Mason Holgate

Everton: What was different, and what’s the way forward?

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Everton got off the mat in style on Saturday, three days after a mistake-filled 5-2 loss to its Merseyside rivals.

While that loss wasn’t necessarily as bad as it looked on the score board, it was wretched at the back and enough to warrant a change at manager.

[ RECAP: Everton shock poor Chelsea ]

Duncan Ferguson took the reins at Goodison Park, and things were much improved in a 3-1 defeat of Chelsea.

What was different? Plenty, though most came in the form of personnel performances rather than changes (Also, Chelsea was terrible, but that negates little for an Everton side which had been insipid against inferior competition to Saturday’s visitors).

1) The Formation: Duncan Ferguson opted for a straight-forward 4-2-3-1 that often came closer to your traditional 4-4-2. The Toffees hemorrhaged possession but pounded away at the Chelsea attackers and counted on their swift, talented attackers to do their damage with limited chances. Call it the Newcastle United model. With Chelsea a bit off, it played out perfectly for Ferguson.

“Who knows? A new face, a new voice, a new message, who knows? These things just happen in football and the players give a reaction when they lose a manager.

“I think that’s right. What we really need at this club is the work ethic, the team really needs to work their absolute socks off. The fans really got behind us and believe me that gets you an extra goal.”

2) The Force: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, given the stage and his track record, had the game of his life. That’s not exaggeration. The 22-year-old had six shots, two goals, and won 10 aerial battles. That’s exactly what’s required given the formation and tactics outlined in Point No. 1. After scoring three goals in four matches a month ago, “DCL” had been very poor and flubbed his chances against Liverpool. This was a beauty, and Calvert-Lewin was clearly playing for his coach.

“It was a massive game for us and I have a very close relationship with Duncan. He has stuck by me for the three years I have known him. The most important thing was to go out and give 100%.”

I mean, that’s always the most important thing, but we can’t blame a 22-year-old for trading on the cliche market.

3) Other changes: Ferguson took a risk in deploying Morgan Schneiderlin over Tom Davies. The former had been one of the Toffees worst statistical players this year, while Davies is a hometown kid who had admittedly been very poor for the better part of a month. Schneiderlin wasn’t great in passing, but was steadier than the kid and won six tackles. When Davies came into the match, he wasn’t great but was more advanced and his lone positive contribution was a big one:

Yerry Mina missed the match through injury, which may’ve played a role in Ferguson’s decision to go to four at the back, but the difference in defense was down to both Mason Holgate and Michael Keane playing dramatically better. Keane especially, having not been credited with a single tackle in the loss to Everton.

We should save some space for Jordan Pickford, whose passing stats suffered from a directive to “get the ball out of there ASAP” but registered three saves in an improved performance. Pickford hasn’t been steady for his club — incredible against West Ham, terrible versus Liverpool and Brighton, and if he can eliminate the bad days and be just a bit above average he can be a big difference. Steadier work from the backs will help that.

And really that’s what will fix the Toffees. The attack hasn’t been amazing but it hasn’t been relegation worthy. And frankly the backs have not been awful, allowing the third-fewest attempts per match in the league, but have been prone to absolutely horrendous mistakes that left Pickford on an island. The less the keeper is in damage control, the higher Everton can rise.

4) So Big Dunc? Given the immediate road ahead, Ferguson’s approach and passion could give the club the leeway to wait a few weeks to make sure it hires a steady, experienced hand considering their long-term goals. Ferguson might be a name for the future, but as we outlined earlier this week… European spots remain there for the taking! Their next few matches provide chances to directly affect teams above them, with Manchester United at Old Trafford and Arsenal visiting Goodison. There’s also an opportunity to beat Leicester City and get to a League Cup semifinal.

Those are two routes to Europe right in front of the Toffees. Ferguson’s Brucian (or Benitezian) tactics and system can give them a chance to get two or three points from the league matches, and certainly can be enough to out-duel the Foxes at home. And you might say, so maybe he’s the man! Don’t look past what the club means to him. But in the long run, the talent and ambition of Everton needs a sustained system that isn’t just about “grinding it out.” Maybe Ferguson can supply that but is that a risk to take now, with Arsenal, Manchester United, and Spurs all wobbling in ways you wouldn’t expect in a given season? A commitment to working hard is just the first step to success.

Fired up Everton shock Chelsea

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Everton beat Chelsea 3-1 at Goodison Park on Saturday as the Toffees reacted superbly to manager Marco Silva being fired in midweek.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Goals early in each half from Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin set them on their way to a massive three points for Everton as Chelsea wasted several glorious chances. Mateo Kovacic grabbed their lone goal to make it interesting, but Calvert-Lewin scored late on amid glorious celebrations from caretaker boss, and former Everton star striker, Duncan Fergsuon.

With the win Everton momentarily move out of the bottom three and have 17 points, while Chelsea lost for the second time in the last three PL games and remain in fourth but may only be three points clear of fifth-place a the end of the weekend.


3 things we learned

1. Ferguson’s bravery pays off: As a player Duncan Ferguson was totally committed and Everton’s caretaker boss received a performance from his players which would have made him proud. He set Everton up in an aggressive 4-4-2 formation with plenty of attacking talents and it worked. Chelsea couldn’t get out of their own half early in each half, and strong, committed defending rattled the Blues. Everton showed signs that Ferguson may be the man they’ve been looking for. He certainly fired up their talented but recently lackluster squad.

2. Clean sheets biggest issue for Chelsea: Four clean sheets in 24 games in all competitions this season isn’t good enough for a team which wants to finish in the top four. Frank Lampard had a face like thunder when Everton went 2-0 up as Chelsea were their own worst enemies time and time again. No team in the PL’s top 10 have conceded more goals than Chelsea so far this season. Tomori and Rudiger were missed as Christensen and Zouma were bullied by Everton’s attack. It’s a familiar story for Chelsea.

3. Physicality too much for Pulisic: He’s had an incredible few months for Chelsea but Pulisic was clearly targeted by the Everton defense on Saturday. The USMNT winger was clattered time and time again and was left on the floor on many occasions. He battled hard but was given no time or space on the ball. He will now be receiving special treatment like this every time he steps on the pitch in the PL.

Man of the Match: Dominic Calvert-Lewin – A real handful for the Chelsea defense as he battered them and scored twice. Led the line superbly and imitated what Duncan Fergsuon used to do. Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic scored a really good goal and ran the show in central midfield and he didn’t deserve to be on the losing team, but this was DLC’s day.


The Toffees got off to a perfect start as Richarlison scored with the first meaningful effort of the game.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin set up the move and ball was pushed to the right where Djibril Sidibe crossed for Richarlison to head home. Goodison went wild as Big Duncan Ferguson galloped down the touchline in celebration.

The Toffees almost doubled their lead as Theo Walcott crossed for Richarlison but the Brazilian couldn’t quite get on the end of it. Soon after Calvert-Lewin had a great chance but he never looked confident as Kepa saved it.

Chelsea were almost handed a way back into the game as Michael Keane gave the ball away inside his own box but Tammy Abraham and Willian failed to make the most of a glorious opportunity.

Pulisic then nutmegged Gylfi Sigurdsson to set up Willian who crossed for Abraham but Chelsea’s leading goalscorer couldn’t convert as the visitors finally woke up with Mason Mount crossing moments later but Abraham couldn’t get on the end of it. Mason Holgate then blocked Mount’s shot as Everton battened down the hatches.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The second half continued at the same incredible tempo as Everton doubled their lead within a few minutes after having a couple of chances. Kurt Zouma‘s clearance caused havoc in his own box and Calvert-Lewin won the ball back and slotted home. Pandemonium at Goodison as VAR checked and confirmed there was no handball by DLC.

Moments later Everton almost made it 3-0 but Richarlison’s effort was saved by Kepa, and then Chelsea were back in it.

Azpilicueta’s run into the box saw the ball eventually find Kovacic on the edge of the box and his shot towards goal went in. VAR checked that Abraham hadn’t interfered from an offside position and he goal stood.

The chances kept coming for both teams as Everton were eager to put the game to bed as Walcott raced clear but Kepa saved at the near post.

Chelsea looked in control as the final moments arrived as the excellent Kovacic ran at goal but smashed just wide and then Mount blazed a great opportunity high and wide after Kovacic again pulled the strings.

Substitute Tom Davies got his header all wrong as Everton tried to wrap up the victory, with Jordan Pickford brilliantly denying Azpilicueta at the other end.

Calvert-Lewin then bundled home as Ferguson ran down the sidelines amid jubilant scenes as an Everton hero secured a massive win on his managerial debut.

Everton must think bigger than retread replacement for Silva

Photo by Richard Sellers - PA Images via Getty Images
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Marco Silva is out as Everton manager, the Toffees turning the page on a disappointing execution of their ambitious vision.

Despite plenty of investment, Silva’s Everton wasn’t able to do much of anything good and now sits in the Premier League’s Bottom Three after 15 match days.

[ MORE: Everton sacks Silva ]

Silva’s men finished eighth in the league during his first season, but the best he can say about his truncated sophomore campaign is that the club are into the League Cup quarterfinals.

So what will Everton do now? Well, Duncan Ferguson is in charge for the Toffees’ Saturday visit from Chelsea, though the club has vowed to “swiftly” find their next full-time boss.

Frankly, the club could do its next man a favor by taking its time, as the post-Chelsea fixtures are Manchester United, Leicester City in the aforementioned cup fixture, and Arsenal.

Back on topic, what the Toffees should do is appoint a man with vision. While it would be tempting to slide into the comfortable slippers that are David Moyes, appointing him or some Sam Allardyce or Mark Hughes type would be another step in the wrong direction.

That’s because this is truly an opportunity for the right coach to take the club in a tremendous direction. Everton might be in the drop zone, but its talent is a mile ahead of true relegation candidacy.

Whoever is hired — and this is why Big Sam is probably holding aloft a boombox outside Goodison Park — is going to “save the Toffees” and earn another season at the helm. Allowing that to be some retread would be a mistake.

Rafa Benitez isn’t going to come to Goodison Park because of his relationship with Liverpool, but a a manager of his ilk should very much be in play. The Toffees boast a still-improving star forward in Richarlison and two proper fullbacks in Lucas Digne and Djibril Sidibe.

Richarlison is 22, Alex Iwobi is 23, and Moise Kean just 19 and adapting to a new country. Defenders Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate, and Michael Keane are all under 26. A manager who can develop and fine tune talent will have a field day with this roster. Imagine Dominic Calvert-Lewin reaching his potential.

Their 9.1 shots allowed per game is a figure bettered by only Man City and Chelsea. The side has been prone to allowing those shots to be dangerous ones, but there’s every reason to believe that fixing their fourth-worst goals conceded total should happen soon given some adequate goalkeeping performances.

Jordan Pickford is England’s No. 1, but hasn’t been right for the Toffees. Logically, he’ll get back to at least average and start stealing some points. The goals are going to keep coming, and likely increase with the wins; Everton is eighth in the xG table.

The Premier League is better when Everton is a good side. The Toffees are not going to be relegated this season, and need to approach that hiring with that mindset. Get someone worth believing in, not just blind hope and a nod to the past.

Everton’s Silva, Holgate react to blowout derby loss

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Marco Silva‘s big trouble grew larger after a 5-2 loss to Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby at Anfield on Wednesday, but Everton defender Mason Holgate said his team’s rookie mistakes are not the manager’s fault.

When asked how much fault the players bear with their manager under fire, there were no minced words from the 23-year-old.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 5-2 Everton ]

“Pretty much all of it,” he said. “The manager has told us what we need to be doing and we have not gone out and done that. We played well in patches of the game but route one, direct balls are not things the manager should be telling us about. We should be dealing with and we have not done that.”

Silva accepted responsibility for the result and said “my words will change nothing” when asked about his fate as Everton boss, but he also agreed with his defender about the mistakes.

He was asked point-blank about Everton’s status in relegation zone.

“Really, really bad for us. We are making the same mistakes. We are not strong enough to be in a different position. I’m not here to talk about the players because they are fighting. Our opponent was more brave than us. We should be better, of course.”

It’s difficult to imagine anything changing in the near future even if Silva is fired. There were very redeeming performances from the players at Anfield. Richarlison was the top performer, while Lucas Digne was adequate.

It should be noted that the Toffees did score twice, and produced numerous chances. Moise Kean missed a late chance, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin could’ve won a penalty in the first half (It wasn’t the type of foul VAR is ever going to overrule, but it wouldn’t have flipped it the other way had Mike Dean awarded it).

But this was about defending, and keeping the balls out of the net. Goal scorer Michael Keane and Holgate were under fire all night, and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was credited with more errors than saves (which isn’t difficult; He didn’t have a save).

These players will remain the same as Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal loom on the league docket, with a League Cup trip to Leicester City thrown into the mix.

Silva’s likely to be dismissed, and Everton might be best served not named a successor until after this run of fixtures.

Liverpool smash five past rivals Everton

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Sadio Mane had a goal and two assists as Liverpool tore through Everton back line in a 5-2 win at Anfield on Wednesday to bring their table lead back to eight points.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Divock Origi scored twice, with Xherdan Shaqiri and Georginio Wijnaldum also scoring in the win.

Michael Keane and Richarlison netted for Everton, who slipped into the relegation zone. The Toffees sit 18th, a point behind three teams.


Three things we learned

1. Klopp’s “second choice” attack brings first class results: Origi continued his Toffee-killing ways with a first half brace, and Shaqiri delivered a goal while Adam Lallana didn’t look too rusty in a rare start. The manager has done this to his Merseyside rivals before, thumbing his nose at the gulf in class by keeping stars out of the Starting XI. It’s difficult to perceive it as anything but that, especially considering that there’s no giant ahead: Bournemouth is Saturday’s opponent.

2. Reds open floodgates and own back line in 6-goal first half: Make no mistake about the fact that Liverpool was much, much better than the Toffees in opening a 4-1 lead before halftime, but Richarlison’s wide open headed goal as the teams headed to the locker rooms showed the

3. Toffees do little to save under fire Silva: There was graft and guile, but Everton had little impact on a wobbly Reds back line. Alex Iwobi and Richarlison had their moments, to be sure, and the two goals are nice, but the Toffees were carved up like a holiday feast. Now in the Bottom Three, Everton looks at the following fixtures ahead: Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal, with a League Cup trip to Leicester City thrown into the mix.

Man of the Match: Origi had two great goals and Sadio Mane relished his Derby day. He would’ve gotten our nod after a goal and two sensational assists but he missed an 81st minute chance as if to prove his fallibility and then blew a breakaway chance in the 85th. Origi gets his derby due.


Origi had Liverpool ahead before the clock hit six, finishing a lightning counter attack. It was inspired by an incredible pass from Sadio Mane, and Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made the highlight look better by charging to the top of the 18 and letting the Belgian walk around him.

Shaqiri had it 2-0 just over 10 minutes later. Trent Alexander-Arnold sent a rocket cross some 60 yards that Mane took down with his chest before playing the Swiss striker into the box for calm finish past Pickford.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Toffees answered through unlikely source Keane, who walked over Dejan Lovren after trapping a Alex Iwobi pass and drilled it past Adrian in the 21st minute.

Iwobi then sent Calvert-Lewin behind the Reds back line, but the Everton youngster took a sloppy touch. Virgil Van Dijk fouled the player but it wasn’t called by Mike Dean and VAR was not going to call it back.

Origi had it 3-1 before long, though, running onto a long ball from Dejan Lovren and taking two classy touches to complete his brace.

Liverpool were still in danger at times, as Richarlison was denied an assist from a sliding Lovren in the 44th.

Mane then made it 4-1 before the end of the half, as Alexander-Arnold led a counter attack off an Everton corner.

Richarlison answered in first half stoppage, turning a Bernard cross past Adrian with a fine header.

Liverpool started the second half in brighter fashion, and Everton’s chances were fewer and farther between. Tom Davies mishit a chance that Adrian comfortably gathered in the 65th.

Mane missed two chances to seal the deal, but Moise Kean let him off the hook by beating Adrian but firing wide in the 85th.

Wijnaldum added Liverpool’s fifth in the 90th minute, taking a feed after Roberto Firmino roasted Mason Holgate and poking past Pickford.