Everton are currently the only Premier League side yet to concede a goal this season, with Jordan Pickford, Seamus Coleman, Michael Keane, Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne boasting two clean sheets taken from Crystal Palace and Watford.
The Toffees also held the Eagles and Hornets to just two shots on target each, while winning a total of 44 defensive aerial duels, completing 48 successful tackles, 23 interceptions, and 31 clearances from the two fixtures combined.
Keeping Javi Gracia’s Vicarage Road natives at bay last Saturday has led to a lot of praise for Silva’s defensive tactics this season, although you have to go back to February 6 for the last time we conceded a Premier League goal at Goodison Park.
Only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals from open play while on the road than us in that time, too, with Silva able to orchestrate a complete turn around in how our backline fared during the enforced February break due to our Fourth Round exit in the FA Cup.
Since then, we have put a lot more pressure on the opposing team when out of possession; with the midfielders acting as the first line of defence, which has enforced errors and the ball being turned over in our favour.
Nicholas, though, suggested last week that our summer signings had made us a creative side, but one that was ‘weak’ at the back.
“They went big in the market and invested up front,” the 57-year-old claimed. “Have they got strikers yet? Is there anything in there that could spark them into life? They have given the manager every resource he could get.
“Where are they going to play Alex Iwobi? I see a team that is going to be creative but weak at the back.”
But, changing his tune on the Blues’ defence, the former Arsenal and Celtic striker wrote as part of his prediction for our trip to Villa Park: “Everton haven’t really clicked into action yet. I don’t think they are going to be amazing to watch, but the improvement has definitely been defensively – Michael Keane has started the season well.”
Nicholas is within his reasons to single out Keane for his efforts, as the £60,000-a-week centre-half was responsible for the joint-moist interceptions (4), second-most successful tackles (2) and aerial duels won (4) by any Everton player against Palace.
The 26-year-old also ranked first overall for clearances (9) against Watford, along with six successful aerial duels and a 79% pass competition rate.
In terms of Friday night’s encounter with Dean Smith’s Aston Villa, Nicholas expects the Birmingham-based outfit to put their first point on the board since returning to the Premier League by holding Everton to a one-all draw.
“Villa have been OK,” he added. “They had a good 60 minutes or so against Tottenham, and then a bit of an eye-opener against Bournemouth last weekend. They have spent a lot of money, but the quality steps up in the Premier League.
“Villa will think they need to get something on the board [against Everton]. I think it will be physical, but not a high-scoring game.”