Everton's next four away games will determine progress under Marco Silva
After last year Marco Silva didn’t need to do much to claim he’d helped Everton progress. The Blues were, quite frankly, amongst the worst sides in the Premier League last season.
After completely falling apart under Ronald Koeman early on in the campaign, their decision to hire Sam Allardyce left them playing ultra defensive, attacking, does-not-exist football. One only has to look at the attacking stats during Allardyce’s tenure to get a feel of how bad it was.
It was done to ensure they didn’t get relegated and the job was completed with time to spare. While Allardyce succeeded in that task he utterly failed to suggest he could push the team forward. Furthermore, he couldn't show why he was the man who could push them forward as a club.
Silva, on the other hand, is different. Everton believe can take them up a notch and so far, the signs have been positive. A 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday was the Toffees' third on the bounce and a sign they are progressing forward under his leadership. The fact it was also the third straight game in which they’ve managed 17 plus shots, a feat they only managed once last year, demonstrated he is also bringing the football the owners and fans want.
Wins over the likes of Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Fulham do not mark progression, though. While they are necessary they are also expected for a club like Everton.
Instead, how far the Blues have come under Silva so far will be determined with their upcoming run of away games. Squashed between very winnable home games against Brighton, Cardiff and Newcastle Everton have away trips to Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City. A harder run of away games could not be found if you tried.
Time to find out if Richarlison if fixture-proof. #FPL https://t.co/fmk9aiANM9
How they perform in them will determine if Silva is really pushing them forward. The reason why is the club’s record away to the current top six over the last decade. To say it is atrocious wouldn’t be blunt enough.
Everton have won just three of their last 55 away games to the top six. Their last victory the road to those clubs was a 1-0 success over David Moyes’ Manchester United in 2013/14. They’ve not managed a win in the following four seasons and lost 16 of the 24 games away to the top six in that time.
Four of the last five seasons they’ve lost at least one of these games by four goals or more. Last season had three alone courtesy of a 5-1 loss at Arsenal, 4-0 at Manchester United and 4-0 battering at Tottenham.
Much of their poor form in these fixtures has been down to the lack of ambition from the man in the dugout. This was particularly prevalent under Moyes. Everton continually banged on the glass ceiling under the Scot's reign, their failure to break through it was his refusal to go for victory in these games. It was a lack of ambition that his successors all succumbed to.
The one time that the Blues went for victory was the one game they got it in. That victory at Old Trafford was secured by Roberto Martinez being bold, attacking a poor United side to secure victory. Since then it has been a case of the same old, unadventurous Everton.
Improving the record, particularly in the points tally, is key to them moving forward under Silva. A win at any of these clubs would show that Everton finally have a manager who is able to deliver what the others before him haven’t been able to.
Going to the big six and taking points would prove that the steps forward this team are taking are ones in the right direction. Another false dawn is not on the offing.
It goes beyond the points for the Blues, though. How they approach the games will also be key. Silva is a self-proclaimed attacking manager. He is the kind of boss who wants his team to be on the front foot regardless of the opponents. So far this season it has paid off more often than not.
It also nearly paid off on their trip to the Emirates earlier in the campaign. Only Alexandre Lacazette’s superb strike and Everton’s inability to put the ball in the back of the net stopped them winning that game. Their performance in London was an indicator that Silva will provide what is wanted in such games.
He now has to replicate that in these upcoming away fixtures. If Everton play like they did that day against United, Chelsea and City it will show he’s the real deal. It’ll also earn him major brownie points with fans who are tired of seeing their team never try in these games.
It is early days for Silva at Goodison Park. There have been plenty of positives but negatives to go with them also. Given the chaos he inherited, it will take some time before Everton are a true reflection of the Portuguese boss.
They have, though, taken steps forward already during his short time in charge. These upcoming away games provide him with the perfect opportunity to show those steps are in the right direction by ripping up the precedent set by his predecessors.