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Irrepressible Everton offer a glimpse into a brighter future

The 25-minute debacle at Newcastle aside, the Blues have been a model of consistency in the last six weeks. Replicating this form next season will surely see a stronger top six challenge

Everton FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Bernard was brilliant for Everton in their win over Arsenal
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Bernard was not about to wait around for anyone.

As soon as André Gomes kicked off proceedings at Goodison Park on Sunday, the Brazilian was off, sprinting down the left flank like a Formula One car whose driver had just seen the five red lights go out.

Everton’s diminutive winger would not receive the ball in this opening passage of play, but he set the tone for what would follow in the Blues’ 1-0 win over Arsenal. From that moment, right until Kevin Friend blew the final whistle, Marco Silva’s side were relentless, breathtaking, and much-deserved winners.

The scoreline, in truth, does not do the Toffees’ performance justice. For much of Sunday’s game, they swarmed Unai Emery’s men, who simply could not match the desire shown by those in royal blue. Only Everton’s profligacy in front of goal prevented the scoreline from being as emphatic as they deserved.

Everton FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Everton could easily have beaten Arsenal by more than one goal
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Because, as much as they have infuriated at times under Silva, there is a great deal to like about the team he is beginning to mould.

Their penchant for conceding cheap goals from set-pieces is becoming a thing of the past, with Jordan Pickford keeping his fifth clean sheet in his last six games against the Gunners. Seamus Coleman has finally rediscovered his form and his understanding down the right with Richarlison, another who has improved markedly of late, continues to blossom, just as Lucas Digne and Bernard continue to work wonderfully in tandem on the other side.

Gomes, who looks far closer to the player who shone in his early matches for Everton now that the fixture schedule has eased up, complements Idrissa Gueye perfectly in midfield, a man whose attitude and performances since his desired January move to Paris Saint-Germain have been nothing short of impeccable.

Up front, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 22, may be far from the finished article, and striking reinforcements must be a priority for Silva this summer. But his tireless work ethic, epitomised by his tackle on Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno to force an Everton throw-in, and superb hold-up play mean that, for now at least, he is by some distance the best option to lead the line.

Everton FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Calvert-Lewin was terrific up front for the Blues on Sunday
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Indeed, this may be the same club who meekly surrendered at the first sight of adversity in December’s 6-2 home drubbing to Tottenham Hotspur, or who were embarrassed by Millwall in the FA Cup, but it is not the same team. Neither reflected much of a team, in all honesty; rather, 11 mentally fragile footballers patently not on the same wavelength as each other.

That is not the case anymore. Since Everton’s 2-0 win against Chelsea, the first in their three-game winning run, Silva has made only one change in each of the following two matches, both of which were enforced through injury. Contrast that with the five and three alterations made respectively to the side before February’s consecutive defeats to Manchester City and Watford, for instance, and it becomes easier to see how the Blues are benefitting from a sense of continuity.

Even during Everton’s promising spells in October and November, Silva seemed undecided on his best starting XI, often switching between Kurt Zouma and Yerry Mina at centre-back, or Cenk Tosun, Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison up front, or Theo Walcott and Ademola Lookman on the wing.

Now, though, everything feels much more settled about the Blues. Partnerships are forming, players know their roles, work rates can no longer be scrutinised.

The squad, of course, will need a fair amount of surgery again this summer. Silva and director of football Marcel Brands could do far worse than tie down loanees Zouma and Gomes to permanent contracts. While Calvert-Lewin’s progress should not be halted too harshly, the void left by Romelu Lukaku remains at the top of the pitch. Stronger competition out wide for Bernard and Richarlison should also be a priority, too.

Everton FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Everton should look to sign Zouma permanently from parent club Chelsea this summer
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Long-term replacements for the side’s elder statesmen, such as Coleman, 30, Gylfi Sigurðsson and Gueye, 29, need identifying sooner rather than later. Some fringe players will depart, not least Sunday’s match-winner Phil Jagielka, 37 in August, who will surely have time called on his 12-year spell at Goodison at the end of this campaign.

But after seemingly nosediving straight towards the point of no return only a couple of months ago, Silva suddenly has something with real potential to build on at Everton this summer.

The skill, evidently, his team already possesses. If he can now harness the sort of spirit embodied on Sunday by Bernard, Calvert-Lewin and Gueye, to name only three, over the course of an entire season, the barricade on the top six door may soon be lifted.