because Everton lost to Newcastle, the feeling is that the Toffees had two good games in a row after playing very badly. But that’s not really so, is it? Everton enjoyed a dominant first half against Newcastle. Before that, there was a great result against Liverpool, and before even that Everton ran Cardiff off the field.

In the last five league matches, Marco Silva’s men have ten points, and have outperformed their opponents in xG 7.43 to 3.51, while holding opponents under 1 xG three times (including keeping West Ham to an incredible 0.09 xG). This defensive solidity is particularly important because if it can be found consistently, it always gives Everton a chance to win.

understat.com

Sound defensive structure is the sort of thing that can be sustained long term. Over the last five league matches, Everton have defended at an xGA level better than Liverpool’s season average and nearly as good as Manchester City. That exact level may not be sustainable over an entire season but it is indicative of the progress Marco Silva has made with his group.

From an offensive perspective, a key in this rise in form has been the play of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison. Gylfi has led the team in non penalty xG+xA during this spell, putting him at the heart of Everton’s offense with three goals and two assists. Richarlison has had two goals of his own, with a very respectable 0.5xG/90.

We have talked in this space before about how Everton has forwards who tend toward shooting and those that tend toward passing, and healthy minutes for Bernard have enabled Silva to play his two most expensive players with the hard and smart running Dominic Calvert-Lewin for an effective offense.

I think this run of games may tell us a few things (whether it ultimately does will still be determined by how the rest of the year goes).

First, I think it tells us that Marco Silva’s ideas can pay off in this league. Everton have four points from their last two games against the top 6 with three more such matches against such opposition this season. Good performances in another game or two with accompanying results sends the message to me that Everton can be upwardly mobile under Silva’s watch.

This stretch has also shown me that Gylfi Sigurdsson may well have a future at Everton. I have been bothered by the Icelander’s fit in this system all year but he seems to finally be figuring it out and his quality showing through. I still am not sure I want Gylfi as the starting number 10 at Everton next season, but I do think he has a role to play going forward.

Overall, the theme here is optimism and continuity. There have been moments this season where the team has capitulated (even once in the five game spell we’ve looked at today). At times, it seemed like every opponent set piece went in, but even this has slowed down considerably in recent weeks.

In this final run of the season everything appears to be clicking into place. If this pace continues through the end of the year we will end at 55 points, and anything in that ballpark seems enough to me to not only justify keeping Marco Silva, but giving him significant investment this summer as well.