For a man who signed a three-year contract that doubled his previous annual salary, Marco Silva arrived at Everton in a difficult position. His appointment was comically drawn out, with Watford explicitly blaming Everton when sacking Silva in January for their persistent interest from November onwards. The inherent goodwill that comes from freshness had virtually expired before Silva had signed on; so too had the honeymoon period. Everton is Silva’s sixth job since May 2014, and he has not reached 60 matches in charge of any club since leaving his first job at Estoril. The suggestion – and it comes with an accusatory tone – is that Silva is highly ambitious, intent on using clubs as a stepping stone to the top. At some point, that will count against him. Farhad Moshiri’s wealth has removed the ceiling on Everton’s potential, but they have quickly discovered that financial might can only assist a club with effective leadership, structure and direction. For too long, at least two of those have been lacking. If Sam Allardyce was the ultimate short-term fix, Silva must represent longevity.
The new manager is already instigating meaningful change. Everton signed six first-team players this summer – Richarlison, Yerry Mina, Lucas Digne, Kurt Zouma, Andre Gomes and Bernard; all were aged between 21 and 25. In the previous two seasons, ten players had arrived at Everton aged between 26 and 33: Gylfi Sigurdsson, Theo Walcott, Cenk Tosun, Wayne Rooney, Idrissa Gueye, Yannick Bolasie, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ashley Williams, Maarten Stekelenburg and Enner Valencia. In 2018/19, Everton are responsible for the youngest starting XI in the Premier League, 24.7 against Arsenal last month. Under Allardyce against Newcastle, they had one of the oldest (29.3). That is a remarkable turnaround in the space of five months.
Mistakes from Everton and the officials hand Arsenal a victory they hardly deserved Everton are an improved attacking unit too. Despite Allardyce’s insistence that his reputation as a defensive coach is unfair, Everton ranked 20th in the Premier League for total shots during his tenure, 19th for shots on target and 19th for chances created. This season, partly thanks to Richarlison’s arrival and partly due to playing Gylfi Sigurdsson in his preferred No 10 position, they rank 12th, 10th and 11th by the same measures. By no means perfect, but a notable improvement. Passing accuracy is up from 72.9 per cent under Allardyce to 77.7 per cent under Silva, proof of a team asked to play a different brand of football.
Against Leicester the front three dovetailed effectively, the brilliant Richarlison starting as a central forward but prepared to run the channels and allow Walcott to drift inside. When Wes Morgan was sent off for Leicester on Saturday, Silva’s immediate response was to bring on a striker to overpower the opposition. Things are changing. Ongoing concerns It can be hard for a manager to shake a reputation. The biggest challenge of being renowned as a short-termist is that supporters expect short-term success. Everton had won two of their opening seven matches, and some locals were already getting restless. ‘Was this worth all the hassle?,’ is the question whispered in nervous voices. The volume of the away support at the King Power on Saturday suggests those doubts are fading. Defensively, there have been significant teething problems.
Three new defenders were signed this summer and Silva has already used four different centre-back combinations, but the gnawing statistic is that the clean sheet against Fulham was Silva’s first in 17 matches at Everton and Watford; now 18. On Saturday, they allowed Leicester two clear cut chances before Ricardo Pereira’s magnificent equaliser.
Everton have been far too exposed to a quick counter attack so far this season. EFL Cup elimination against Southampton last week hardly helped, provoked by a baffling team selection from the manager. If Everton are unlikely to make a reasonable challenge for European football through league finish, the cup competitions hold more resonance. Meek – and entirely unnecessary – surrender to a worse team quickly erodes more goodwill, even if away victories claw it back. This Silva project will take time, and there is no reason why Everton should not give it as long as it takes. Having drifted ever since Roberto Martinez’s first season – and often enough before that – now is the time to build a sustainable team to make a home in their new stadium. It may rail against the preconception of modern football, but if Everton are in no danger of disaster then what is the rush? Having planned for a manager for more than six months, panic is foolish. But therein lies the paradox of Silva’s appointment at Everton: he is a manager with a reputation for short-termism who has taken on a long-term project. In such circumstances, regular signposts are needed that the team is heading in the right direction. A third away win of 2018 is an overdue example.
Interesting article, but it doesn't paint a picture of the real problem at Everton, which has clearly been ambition, recruitment, and until Moshiri arrived, resources. Until the owners up their game, and they've done that slightly this season, we won't move forward with any consistency.
Silva must be given time, even if it means a bumpy ride, and if we're serious about competing, then fans need to get on-board and stop crying at every obstacle.