Image Source: Ben Sutherland (CC BY 2.0)
There have been four managers sacked so far this season, the season before it was 10, and according to the bookmakers Marco Silva heads the favourites to be the next one to go. However, the question should be, does the Portuguese coach deserve to be sacked from a club he has spent just 250 days at? Is it really possible to build anything in such a short time?
The Toffeemen have suffered this season, that there is no doubt. Early exits in both the Carabao Cup and FA Cup have not helped the argument for Silva staying. The club have also lost 11 games with five of those being at home, and they have a -2 goal deficit. As a result Silva is under intense pressure and his situation wasn't helped at a recent club AGM club meeting where owner Farhad Moshiri claimed that Everton's season so far wasn't good enough. However the problem he has is that modern day ownership means less time for managers to impress when surely time is what most need to be able to make a positive change, and he may be judged by the hierarchy on his next few games.
It is also important to remember this is a team in transition and they are still on course to beat the 49 points achieved last season. Farhad Moshiri needs to be strong and resist the pressure from impatient fans on social media, where it is all too easy to voice your dissatisfaction and put unnecessary pressure on players and a manager who actually need patience and support more than anything.
Below are 6 reasons why we believe Everton need to keep faith with Marco Silva, and hold firm against the pressure of those who expect miracles in 6 months just because of a little new found wealth.
1. Stability is key
Since David Moyes left Everton in the summer of 2013 Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce have passed through the famous doors. That's not to mention caretaker shifts in between for David Unsworth. Chopping and changing hasn't benefitted the club at all, it creates uncertainty for players. Will a new manager deem them good enough? Or a good fit for their system?
The last manager to be given significant time to build was David Moyes, who was brought in to replace Walter Smith whose best years had passed him at that point albeit with a difficult transfer policy. However, Moyes came in and was given time and still had meagre budgets to deal with and slowly but surely guided the club from the bottom half of the league to a regular top 6 team, finishing in 4th one season and qualifying for the qualifiers of the Champions League. What if Everton's patience had run out with Moyes less than a season in?
The fact is that until a manager has at least 3 transfer windows, he's largely managing the previous managers team, and that may not suit his style of play or long term plans for the team. Therefore is it really a surprise that so many managers struggle in the first season. On top of that, when everyone knows a manager has limited time to make an impression, it gives players more power to influence with their performances. If they knew a new manager would definitely be there at the start of next season, whatever their final league position, the players would try to perform, because if they don't they will be sold, rather than the manager sacked.
Who is to say that a new manager would do any better with the resources that they have? It has been proven time and again that a club needs stability, and Everton are the perfect example. Stability is key in football and has certainly been for Everton, history suggests that when the club believed in their manager and gave them time, success and trophies followed.
2. Getting the most out of key players
One of the most frustrating things for fans is to see their club spend a huge amount of money on one player, and then when they play for the club they seem half the player they thought they were getting. Therefore clubs need a manager who is able to get the most out of their key players.
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The perfect example of this is when Everton paid an eye watering £45m for Gylfi Sigurdsson. This transfer was part of Everton's attempt to replace Lukaku's goals by recruiting goalscoring midfielders, and based on 3 very good seasons for Swansea where he scored 27 goals and assisted 26 goals in 101 Premier League starts it seemed like a decent choice. However in his first season at Everton Sigurgdsson managed just 4 goals and 3 assists in 25 Premier League starts and was often played on the wing, which is not his naturally favoured position. Yet in the 24 Premier League starts under Silva's tactics, which includes playing him more centrally, he has managed 9 goals and 3 assists, which is his best goals per game ratio since arriving in the EPL. This is certainly evidence that Gylfi Sigurdsson's performances have improved considerably since playing for Silva.
Few would argue that Everton have made a few transfer mistakes over the last couple of years, they've had money to spend but no clear plan of how to achieve success as a result. Davy Klaassen springs to mind instantly, who although is a decent player, maybe he's just not suited to the Premier League. However Silva has certainly had more hits than misses in his first transfer window.
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When a manager hunts down his former club for a player it can arguably be seen as short sighted and that is what Silva did when he signed Richarlison from Watford but there can be no regrets for putting down an initial £35m on the Brazilian player whose rich form in the league got him called up for the national side. He has scored 10 goals in the league this season and at just 21 years of age looks like a fantastic buy for the club.
Lucas Digne has also been one of Everton's most consistent performers this season. Whilst singing Bernard on a free transfer from Shakhtar Donetsk was great business, and has done well considering his slight build has had to get used to the extra physicality of the EPL. Then there are two very astute loan singings in Gomes and Zouma, who have been regulars in the side and also very consistent performers for the club. Another ex Barcelona player was also brought in, Yerry Mina, based on a decent World Cup but he hasn't settled thus far, possibly due to injuries, maybe it will just take a little more time.
It's clear though that Silva and Marcel Brands work well together, they buy players for positions that are needed, and they don't try and fit round pegs in square holes, unlike a certain previous manager who tried to fit as many central attacking midfielders in the side as possible.
However it's not just transfers in to the club where Silva and Brands have been strong. During the latest winter transfer window Everton stood firm and rejected intense pressure from financial giants PSG for Idrissa Gueye, one of Everton's long standing key players. There is an argument for selling Gueye as he's 29 now and not the most technically gifted in possession. However, he's important to Everton, and with PSG only willing to go as high as £26.2m, they were clearly trying to get him on the cheap. Gueye is a naturally athletic player so can most likely maintain his level for at least another 3 years, so not selling on the cheap sends a clear message that Silva is aiming to build a team rather than continue to feed bigger clubs with Everton's best players.
Now this will surely be a controversial point as Silva has come under a lot of criticism for his zonal marking at set pieces, which there is no denying hasn't so far been working. Either the zonal marking needs to go or the players need time to master the tactic.
However, the reason Silva's tactics are to be applauded is because before the players heads dropped around the time of the last minute loss to Liverpool they had played some great football, best attacking football in years thanks to his tactics. That first half performance away to Arsenal was what people had been wanting to see from Everton vs a Top 6 team for years, they attacked, pressed hard, and really had Arsenal on the ropes until The Gunners scored early in the 2nd half to dampen the confidence of the Everton players. It was the first time in years we had seen Everton approach a top side away from home with the mindset of trying to beat them rather than just survive, and that's the mindset needed if you're going to become a Top 4 side.
On top of that, if you look at Everton's performances under Marco Silva statistically compared with last season, they have over 3 shots per game more than last season, over 4% more possession on average than last season, and a 3% increase in pass accuracy over last season. So other than struggling on defending set pieces, they rest from a tactical point of view is very encouraging.
5. He talks sense
Last season Everton had to endure a manager who smirked and laughed when asked about the fans reaction to a substitution
made during the Burnley game. This reaction from Sam Allardyce didn't go down well with the fans, and rightly so, the supporters shouldn't have their thoughts laughed at by the manager of a club. They want a manager who respects the fans and understands the club and what it stands for.
Marco Silva on the other hand appears to understand the role of being Everton manager, and speaks as though he cares about the club and what it stands for. Every comment he's made has been spot on accurate and he also hasn't been scared to speak the truth, for example encouraging his players to be more aggressive and show more desire but remaining very professional by not singling out any individuals, which would likely cause unrest in the dressing room.
6. Possible Replacements
Even if you're not a fan of Marco Silva, is there any point replacing Silva if they don't have a proven top manager lined up? All it will achieve is more disruption and another rebuilding job with a new manager who has no proven top level track record, yet has his own new ideas and new tactics, which the players wont be familiar with, and it will be back to square one again.
If we look at the 5 favourites to take over if Marco Silva is replaced, they either haven't managed in the English Premier League, have no top level experience, or have no managerial experience at all.
Heading the list is David Wagner, who did a very good job at Huddersfield keeping them in the Premier League last season, however he left Huddersfield this season with the team bottom of the league and eight points from safety. Then there is Mikel Arteta, who although is said to be a very gifted tactician and will be learning an immense amount from Pep Guardiola, he is still yet to manage a team and therefore completely unproven. Next up is Eddie Howe, a decent manager, has Bournemouth playing nice football and regularly managing a comfortable position in the Premier League, but is that enough to take a team into becoming a Top 4 club? Finally we have Paulo Fonseca and Joao Pedro, who either have no experience of managing in the EPL or haven't even any experience managing a club at all.
So you have to ask yourself, would you be able to confidently predict appointing one of these five managers would lead to a long term improvement for Everton FC?
What Everton really need right now is patience and support from the fans. People forget that Everton didn't replace Allardyce because of where he managed Everton to finish in the league last season, they replaced him because they wanted a certain style of play going forward, therefore Silva should be judged less on his league position in comparison to last season and more on how he's getting them to play this season. Their genaral play has improved as shown earlier in this article, especially when their heads hadn't dropped, however with better attacking football often comes a more fragile defence, so the fans wanting Allardyce out because he was too negative need to be able to take the rough with the smooth.
Marco Silva might not be everyone's first choice but this appears to be largely due to the issue of defending set pieces more than anything. If the players give his tactics and ideas 100% effort week in week out, and not get down hearted if things don't always go their way, then a positive outcome is sure to be the result. This is a talented young manager they have, who's style of play is exciting and carries a winning mentality, which is a welcome change from approaching games aiming to come away with a point. The results didn't always go their way earlier in the season, and players heads dropped as a result, however the performances were good, and when performances are good the results will come. The players need to trust in their manager and give their all, and Farhad Moshiri needs to keep the faith in the man he pursued so strongly.
The Toffeemen have two potentially difficult matches coming up and both are away. This weekend no love will be lost for Hornet fans when Watford play Everton at Vicarage Road and hence the return of Silva to his former club. How they would love to stick one on so to speak to Silva. After that there is a trip to Cardiff, and then the big one for the club - the Merseyside derby awaits at the beginning of March. Everton could well influence who wins the league this season, let's just hope that Silva can influence his board and players, because on reflection, he deserves to serve a second season and beyond to continue the transition of becoming a top side again.