Everton go into their league match against second-placed Leicester City with Marco Silva’s future very much in doubt. The Toffees lost their previous league fixture against bottom side Norwich City, and that just compounded the pressure on the Portuguese coach.
Silva’s side have won just two league games since September, a record that is poor considering how much they’ve spent over the last 18 months and it doesn’t seem likely to get any better when they travel to the East Midlands on Sunday afternoon.
At the time of Silva’s appointment, there was an air of positivity around the club. He was a manager that the club had chased since he moved to Watford the year before, and after finally getting him, he was set to be a part of a project with Sporting Director Marcel Brands that would revolutionize the club and push them to challenge the upper echelons of the Premier League.
Eighteen months on, however, it could arguably be said that Everton have regressed. At this point, it seems as though Silva is at a point of no return having dropped points in winnable fixtures throughout the season in games against Burnley, Brighton and most recently Norwich City. Tactically, he seems lost and some of his in-game decisions – substitutions included – have often been baffling.
A key factor of Silva’s football is his team’s intense and high pressing, but even he went against that last weekend when he picked a slumbering spine of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Morgan Schneiderlin and Cenk Tosun whilst his refusal to put on the more mobile Moise Kean raised key questions. Additionally, his decision to make a like-for-like replacement at right-back despite being a goal down only enraged the watching fans.
It’s not the first time this season Silva has done something like this. He has previously made bizarre selection and substitution decisions – such as in the defeat to Burnley – and it’s becoming a woeful trend for him. Oftentimes, Silva is also inept in adapting to situations, and it comes to a point where if Everton are down in a particular match, there is nothing to suggest that they can come back.
In terms of their play itself, it’s worth noticing how disorganized they are at the back. They have the sixth-worst defensive record in the league and Michael Keane’s inconsistency this season combined with Yerry Mina’s rashness isn’t helping Silva’s cause.
The Portuguese manager has seemingly lost control of the squad and constant rumours about his future is only going to create more problems. The players seem as though they’ve lost touch with their manager while the fans at Goodison Park have turned their back on him as well.
This situation is not new, however. There were similar scenes towards the end of Roberto Martinez’s and Ronald Koeman’s spells, where, after a few months of progress, it all started to unravel for them.
It has to be noted that Silva’s lack of success mustn’t solely be attributed to him. Brands, the man who joined the club at about the same time as him must be held just as accountable for their failure to grow over the last year-and-a-half.
Granted, he too had a difficult task on his hands after being given a squad that had plenty of expensive, aimless signings such as Yannick Bolasie and Davy Klaasen, oftentimes, it has looked as though he gave in to the resources provided to him by Farhad Moshiri.
The decision to splash out big fees on players like Richarlison, Alex Iwobi, Moise Kean and Andre Gomes has come under scrutiny whilst the failure to add in a confident centre-half and not being able to replace the efficient Idrissa Gueye has cost the team dearly. It’s worth mentioning that injuries to Gomes and defensive-midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin have been troublesome, but even then, the recruitment needs serious questioning.
From here, it’s highly unlikely that Silva recovers and it’s a matter of when rather than if he’s sacked. He has already lost the backing of the majority of the fans and so rarely in the modern game has an under-fire manager recovered from this situation. The next few weeks sees matches against Leicester, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal and there is little indication that come 2020, Silva will still be at the helm.
For Brands, however, there is a chance to recover. His work at PSV Eindhoven where he managed to make an underachieving side a title-winning one was impressive and it’s time for himself to prove his credentials once again. Brands needs to sort out the managerial situation right and get a proper recruitment strategy at the club.
There have been rumours swirling lately about bringing back David Moyes on an interim basis, and perhaps that would be a viable option until the summer. Apart from the ending, the Scotsman has a decent reputation with the club and its supporters and he has proven he can do a fine job in an interim role, as he did with West Ham United in the 2017-18 season.
As for permanent options in the summer, Jorge Jesus has had his name thrown around, and he could do a fine job considering the attacking options present at the club. His Benfica and Flamengo sides were renowned for their attacking prowess and working with players like Richarlison and Kean could work a treat here. Other than that, Rafael Benitez is also seen as a candidate and with his CV and record in England, it would be silly not to go after him. However, his Liverpool links will be a massive obstacle.
Other likely options are Eddie Howe or Mikel Arteta from Bournemouth and Manchester City respectively. Howe has a decent record since taking Bournemouth to the Premier League, keeping them up for four-successive years with relative comfort and being linked to other top jobs in the country. Arteta, however, cannot boast that without any senior management experience though his work with Pep Guardiola’s record-shattering Manchester City sides cannot be ignored and it’s an exciting option.
Other more ambitious contenders would be Mauricio Pochettino and Marcelo Gallardo. However, one would suggest that after taking Tottenham Hotspur to the Champions League final, Pochettino would only go for a club in the upper elite of European football to add some medals to his personal cabinet and get rewarded for his efforts. The same could be said for Gallardo, as his two Copa Libertadores honours combined with several trophies in Argentina can only be bettered by being at a European club that has shown aptitude in recent years.
Whatever the choice, this is a crucial point for Everton and Brands. The club have regressed since their Champions League-chasing campaign in 2013-14 and in that period, there have been some strange decisions made on and off the pitch. Brands is a capable football man, and if he doesn’t get this right, his reputation, just like Silva’s, could be in serious tatters.
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