For Everton, this season was meant to be about bursting through the Premier League’s glass ceiling. Instead, Marco Silva and his team find themselves closer to the trapdoor, with the Toffees slumped in the bottom three after eight games. The top four, even the top six, has never looked so far away for the Goodison Park outfit.
Two wins from eight fixtures represents no sort of progress. If anything, Everton have regressed from last season when they lost just one of their last eight games to finish the campaign. The international break came at the right time for the Toffees, and Silva in particular, with damaging defeats to Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Burnley putting them in a perilous position.
Silva now has three games to save himself. Three points must be earned against West Ham early Saturday afternoon. Everton will also be expected to beat Brighton at the Amex Stadium the week after that. And then comes the Carabao Cup round of 16 clash against Watford. This represents perhaps Everton’s only route to silverware and so defeat to another struggling opponent would symbolise further regression.
What Silva needs over the coming weeks is more than just results. For all the hundreds of millions that have been splurged over the past few years, for all that the appointment of Marcel Brands as Director of Football was meant to herald a new direction, Everton still lack an identity.
They are a team without footballing principles.
There were signs towards the end of last season that Silva’s ideas were starting to take root at Goodison Park, but there has been no such suggestions this season. It’s time for the Portuguese to finally reveal his Everton masterplan, because if he doesn’t anytime soon the clock will stop ticking on his tenure at the club.
“Everybody is behind the manager and we know the fans will always be behind the club,” assistant manager Duncan Ferguson insisted in an interview given this week. “We just need to turn the positivity that we’ve got around the place into victories and that’s what we’re looking to do.”
If there is positivity around Goodison Park, it’s been tough to see it on the pitch. Everton seem to be suffering from a form of oppression, especially in the final third. They have scored just six times in eight fixtures and lack the sort of attacking fluidity and potency expected of a team which has spent the best part of £500 million on transfers over the past four years.
Under Silva, Everton are toothless in attack, weak through the midfield and a soft touch at the back. It’s difficult to pick out one aspect of the team which the Portuguese has improved in his year-and-a-bit in charge of the Goodison Park side. They have the look of a team who are unclear on their roles and responsibilities.
In retrospect, it’s possible Everton were attracted to the idea of Silva rather than Silva as an actual coach. He is a stylish figure who wears a winter coat well and talks with the sort of Iberian flair that is so often synonymous with footballing knowledge and expertise. Silva has the optics of a good football manager, but has never matched this with results and performances on the pitch.
The time for transition at Goodison Park should have passed by now. Barren periods between the reigns of Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce should have given way to a fresh harvest. Everton should be close to fruition, but there is nothing to pick from Silva’s tree. Should he bear no fruit over the coming weeks then his employers will have no choice but to sow new seeds.