Here we assess some of the key talking points from the Blues' 3-0 victory over the Cottagers…
BLUES PLAYING IN SILVA’S ‘IMAGE’
“We didn’t get the result against Arsenal but how we played will be our image as a team: ambition, good organisation, great attitude and playing to win every time.”
Those were Marco Silva’s words in his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s clash with Fulham, as he challenged his side to transform their positive display at the Emirates into a winning performance against the Cottagers.
And his charges delivered in spades – particularly in a dominant second-half that saw Everton sweep aside their opponents with a display rich in energy and attacking purpose.
For evidence of the ambition Silva demands his sides play with, the Blues fired in 19 shots against Fulham, who had just six efforts on goal. Everton also whipped in 30 crosses during the 90 minutes, compared to eight from the away side.
And when the Cottagers were in possession, Silva’s man worked tirelessly to regain the initiative and launch counter-attacks.
The Blues recovered the ball 63 times throughout the match – 16 times more than their opponents. Everton were sharp in the tackle, too, winning 72 per cent of their challenges, compared to Fulham’s 61.9 per cent.
“In the second half, we showed what we want to do,” Silva said after the game. “Even if in some moments you don’t perform like you want, you always need to show that idea – to be aggressive with and without the ball.”
BRILLIANCE, RESILIENCE, INDUSTRY - A SIGURDSSON MASTERCLASS
Many a players’ head may have gone down after missing a penalty that would have given their side a 1-0 lead. But Gylfi Sigurdsson is made of stronger stuff.
The Icelandic international instead channelled his frustration into an outstanding, match-defining display.
The goals were classic Sigurdsson.
For his first, he showcased his renowned ball-striking ability to devastating effect – expertly curling a first-time, left-footed shot into the bottom corner from just outside the box.
Cenk Tosun soon headed home to make it 2-0 but it Sigurdsson wasn’t done yet. With just a minute left on the clock, he instantly controlled Bernard’s cutback before placing another pinpoint effort past Marcus Bettinelli.
The 29-year-old has had a flying start to the season. He has hit four goals, while his 19 key passes in the top-flight is only bettered by Manchester City’s Spanish maestro, David Silva.
But it wasn’t just his creativity and laser-like finishing that impressed his manager in Saturday’s game.
“This afternoon, football was fair to him – because he worked really hard,” Silva said.
Indeed, the Icelander covered 6.7 miles during the match – a total only surpassed by Tom Davies (seven miles) in the Everton team.
He made 12 sprints, too, with only Theo Walcott and Lucas Digne making more for the Blues.
The Toffees’ Club-record signing is not afraid to get stuck in either, with only the irrepressible Idrissa Gana Gueye making more tackles than Sigurdsson during the game.
Outstanding quality combined with relentless industry – the Icelander is a manager’s dream.
DYNAMIC GANA SETS THE TEMPO
Idrissa Gana Gueye wasted no time to set the tone for his performance.
He thundered into a challenge with Fulham dangerman Jean Michael Seri after just two minutes and, from then on, he just didn’t stop.
He went on to make nine tackles during the game, the most of any player on the pitch.
Indeed, he is well clear as the top tackler in the Premier League this season – with his 38 challenges eight ahead of Newcastle United midfielder, and countryman, Mohamed Diame and Watford’s Will Hughes.
Gana also topped the charts for interceptions against Fulham, with five, and he made 10 recoveries – also a match-high.
The 29-year-old’s boundless energy and ability to break up play is well documented, of course, but his sharp, progressive work in possession also caught the eye against the Cottagers.
He boasted at 88% pass success rate and made 25 accurate forward passes – the most of any player in the game.
CENTRE-BACK PAIRING SHOW THEIR WORTH
Marco Silva was eager to emphasise how the Blues’ clean sheet against Fulham was just as satisfactory as the three goals his side racked up.
And the performances of his two central defenders, Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma, will no doubt have been hugely encouraging for the Everton boss.
This is a partnership still in its infancy, with the pair linking up for the first time in last week’s clash at Arsenal.
They helped keep a gifted and pacey Gunners outfit at arm’s length for large periods last week, but on Saturday they were rewarded for another impressive display with all three points.
The pair were joint top for clearances among the Everton team, while their incisive passing helped lay the platform for the Blues’ attackers to do the damage at the opposite end of the pitch.
Keane found his man with 82 per cent of his passes, while Zouma’s 91 per cent success rate was highest of any Everton player who started the match.
The Frenchman showcased his blistering speed against Fulham, too. He clocked 20.7 mph at Goodison – a figure only matched by flying winger Theo Walcott.
Fulham’s Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic came into the game as the joint-top goalscorer in the Premier League. Much was made of the threat he would pose the Blues backline but he was dealt with admirably by the Everton defenders.
“His hold-up play is very good and I think he will cause a lot of defenders problems because of that,” Keane told evertontv
after the game. “We’ve dealt with him well, though. We practised that in the week and knew what we were coming up against, so we knew what to expect.”
A word, too, for goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. The England number one marked his first Everton game since signing a new six-year contract with a typically confident, assured display.
And he produced a game-changing intervention with the score at 1-0, dashing off his line to save superbly at the feet of Luciano Vietto when the Argentine was played through on goal by Andre Shurrle.
DIGNE SHINES AGAIN
Former Everton midfielder Olivier Dacourt was effusive when asked about countryman Lucas Digne’s qualities by evertonfc.com recently.
“Technically, he has more quality than your traditional left-back,” he said. “And he goes forward a lot. He was always an attacking full-back but developed that element of his game even more at Barcelona. He is the same as [Barca’s first-choice and Spain international] Jordi Alba.
“I am sure he will do well for Everton. Absolutely sure.”
From the evidence so far, Dacourt appears to be a shrewd judge of a player.
Digne has stepped seamlessly into the Blues’ back four. His enterprising runs forward and wicked left-footed crosses have consistently impressed ever since he made the move to Goodison Park from Barcelona.
And his performance against Fulham was arguably his most accomplished to date.
He made 13 sprints during the game as he galloped down the left flank, and also whipped in 11 crosses – only the superb Sigurdsson (15) made more. His desire to get on the ball, meanwhile, was highlighted by the fact he had 79 touches - a total only Gana surpassed on the day (81).
He also played a key role in keeping a talented Fulham outfit at bay, with his defensive astuteness and intelligent positioning evident throughout.
As each game passes, Digne is looking more and more like an outstanding acquisition for Everton.