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Everton: how Marco Silva is set to solve the Toffees defensive woes

In the summer of 2018, Everton finally got the man they desired in Marco Silva, having aggressively pursued him last season to the point that Watford had to hand him the pink slip. The Hornets blamed the “unwarranted approach by a Premier League rival” for the nose dive the club’s fortunes took after Everton came calling, although since then fortunes ultimately have been different.

Marco Silva was supposed to bring in a new style of attacking play and cater to the demands of the fans and stakeholders alike at Goodison. His attractive brand of football which was seen in glimpses while at Watford was the decisive factor in Everton’s wishes to bring in Silva after what seemed like an eternity of parking the bus under Sam Allardyce.

Silva’s side certainly have become a lot more threating in front of goal as compared to the damp squib that the Everton attack had become last season. However, the defense continues to undermine the progress made in attack, by shipping goals aplenty – leaving the side in 12th place with a goal difference of negative three.

So what are the reasons for their defensive frailties? A common pattern emerges once we look at some of the goals that Everton have actually conceded thus far:

  1. Raul Jimenez header vs Wolves

Jimenez’s header was a deftly executed one; headed into the ground to beat Jordan Pickford in goal. Despite this, it could have easily been prevented. Micheal Keane lost his man and Jimenez was able to drift into the space between the two centre halves untracked, and profit from the defensive lapse.

  1. Danny Ings tap in vs Southampton

This was the perfect example of how not to defend from a corner. Everton adopted a zonal system; yet one zone they failed to cover was five yards from the centre of the goal, where Danny Ings stood waiting patiently for any kind of defensive mistake. A good delivery to the front post was flicked on by a Southampton man and provided Ings with perhaps the easiest goal he’ll score this season, as he tapped in unmarked from five yards.

  1. Nathan Ake tap in vs Bournemouth

Perhaps a carbon copy of the first in terms of the errors leading to it. Everton once more lost the first header, this time to Callum Wilson, whose header fell very kindly to Nathan Ake’s feet after rebounding off the post. Idrissa Gueye dropped off as soon as Wilson meet the ball, the Everton defence snoozed, and Ake was allowed to freely tap in the rebound under no pressure at all.

  1. Phillip Billing header vs Huddersfield

Yet another goal conceded from a corner, Everton are guilty of committing the same errors once again. After loosing the first header at the near post, the defence totally lost their markers and after switching off, the ball found Billing in the middle of the box who placed his header well enough to beat a helpless Jordan Pickford in the Everton goal.

  1. Yarmolenko tap in vs West Ham

Full credit must be given to West Ham for a well worked move to draw first blood against Everton, but equally, the Toffees could have fortified their castle a bit better. A ball over the top played Arnautovic in and he skilfully took the pace and bounce off it for his Ukrainian strike partner to tap home. Arnautovic found his way in between Zouma and Holgate after the latter was drawn out of position following an exchange between Arnautovic and Masuaku in the centre circle, Zouma was unable to make up the ground fast enough to bail his partner out of jail and Yarmolenko consequently tapped home.

  1. Arnautovic goal vs West Ham

To put the feather in the Hammer’s cap, Arnautovic added a third with remarkable ease in a 3-1 victory. His little lay off to Obiang drew Holgate out of position and when Obiang got the wrong side of Gueye, there was a huge hole in the box in which allowed Arnautovic to speed into. Obiang’s back pass had the perfect weight on it to be too far away for Pickford to come and claim, yet close enough for the Austrian striker to finish with one touch.

  1. Lacazette thunderbolt vs Arsenal

Everton here were guilty of not marking Lacazette, and allowing him too much space for a striker of his calibre, especially on his strong foot. Kenny, backpedalling, was unable to close down the French striker in time, and Lacazette unleashed a goal of the season contender, blasting his shot where no keeper on earth could save it.

The examples listed above highlight the common themes that have led to Everton’s downfall:

  • Poor marking from corners
  • Not winning the first (near post) header
  • Midfield not offering enough protection and defenders being drawn out of position far too easily
  • The wide gap between centre halves for a striker to drift into
  • Not following the runner, but rather the ball

When Everton attack, their full backs provide a lot of width especially Lucas Digne down the left. This leaves a lot of vulnerabilities if the possession is lost, for the centre halves are stretched and one well executed 1-2 is enough to beat the central midfielders.

The back line being rotated every game doesn’t help either, as the players are not familiar enough with each other’s movements to anticipate where the positions may open up.

Lack of a true leader at central defence is also a contributer, for Micheal Keane has been in and out of the squad, Kurt Zouma and Yerry Mina have just arrived in the summer, Mason Holgate is still a youngster, and Phil Jagielka hasn’t got the legs anymore.

Perhaps shifting to a back three would be in Everton’s best interest, which would cover the pitch much better defensively, whilst also giving Digne and Coleman / Kenny more license to maraud forward. Which player will be have to sacrificed for this purpose though, remains open to interpretation.

With Silva no doubt improving Everton’s attacking department, the question now is whether he can solve the defensive issues. Having already conceded 11 goals in six games it is certainly a problem in Merseyside and with the goals conceded so easy to eliminate, work must continue on the training ground so Silva’s defense is not continuously pummelled. With all this being said, the commitment which Jordan Pickford displayed to Everton this week in signing a new six-year-deal will surely come as excellent news in the blue half of Merseyside.


Ayush Verma

20. Student at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. Manchester City correspondent for 90MAAT

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