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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Error-strewn Everton architects of their own downfall against Wolves

Neves, Jimenez and Dendoncker on target in 3-1 win at Goodison Park as Wolves solidify seventh place

Everton's Richarlison, right, clashes with Wolverhampton Wanderers' Romain Saiss at Goodison Park. Reuters
Everton's Richarlison, right, clashes with Wolverhampton Wanderers' Romain Saiss at Goodison Park. Reuters

A Portuguese manager has a coherent, creative, solid side in seventh place. But not Marco Silva and not Everton. Six months after Silva’s reign began against Wolves, seemingly rife with possibilities as his protégé Richarlison scored twice, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side instead appeared the upwardly-mobile team with a bright future. An eviscerated Everton looked an expensive mess, their talent evident at times but their inadequacies all too apparent in a sixth defeat in nine league games.

They could not cope with Wolves or, indeed, a black cat who staged an impromptu pitch invasion, completing the length of Goodison Park. None of Everton’s defenders stopped it. Theirs was an all-too-familiar error-strewn display of naivety. “We keep doing the same things,” lamented Silva.

Wolves may be newcomers to the top flight, but they showed more savviness, a first win at Goodison since 1979 putting them on course for a highest finish since 1980. “Seventy per cent of this team today was with us in the Championship,” said Nuno. “We don’t forget. We still have a long way to go.”

But their development is both smooth and impressive. Two summer signings scored to highlight the way astute recruitment has underpinned their rise whereas confused thinking in the transfer market has contributed to Everton’s problems.

They look less a work in progress than a group regressing after an encouraging autumn. They have costly components and a marked self-destructive streak. “If the opponents do something special and are really better, I am the first one to give them the congratulations but when I can see how we lost the game, giving everything too easy, it is really tough for me,” Silva added.

Defensive deficiencies and dead-ball difficulties are recurring themes and Everton have conceded five goals from set-pieces in their last three games. “We are giving everything to our opponents: sometimes from nowhere, including the penalty,” Silva said. Leighton Baines’ cameo was curtailed by injury, but only after he had tugged back Matt Doherty. Ruben Neves, who scored against Everton on his Premier League debut, repeated the feat with the spot kick. Then Michael Keane needlessly took out Diogo Jota when Kurt Zouma would have got the ball. Joao Moutinho took the resulting free kick and the excellent Raul Jimenez headed in his fourth goal in three games. “We try to invest our time in set pieces,” said Nuno. It has been spent profitably.

Leander Dendoncker, who would have opened his Wolves account in the first half but for a fine Jordan Pickford save, then registered a maiden goal in the second, hooking in Wolves’ third after Zouma blocked the influential Diogo Jota’s shot. Everton, once again, were wide open.

They usually are without Idrissa Gueye, denied a move to Paris Saint-Germain but with a groin problem instead the official reason for his absence. Silva’s distrust of Everton’s other defensive midfielders was signalled by the presence of James McCarthy and Morgan Schneiderlin on the bench. The lightweight Andre Gomes afforded the back four too little protection against Wolves’ intelligent counter-attacking.

In Gomes’ defence, he had drawn Everton level in emphatic fashion, rifling a shot into the top corner following a driving run. The move was started by Tom Davies, the local lad who is afforded too little patience by his home crowd, but if the goal was evidence of Gomes’ considerable talent, the fact it was a belated first for Everton felt an indictment.

If he was miscast, Neves looked a more natural defensive midfielder, just as Jimenez was a far more adroit target man than Cenk Tosun and Doherty a more vibrant right-back than Seamus Coleman. The margin of Wolves’ superiority should worry Everton; so, too, the raft of empty seats in the closing stages and the prospect of further unhappy days at Goodison Park. The next five visitors are Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. Everton may become sadly accustomed to the sound of boos and the sense of demoralising defeat.

Updated: February 2, 2019 10:16 PM

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