Marco Silva faces potential tipping point when Everton face West Ham
Money and ambition have not been in short supply during the Portuguese manager's reign at Goodison Park - but results have failed to follow
“Good signs,” Marco Silva said. “The ambition is big inside this club.” He was talking before the international break. Not the most recent one, but the September hiatus.
Seven points from four games had taken Everton sixth in the Premier League, two positions from the promised land. Fast forward a month and Everton remain rooted on seven points. Four successive defeats have taken them into the bottom three.
It was not the ambition. Not when £115 million (Dh545m) was spent this summer, or over £200m in Silva’s reign, or around £450m, albeit offset by sales, in owner Farhad Moshiri’s time in charge.
Go back half a century and Everton’s big spenders were dubbed the "Mersey Millionaires". They were accused of buying the title in 1963. Even if those charges were true, at least they bought success. The current class threaten to purchase chastening failure.
Saturday's game against West Ham United could be a tipping point for Silva. Given the lengths Moshiri went to appoint him, with Sam Allardyce hired as an expensive interim and Everton eventually paying Watford £4m in compensation amid suggestions they tapped up the Portuguese, his position may not be under immediate threat.
And yet Wednesday marks the second anniversary of Ronald Koeman’s sacking after a similarly brief reign. Silva is yet to change the narrative in England that he starts well but then oversees a slide and does not offer longevity. Lose on Saturday and it will be instructive if a sometimes febrile crowd turn on him. There are times when he has appeared too much of a robotic technocrat to generate affection or loyalty. He remains an enigmatic figure.
His immediate concern is that a team which seemed to progress in spring wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United has now regressed and can look insipid. Everton look poorer for their summer business. Their inability to buy the loanee Kurt Zouma has weakened the defence, with Michael Keane looking a lesser player without his old sidekick.
It has highlighted the way Yerry Mina is yet to justify his £28m fee. Everton keep conceding from set-pieces: 22 times under Silva, the most in the division, stressing the critical view he has style, but insufficient substance. A vulnerability at the far post in Silva’s zonal-marking system has been identified and exploited. Indeed, Everton were the beneficiaries when they scored against Silva’s Watford in that way.
In midfield, Silva could be deemed unlucky that the summer buys Andre Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin have been injured. Their season nevertheless supports the theory that an expensively assembled group were, if not a one-man team, overly reliant on one man.
That individual was the irrepressible Idrissa Gueye and he has joined Paris Saint-Germain. Everton conceded 18 goals in the six league games the Senegalese missed last season and, shorn of a capacity to regain possession that only N’Golo Kante and Wilfred Ndidi rival, their defence is afforded too little protection now.
Silva has only given the energetic Tom Davies 20 minutes’ league football this season, despite increasing evidence the combination of Fabian Delph and Morgan Schneiderlin – four defeats in four games together – does not work.
Further forward, Moise Kean’s slow start may be understandable, with the Italian prodigy yet to score, but the supposed bankers have not delivered. Gylfi Sigurdsson has a lone assist. Richarlison, apart from a match-winning double against Wolves, has been equally ineffective.
Defeats to Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Burnley, who had all been expected to finish below Everton, underline the sense of underachievement. Now they host West Ham, who look likelier to claim the title of the best of the rest. But, as Silva said six weeks ago, Everton’s ambitions originally extended beyond that.
Updated: October 18, 2019 09:16 AM