Everton’s clash with West Ham United on Saturday has something of a “do or die” feel for Marco Silva.
The Toffees ended last season in spectacular style, taking 13 points at home from Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Burnley without conceding a single goal, while they also gained a 2-2 draw away at Spurs on the final day.
Another summer of heavy investment followed at Goodison Park, with Farhad Moshiri injecting more of his cash to make Andre Gomes’ loan permanent. Elsewhere, Moise Kean, Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Fabian Delph, Jonas Lossl and Djibril Sidibe all arrived.
But, for one reason or another, things just haven’t clicked and heading into the weekend’s fixtures, Everton sit 18th in the table having endured a four-game Premier League losing streak. Silva, unsurprisingly, finds himself staring down the barrel.
But should the Portuguese bite the bullet if Everton fall to another defeat on Saturday, or even just fail to pick up three points? In the fast-moving, ever-changing landscape of modern football management, the answer would read yes almost every time.
However, Everton are something of an anomaly – a basket case among lunatics.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
After spending 11 relatively stable years under the management of David Moyes, hammering at – and sometimes dinting – the door of English football’s elite, the Toffees have now cycled through five (Silva included) different permanent and temporary managers since 2013, each experiencing varying levels of success and failure and, crucially, each bringing their own unique styles.
Moyes’ successor, Roberto Martinez, guided Everton to fifth with 72 points in 2013/14, their highest-ever Premier League total. He did so with a brilliant blend of experience left by Moyes, the vibrant youth of the likes of Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu, and some genuinely breathtaking football.
But Everton were never able to reach those heights again, finishing 11th in the two following seasons, resulting in Martinez’s sacking. Although his situation did admittedly look beyond hope, with Martinez went almost three years of squad building and structuring toward a specific style of play. So started Everton’s chaotic managerial cycle.
Ronald Koeman followed Martinez and managed a seventh-place finish in 2016/17, shoring up the Everton defence and bringing the very best out of Lukaku. Alongside then-director of football Steve Walsh, the Dutchman started putting the pieces of a squad in place to be built in his image. By October 2017, he was gone with Walsh following months later.
A short, troubled spell under caretaker David Unsworth left Everton looking worryingly out of sorts, even if they hadn’t entered crisis mode, before Sam Allardyce came in to – if you believe the wildly inaccurate but common perception – “save the day”. The Toffees had the least number of shots (213) and the fourth-lowest passing accuracy (72.9%) of any Premier League team during the former Bolton man’s time in charge and played some truly turgid football.
Allardyce was, of course, relieved and replaced by Silva in May 2018 but standing where we are today, you can see in just a few paragraphs that Everton’s squad, style and substance has been drawn up, tore apart and repurposed over, and over, and over. They’re actually further away from dining at the top table now than they have been in years and whether they were right to be dismissed or not, this constant coming and going of managers has a huge role to play in that.
Silva’s job, then, was never going to be easy.
Of course, he shouldn’t be let off the hook. This season, Everton have been far too predictable, nowhere near creative enough and that blasted set-piece problem has reared its ugly head again – no Premier League team has conceded more goals from set-pieces than Everton (21) since Silva arrived at the club.
Silva does need to learn the value of adaptation and become less stubborn (as can be read about in the article below).
However, there are some real positives to be gleaned from his time in charge. Silva appears to have a very good relationship with the current director of football, Marcel Brands. And working alongside each other, the pair have already managed to bring the average age of Everton’s squad down by a full year since 2017/18, from 26.6 to 25.6. The players brought in to do this are of genuine international class. The likes of Lucas Digne and Richarlison are either in or about to enter their prime and regularly turn out for the likes of France and Brazil.
There have been periods of struggle, but that run at the end of last season gave us all a glimpse into just what Silva’s Everton can be capable of, toppling the big guns, often for fun. During that spell, Evertonians were at their intimidating, vehement best, turning Goodison Park into a fortress, bear pit and hunting ground all at the same time. It’s amazing what can happen when a manager, his players and their supporters all come together as one.
— The-Toffees.com (@thetoffees_com) July 7, 2019
As we said before, Silva cannot be let totally off the hook. If he is to save his job, he must make the necessary changes.
However, for Moshiri to pull the trigger once again at this early stage in the season, while Everton remain in both cups and sit just seven points off fourth place, seems extremely premature. Even with a director of football, dispensing of another manager and bringing another new set of ideas in is very unhealthy.
“It doesn’t make sense for me and for a football club to have a project and then change it because we didn’t win the last three games. You can not do that, it is impossible.”
This may sound like a big claim but a squad of Everton’s strength is, in almost every universe, too strong to go down.
At some point, this endless cycle of managerial hell simply must end. Rather than pulling apart yet another squad and searching for another manager, it’s time for everyone associated with the blue half of Merseyside to rally, work through this tough patch and embrace the benefits of consistency.