Everton v Southampton: Five Things We Learned

So Marco Silva will always be able to look back on his first competitive fixture at Goodison Park with a sense of fondness. 

A display laden with excitement and forward-thinking endeavour before the break and enough steel and mettle to repel an attempted Southampton fightback gave the Portuguese a victory on his first flirtation with the Grand Old Lady. 

The occasion also left him purring about the “fantastic support” he had been met with from an appreciative capacity home crowd.  

He witnessed two goals of the utmost quality - one a well-rehearsed training ground routine that dumbfounded the Saints, the other as satisfying in its simplicity as the first was in its craft. 

All told it was a convincing follow up to the pulsating season opener at Wolves.

Here, we pick out five things we learned as Silva’s progressive principles delivered an impressive first triumph of his Goodison reign… 

Home Is Where The Start Is
Throughout a managerial career that has brought him success in both Portugal and Greece, and earned him no shortage of admiration since arriving on English shores, Silva has always maintained a focus on getting things right at home. 

Indeed, the Portuguese at one time boasted an astonishing record of going 41 games unbeaten on his own turf.  

He knows how to build a fortress - and get a tune out of both players and fans alike. 

“[Home form] is really important,” said the 41-year-old on landing at Goodison Park this summer. “I know the atmosphere in our stadium and how it can help. It is important to have good results in general but, at home, it is most important.” 

He spoke, too, of creating “connections” and building “something special” for the Club’s supporters. 

At full-time on Saturday, Silva was quick to credit their role in helping tame the Saints. 

Clearly a first true sample of what it is to have a partisan Goodison Park behind him had not disappointed. 

“It was fantastic [to have that support]. That was something I expected,” he said. 

“I know at this Club it is normal that there is a fantastic atmosphere during the matches. [The fans] know, because I already told them, that it’s important for me and the players to feel them behind us, always supporting our players.”

Intriguingly, the past 14 Everton managers have now avoided defeat in their first game at Goodison, the last to lose being Ian Buchan in 1956.

Silva will know this is only a start. But Saturday’s performance should flush the Blues with confidence and provide a platform from which the Portuguese can deliver on his promise of “big commitment, big attitude… and good football”. 

Set Piece Success

Another focus of Silva’s is set pieces. Scoring them and keeping them out. 

Saturday’s match gave the boss reason to both savour Everton’s progress in this department but also reflect on work still to be done. 

It didn’t escape Silva’s attention that as many as 70 goals were scored from set pieces at the recent World Cup - a massive 43 per cent of the overall total plundered in Russia. 

The routine involving Leighton Baines and Morgan Schneiderlin that left Theo Walcott bearing down on goal for Everton’s opener was clearly borne from work put in at USM Finch Farm. 

And expect more of the same going forward. 

Michael Keane spoke in pre-season about the manager’s focus on maximising deadball situations. And don’t forget three of those 70 World Cup goals came from the head of a certain Yerry Mina. 

That Southampton’s 54th-minute response arose from a corner that Everton failed to clear will have disappointed the boss. 

However, he couldn’t contain his joy at the brave and inventive manner in which his side had hit the front. 

“It’s really important and special when you work on something specific during the week and, after, the players can put it on to the pitch,” he said. “It’s important for us as staff and important for the players as well. 

“In football today the details make the difference. In every game, some moments are really balanced and you have to try to do something different to achieve what you want - to win. 

“Everything is new now but we’re working hard to improve every day. We have a lot of things to improve on but I’m happy, and the players have to be happy as well.”


Front Foot Forward

When Phil Jagielka’s 40th-minute dismissal at Molineux last weekend reduced Everton to 10 men, they’d have been forgiven for forming a guard around Jordan Pickford’s goal in a bid to keep Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolves at bay. 

Perhaps the fact the gifted Rúben Neves levelled the score at 1-1 from the resulting free-kick altered that mindset to instead go for broke - an attitude that was rewarded when the Blues retook the lead, only for them to again be pegged back by a Raúl Jiménez header late on.

However, we saw more of the same attack-minded intent here. 

Yes, the Blues gave up possession in the dying moments, unnecessarily forcing skipper for the day Seamus Coleman to rush back and inhibit Nathan Redmond from launching a final Southampton cross into Pickford’s box. 

However, their commitment to have so many so deep inside Southampton territory demonstrated the confidence Silva has given his team to play on the front foot. 

At 2-1 following Danny Ings’ poachers’ goal, Everton still believed they could get a third. Shutting down to see out the game wasn’t an option - they were here to entertain. 

They may not have matched their threat of the first half after the break but Walcott had an effort ruled out for offside and, moments later, passed up a golden opportunity to grab his second of the afternoon. There were sights of goal for Idrissa Gana Gueye and Richarlison, too. 

As Silva put it, “After Southampton scored, we had enough chances to get the third goal ourselves, so I think it was a fair result.” 

Again, he noted there were elements on which his side still need to improve but seeing the momentum they have built in taking on board his philosophy must be as pleasing to the new boss as the four points from his opening two games. 


Sigurdsson Set To Shine

Evertonians on social media made Richarlison their man of the match as the Brazilian followed up his two-goal debut at Wolves with another colourful showing on his Goodison bow. 

However, in the matchday lounges and for certain members of the media - including evertonfc.com co-commentator Ian Snodin - it was the man who came runner-up in that Twitter poll who deserved the greatest plaudits. 

Gylfi Sigurdsson suffered a false start to his campaign at Wolves when Jagielka’s sending off forced his withdrawal just before the interval for defender Mason Holgate.

Unsurprising then that the Icelander was assertive from the off against the Saints, constantly looking to drive his team forward and demonstrating his quality on the ball operating in his favoured position behind the also industrious Cenk Tosun. 

Within the first five minutes it was Sigurdsson who kept his mind present to dart back and thwart a Southampton counter as the visitors looked to break following a saved Michael Keane header. 

In total, the midfielder contributed six key passes, found the target with 19 of his 25 attempts to pick out a teammate, and probably should have had an assist to his name after teeing up a gilt-edged second-half chance for Walcott.

Toffees legend Graeme Sharp described his performance as “outstanding” in evertontv’s The Review Show, saying he was the embodiment of the high-intensity footballer Silva wants to see in his side. 

Walcott, too, showed no ill-affects of the ankle injury that impacted his pre-season, instead turning in one of his most effective displays in royal blue to date. A willing runner, he always made himself an option. 

Add to that Richarlison’s graft, craft and predatory eye and the instinctive finishing and battling qualities of Tosun and Everton’s is a front four that clearly offers versatility, pace and, most importantly, goals. 


Holgate Stakes His Claim

Like Walcott, Mason Holgate was another left to curse his luck in pre-season as a niggling injury cost him the chance to fully demonstrate his worth to a new manager and his coaching staff.

On this display, he needn’t worry. 

First off, Holgate had clearly done enough in the time he did manage on the pitch and in training to earn the trust of Silva, the 21-year-old thrown in to partner Michael Keane in the absence of the suspended Jagielka, with deadline day arrival Kurt Zouma on the bench. 

Secondly, sporting his new short hair cut, he grabbed his chance. 

Only time will tell what the established centre-back pairing will become with six men in Silva’s squad adept at filling the position. 

However, Holgate certainly did his chances no harm with a composed and confident display against Mark Hughes’ double-pronged attack of Charlie Austin and Danny Ings. 

“We’ve had a lot of transfer activity in terms of the centre-back positions and Mason showed a great attitude coming into the side,” said Sharp of the youngster.

“I thought he was an assured performer. 

“We’ve now got Kurt Zouma and Yerry Mina and people will automatically think they’re going to play. But I think if Mason can continue to perform like that he’ll pose a few questions to the manager.” 


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