As Everton fell behind to Sheffield United on Saturday afternoon, a familiar disappointment filled Goodison Park.
Not because of the fact Everton had fallen behind in a game they had dominated for long periods, but as a result of how they did it.
Yerry Mina’s own goal from Sheffield United’s corner kick was the 20th the Blues have conceded from a set-piece since the beginning of last season, more than any other Premier League side.
A failure to defend set-pieces has been a regular occurrence since Marco Silva was appointed manager and an issue the Portuguese manager is yet to resolve.
After struggling with it last season, Everton appeared to have turned a corner and Silva’s preferred style of zonal marking was starting to take shape.
Fast forward to this season and that progress has swiftly evaporated, with Everton’s weakness from set-pieces back in force and something sides are more than happy to take advantage of.
Quite why that has happened is unknown, but a former Silva player may have provided the answer in a recent interview.
Gonçalo Santos worked under Silva at Estoril and revealed that when it came to training being split among the coaches, it was the Everton manager’s former assistant, João Pedro Sousa, that was in charge of the defensive work.
“He was Marco’s right arm, but Marco was the one who gave almost all the training. He was always very controlled,” he told Diario de Noticias.
“I remember that if they split the training, he would be more with the defensive part and Marco more with the offensive dimension. He also helped a lot with the set pieces.”
Sousa, of course, left Everton for Famalicão this summer and perhaps that’s where Everton’s problems truly began.
Silva not only lost his right-hand man, but also the one who was presumably giving him the tactics and advice when it came to the defensive side of things as well.
Couple that with hiring Luis Boa Morte as his replacement, who, as a former attacking player, is unlikely to have replaced the defensive knowledge that Sousa was bringing to the table, and suddenly a clearer explanation of Everton’s current issues emerges.