Spotlight on Marco Silva as Everton face inquests on and off pitch
Manager's policies have yet to work as FA Cup exit means 24 years without silverware will become quarter of century
After the violence, the gallows humour.
The news Everton were banning fans involved in the disturbances at Millwall prompted one to volunteer he was the ringleader, even though his wife could testify he was at home at the time. Anything, it seemed, to spare him more pain.
None of which was condoning the ugly scenes at the New Den on Saturday. The racist chanting and the thuggery that left one Evertonian with his face slashed will rightly be investigated.
At the same time, a different kind of inquest is underway. Everton’s FA Cup exit means 24 years without silverware will become a quarter of a century.
Defeat was the lowest point of Marco Silva’s reign. It was also a landmark, the Portuguese’s 27th game in charge. It would scarcely be a milestone for anyone else. It is for him. After 22 matches at Hull City and 26 at Watford, this amounts to his lengthiest stint in England.
The sense of history repeating itself ought to concern a club who felt he was a long-term appointment. There has been the same pattern of initial uplift before problems developed which were exacerbated by defensive deficiencies.
The manner of the loss to Millwall was perhaps still more damning than the result itself. Three goals were conceded at set-pieces, the second from a free kick needlessly donated by Lucas Digne, making it 15 this season.
Silva’s fondness for zonal marking has divided opinion – pitting him against the fanbase – though the bigger issue is its implementation.
Defensive disorganisation has rendered Everton less than the sum of their expensive and gifted parts. They have conceded the joint most goals from dead-ball situations in the division. Only six teams have let in more in total.
None have defenders of the cost of Digne, Michael Keane and Yerry Mina. Silva, who made three defensive signings in the summer, has been allowed to reshape the side.
Arguably part of the problem is a supposed success. Andre Gomes’ talent is evident, but with the Portuguese playmaker installed, Idrissa Gueye is overworked and the rearguard left exposed. It was understandable Everton wanted an antidote to Sam Allardyce.
Perhaps, though, they have strayed too far, offering more entertainment but neglecting the basics.
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If comparisons have emerged with another sharp-suited managerial prodigy who favoured attacking football but whose sides had a soft underbelly, they feel a little misplaced. Roberto Martinez at least secured a fifth-place finish with notable wins over some of the top teams that brought a sense of genuine progress.
There was some substance to accompany his style. Nor was his outlay anything as lavish.
While some fans would savour Silva’s dismissal, Everton have invested in the Portuguese; emotionally and financially. They waited for him and fired Allardyce for him.
If they cannot spend now, it is because they spent almost £300 million (Dh1.45 billion) in the three previous transfer windows and under three different managers. It underlines why they require stability and sustainability.
Yet a pattern of ambition and impatience, of expenditure and underachievement, has set in.
Majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri said this month Everton’s league position was not good enough. He was correct, even if that increased the pressure on Silva. It is also a valid critique that too many – Bernard, Cenk Tosun, Theo Walcott, Morgan Schneiderlin, Seamus Coleman, Jordan Pickford, Gueye, Mina and (defensively anyway) Digne – have not performed to their potential under him.
Everton should persist with Silva, but he has to give them reasons to. In the past, this would have been written off as a season of transition. Yet the climate has changed; the cost has helped change it.
Once again, some fans are in revolt. And that is no reference to hooliganism.
Updated: January 28, 2019 01:52 PM