Everton

Everton making big improvements on Bernard's watch

 • by Mark Thompson
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Big things can come in small packages. In Everton’s case, a 5ft 4ins one. Bernard may not have played much yet but he’s made a big difference when he has.

The newly signed Brazilian’s first meaningful game time in the Premier League came against West Ham United, brought on for Morgan Schneiderlin just before half-time with the Hammers leading 2-0.

Bernard couldn’t help Marco Silva’s side salvage a point, but they put in a much better performance with him on the pitch.

He brings something to the Everton team that they are sorely lacking across the rest of the squad: chance creation.

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Looking at the opportunities that he creates, Bernard is sixth in the Premier League for the most expected goals assisted per 90 minutes (with 0.42), according to Football Whispers’ model.

No other Everton player is in the top 50.

A small man covering big distances

His start at Goodison Park has been so good that there have been suggestions Bernard could fight his way into the Brazil national team squad, although he has loyally played these rumours down, saying that he is only focussing on Everton at the moment.

The national team may not hold the best memories for him; after two substitute appearances in 2014, he played the full 90 minutes in the infamous 7-1 defeat to Germany in the World Cup semi-final.

Bernard’s success makes a mockery of the conventional wisdom that players who don’t reach a certain level of ‘physicality’ won’t be able to make it in the Premier League.

It’s a concern that has followed the midfielder throughout his career, as he was twice released by Atlético Mineiro as a teenager because of his size.

We could have seen Bernard in the Premier League much sooner if things had gone differently in 2013, though. Tottenham Hotspur, as well as Borussia Dortmund, were said to be interested in him, but he eventually moved to Shakhtar Donetsk for €25million.

Bernard finding his feet at Everton so quickly means Silva is able to shuffle around his forward line and finally drop Cenk Tosun, who seemed to be an embodiment of Everton’s mediocre attack.

Richarlison has moved to the main striker role in his place, and it seems to suit him well, as he scored in his first start there against Leicester City.

It’s not just the attack that Bernard is helping, though. In his short time in the Premier League so far (no pun intended – he’s only played 160 minutes) he’s averaged 4.49 tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes.

That rate will almost certainly go down as he features more matches, but it’s a sign that he has the will and the aptitude to pitch in when his team loses the ball.

A free transfer after he was out of contract, if Bernard keeps going like he’s started Everton will have a bargain on their hands.

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