Premier League football returns this weekend as Norwich City make the long trip to Merseyside to face Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.
Ahead of the game, canaries.co.uk spoke to Sam Carroll, who covers the club’s fortunes for the Liverpool Echo, to get the lowdown on the season so far, ambitions for the rest of it, and Marco Silva’s position at the helm.
canaries.co.uk: How do you assess the start of the season and have Everton got the results they’ve deserved?
SC: The word would be difficult, but not in terms of the opposition they’ve had. If you look at the games they’ve lost like Sheffield United at home, AFC Bournemouth away or Aston Villa away, they’re teams that you expect Everton to beat.
There have been circumstances, like in the Brighton & Hove Albion game, where the Premier League have admitted they were wrong to award a penalty when Everton were winning 2-1. That completely changed that game which they went on to lose.
If you look at the home game against Tottenham Hotspur, they drew 1-1 and had a horrible injury to Andre Gomes. Again, they probably should have had two or three penalties by the letter of the law and VAR.
The reason to feel aggrieved is that if they’d won that Brighton game and the Spurs game, they’d be fifth or sixth, so that’s difficult to swallow.
On top of all that, Gomes – who was signed permanently in the summer – probably won’t play again this season. You don’t want to make excuses for a club the size of Everton, but it’s difficult to be too critical of Marco Silva because it’s been such a strange period.
Performances have been on the upturn in the last four or five weeks. They just haven’t had those decisions go for them.
canaries.co.uk They’ve got to beat those other mid-table teams to be the best of the rest, as were the ambitions ahead of the season. Is that still the case?
SC: Even though Everton have had a poor start by their terms, Sheffield United are only three points away in fifth. There’s no reason for expectations to change. The only real disappointment now is that, in a season where there are a lot of teams in transition like Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham, Everton haven’t taken full advantage of the start of the season.
With the players at their disposal, Everton could be doing what Leicester City are doing under Brendan Rodgers, so I think there’s a bit of envy there.
They finished eighth last season so seventh should still be the aim. That could get you Europa League football with the way the league is panning out. They’re also one win away from a League Cup semi-final so there’s still real excitement about what could be this season, but they just need to find consistency.
They were consistent at home at the end of last season but weren’t getting the results away.
"Across Europe’s top five leagues, Everton have conceded the five least clear shots on goal"
canaries.co.uk Everton kept a lot of clean sheets towards the end of last season and Jordan Pickford was a real FPL asset! Why is that not the case this season?
SC: They started off well, drawing 0-0 at Crystal Palace and beating Watford 1-0 at home. There was a feeling they could build on that foundation but then it unravelled. Michael Keane, who ended last season well and won a lot of fans over, has been dropped for Mason Holgate while Seamus Coleman has been dropped for Djibril Sidibe.
Those two have impressed in recent weeks to be fair, and Yerry Mina has been a shining light as well since he replaced Kurt Zouma.
It’s a strange one. Pickford has made a couple of mistakes, but it would be wrong to say he’s had a poor start to the season. There was a statistic that across Europe’s top five leagues, Everton have conceded the five least clear shots on goal.
They’ve been a bit unlucky and lackadaisical from set pieces, so there’s a sense they can turn it round defensively and get back to what they were doing at the end of last season – not conceding goals at home. That gives you a massive opportunity of winning football matches.
canaries.co.uk Alex Iwobi signed in the summer, Tom Davies is filling in for Gomes and Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the main man up front. How do you think the attacking players are doing?
SC: They do have enough to score goals and they can share them around. Last season, the top scorers were Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson. Richarlison scored the winner last time out against Southampton and is genuinely one of the best young players in the Premier League.
Theo Walcott is coming into a good vein of form. The only thing is that Moise Kean hasn’t hit the ground running since his move from Juventus. The transfer talk in the papers is that they want him to go back there, but it’s a young and vibrant attack with players who hit the ground running.
Sigurdsson hasn’t been as good as he was last season, but there’s always someone on the day who’s going to perform. At the moment, it’s about finding a way to supply those players with Gomes injured and Idrissa Gana Gueye leaving.
They just need to make the chances and be a bit more clinical because they missed three or four good opportunities against Southampton.
canaries.co.uk You mentioned earlier that it’s been a difficult time for Marco Silva. Opinions on managers can change so quickly; what’s the mood among Everton fans – stick or twist with Silva?
SC: Everton fans got so used to having David Moyes as the face of Everton for eleven years, and then in a short-term period they’ve had Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, David Unsworth, Sam Allardyce and now Silva. It left a sour taste in the mouth having all that chopping and changing.
Maybe they pulled the trigger a little bit too early on Koeman. You look at the calibre of managers out there for a club of Everton’s size and they’re probably not operating at the level to get a Mauricio Pochettino. It’s too important to be taking chances on an unproven manager from outside the Premier League, so Everton fans are keen for it to work out with Silva because there are no real options elsewhere.
They have to build something and make it sustainable. Silva is signing players to suit the system and style of football he wants to play and has spent a considerable sum of money doing so, so if they sack him and a manager comes in with his own philosophies, they have to start the process again.
He still has the backing from the majority of Evertonians. No manager in the world, apart from Jurgen Klopp, can convince everyone he’s the right man at the moment. The players have never downed tools for Silva and there’s a sense that they really like him. A couple of players call him the professor when you talk to them at Finch Farm. They get on with him and want to make it work but ultimately, they have to put points on the board to continue this project.
canaries.co.uk Everton have a really tough run of games coming up, so they must be viewing this weekend’s as a must-win.
SC: It’s really important. Ahead of the Southampton game, they hadn’t won an away game for seven months. They have to take six points from them and Norwich because it’s such a difficult run afterwards.
People always expect Everton to win at Goodison Park no matter who they’re playing. The key word is momentum. They need to win these games to go into the Leicester, Chelsea and Liverpool games with confidence.
No disrespect to Norwich but since that Manchester City game they haven’t hit the heights, so Everton see it as a massive opportunity. Sheffield United have had a strong start to the season, but you can’t underestimate anyone and that’s what Everton were guilty of against them.
They’ll be looking to put a show on from the start, get some goals and keep a clean sheet to go into the Leicester game on as high a note as possible.
You can follow Sam on Twitter @SamCarroll0.