He has a £400m squad and an ultra-ambitious owner. But failing to replace Kurt Zouma and Romelu Lukaku, tactical uncertainty, vulnerability at set-pieces and a lack of inspiration meant Marco Silva’s Everton dream quickly unravelled
The inevitable has finally happened at Goodison Park, with Marco Silva put out of his misery and sacked as Everton manager on Thursday.
His dismissal came in the wake of Wednesday night’s 5-2 drubbing at the hands of Merseyside rivals Liverpool, the first time the Toffees have conceded five in a league match against their neighbours since 1982.
But really the writing has been on the wall for Portuguese boss Silva, who was appointed in May 2018, for months, following a disastrous start to the season that sees the ambitious club staring at relegation rather than Europe.
Marco Silva contemplates the inevitable as Everton are beaten 5-2 in the derby with Liverpool
Everton languish in the bottom three of the Premier League after 15 rounds of the season
It was only in April that Everton beat Manchester United 4-0 on their way to finishing eighth in the Premier League table.
But things have unravelled quickly for the 42-year-old during the first half of this season, and here are some of the reasons why.
It’s cost Everton £400million to assemble their current squad and yet they’re in the bottom three.
Farhad Moshiri hasn’t been afraid to splash the cash since taking over in 2016 but the failings of this season have made it painfully apparent they have invested in the wrong areas.
Last summer saw them spend in excess of £100m on the likes of Alex Iwobi, Moise Kean, Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Andre Gomes and Fabian Delph.
Alex Iwobi was one of several summer signings at Everton as they splashed out £100m
All well and good, but they failed to address the main weakness at the heart of the defence. Silva wanted to make Kurt Zouma’s loan move permanent, but when Chelsea wouldn’t let him go, they didn’t go and sign their second choice.
Then there’s the more long-standing issue of failing to adequately replace striker Romelu Lukaku, who joined Manchester United for £75m back in 2017.
Everton tried to replace him with Cenk Tosun, bought for £20m, and also signed Richarlison for £35m, but neither have matched Lukaku’s goal returns.
They were linked with the Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic back in the summer but couldn’t get a deal done.
Of course this muddled recruitment isn’t all Silva’s fault but given the quantities of cash that have been spent to assemble the current squad, they absolutely should not be in the bottom three.
Kurt Zouma performed well on loan from Chelsea but they couldn’t secure him permanently
Silva is a front-foot manager and you sense he’d have Everton playing a 4-3-3 formation but lacks the personnel to turn them into a lethal attacking force.
Instead, they play typically in a more balanced 4-2-3-1 system but suffer for a lack of a deadly striker leading the line.
Richarlison is their leading scorer this season with seven, though two of those came in the Carabao Cup, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin has five in all and three in the Premier League.
Alex Iwobi has scored just twice this season and Tosun only the once. What Everton would give for someone with Lukaku’s strike rate this season.
Everton have never been able to replace the goals they lost when Lukaku left for Man United
They’ve looked shaky at the back after failing to replace Zouma but when confronted with the might of Liverpool front line on Wednesday, Silva opted for the safety-first 5-4-1.
They were still cut to shreds due to a lack of familiarity with the system and some poor individuals performances, especially from Djibril Sidibe, Mason Holgate and Yerry Mina.
Everton fans have also raised questions marks about Silva’s substitutions. With Everton 4-2 behind at Anfield, he replaced Tom Davies with the more defensive Morgan Schneiderlin.
Brazilian forward Richarlison has been one of Everton’s few bright points this season
VULNERABILITY AT CRUCIAL MOMENTS
Set pieces and crosses have always been something of an Achilles heel for Silva’s teams because he likes to deploy a zonal marking system.
When defending corners and free-kicks, Silva likes to have a line of about six players along the six-yard box ready to pick up any runner that enters their territory.
But this often leads to a player being left unmarked at the back post and we saw Jeff Hendrick score a winning goal as a result in Everton’s 1-0 loss at Burnley back in October.
Jeff Hendrick sneaks in at the back post to score Burnley’s winner against Everton in October
2/5 – To appoint David Moyes
4/7 – To finish in the bottom half
11/10 – To finish in the top half
13/2 – To be relegated
13/1 – To finish in the top six
And in the home game with Sheffield United in September, a set-piece situation led to Mina turning the ball into his own net to set the Blades on their way to a 2-0 win.
Then there’s a lack of concentration late in matches, with Everton conceding four 90th-minute goals this season.
In some games, the opposition merely scored late to confirm victory, but others have been more costly. At Leicester last weekend, Kelechi Iheanacho scored a 94th-minute winner, while they also lost in stoppage time at Brighton.
This vulnerability late in games speaks either to a lack of fitness within the squad or a lack of focus and game management.
Everton players react with dismay after Leicester City’s 94th-minute winner last weekend
LACK OF INSPIRATION
Even when Michael Keane scored to halve the deficit early on at Anfield, Silva remained unmoved on the sidelines, pushing his hands deeper into his pockets.
It has been suggested that Silva is dour and unable to inspire the best from his players. They certainly seem to lack a fighting spirit.
Under his management, they have fallen behind on 28 occasions and have gone on to ultimately suffer defeat in 23 of them.
And it doesn’t say much for Silva’s half-time team talks that Everton have failed to scored between minutes 46 and 60 in the league this season.
It’s clear that Silva hasn’t been able to improve a team that was expensively assembled and build on last season’s eighth place.
Silva’s Everton side were once again unable to fight back after conceding first at Liverpool
Perhaps he’s been found out after what was a very rapid rise in the Premier League after he arrived on these shores at Hull in January 2017.
He resigned after they suffered relegation but Silva had impressed enough to earn the Watford job. Within a few months, he was doing so well that Everton started tracking him and his head was turned.
Watford’s form dropped off a cliff and he was sacked in January 2018 but Everton’s obvious admiration meant he was hired in May 2018.
Silva’s win rate at Hull was 36.4 per cent and it was 30.8 per cent at Watford. He’s barely improved that to 40 per cent at Everton.
There have been some mitigating circumstances this season, however.
Summer signings Gbamin has been injured for most of the campaign, while Andre Gomes will be out for the remainder of the season after his horror injury against Tottenham.
Silva has been unfortunate with injuries, including the awful one suffered by Andre Gomes
There have been other absences as well but most galling for Silva has been some contentious refereeing decisions that have gone against his team.
Speaking a month ago, Silva reckoned that VAR had cost Everton ‘five or six points’ this season with the decision to award Brighton a penalty when Michael Keane accidentally stood on Aaron Connolly’s foot the main one.
There was then a failure to give a penalty when Tottenham’s Dele Alli handballed and the marginal onside call for Iheanacho to win it for Leicester last weekend.
But bad fortune such as this has only really added insult to incompetence.
Michael Keane accidentally stood on Aaron Connolly’s foot to concede a penalty at Brighton
The fractional onside call that allowed Kelechi Iheanacho to score Leicester’s winner
Where are Everton going?
With Silva now gone, their next managerial appointments are going to be absolutely crucial in determining the future direction of the club.
A historical heavyweight of the English game, there’s no way Everton should be relegation candidates given the money spent on the squad.
They don’t look like breaking the glass ceiling of the top six or even top four in the Premier League in the way that Leicester City have done on a similar budget.
Everton give the impression they need a plan, something to aim for, and so it’s essential they get the right man.
Everton owner Farhad Moshiri has invested plenty of money but the vision seems to be lacking
Moshiri, who travelled to Liverpool on Thursday to deliver the bad news to Silva, will face the pressure of making the right appointment.
Roberto Martinez was sacked not long after his arrival to make way for the supposed innovation of Ronald Koeman. When that didn’t work, they brought in the safe hands of Sam Allardyce.
Silva was meant to be a significant upgrade on him, restoring entertaining and winning football, but it hasn’t worked.
Bringing David Moyes back for the remainder of the season would buy time for Moshiri and the Everton board to find the right successor.
MEANWHILE, ACROSS STANLEY PARK…
It hasn’t exactly helped Silva’s cause that while Everton are in freefall, their near-neighbours Liverpool are seeing the good times roll again.
Champions of Europe and steaming towards a first league championship in 30 years, Everton are very much in Liverpool’s shadow and Wednesday night merely underlined that.
And to add further insult, Liverpool’s success has been based largely on outstanding recruitment which included manager Jurgen Klopp identifying the areas of weakness (goalkeeper, centre-back) and buying the ideal players to address it (Alisson, Virgil van Dijk).
The gap between the two clubs continues to widen.
Jurgen Klopp has recruited sensibly to address Liverpool’s areas of weakness