Following Everton’s victory over Chelsea last weekend, there was a sense of unharnessed joy and satisfaction from the home supporters.
Ultimately it was a win that failed to elevate The Toffees any higher than 11th in the table, but you could not help but feel there was a semblance of pride restored to the fan base of this proud football club.
Marco Silva has overseen an, at best forgettable, at worst, outright regressive maiden campaign on Merseyside. After a lengthy and publicly bruising pursuit for the Portuguese, which saw Watford file a complaint to the league over their conduct, Everton finally got their man last summer.
The hope was that Silva would blow away the cobwebs left by a merry-go-round of managerial appointments that had left the club stagnant and in no man’s land.
While a total and rapid transformation of fortunes, funded by an expensive outlay on new recruits, was not guaranteed this season, there was a sense of anticipation that the young manager would deliver a more expansive, adventurous game on the pitch whilst keeping Everton in the equation for European Football. Fast forward 31 frustrating games later, and it’s clear that those hopes have faded.
Everton have a puncher’s chance of a top eight finish, but even that depends on several teams above them going into meltdown. Fans have vented their frustration at the board, the dugout, the players, and anyone they can shake a fist at, as results have failed to stabilise.
Few can blame them after 13 defeats, but the grim reality for the supporters and indeed the Everton board is that they must accept their status as a team in transition before they make any hasty and costly decisions about their manager’s future.
Silva has so far failed to deliver and is not entirely blameless for a rudderless campaign, but you cannot dispute that he inherited the wreckage of his predecessors. Everton have had three permanent bosses since June 2016. There have been board room changes, interim bosses, nose dives in form and a glut of new players brought in over that period. Oh and Big Sam thrown in for good measure too!
The job was hardly a landing ground for success and some consideration must be given to that, when judgment is passed on this season. Any manager coming in would have needed time to implement new ideas, Silva is no different.
Three defensive signings also hinted at a problem area for The Toffees going into this campaign. While Big Sam did slow the deluge of goals going against them last season, 58 conceded in 2017-18 portrays an underlying issue. This was a problem that was not going to fix itself, nor was the brittle confidence and veil of negativity which had settled over Goodison Park since Ronald Koeman’s departure in October 2017.
The club has struggled to recover since that run of dire form which saw the Dutchman sacked and Big Sam parachuted in.
Silva is no miracle worker and in such a congested middle tier of clubs, many of whom have big budgets to spend, it is hard to keep a foothold in the table for any club, as many Leicester City fans can attest this season.
Silva is not blameless though. The Portuguese has often reverted to quite a direct style in his Everton tenure and has done little in terms of results, to hint that he is the managerial prodigy that many had hoped for.
A dismal record of defending set pieces has seen the Toffees reduced to a shambling mess whenever a dead ball is swung into the area. The ensuing chaos and lack of obvious plan, has meant many a side have had a clear way of getting at Everton.
This vulnerability that has dogged Silva in his Premier League career. As of February this year, his teams had conceded a whopping 33 times from set plays in 67 games, it’s something he must simply improve if he is to survive at a club like Everton where expectations are raised.
And yet, there are some positive for Blues fans in all of this. They have some exciting talent at Goodison Park this season. The form of Richarlison has been consistent enough, while the likes of Andre Gomes and Benard have shown they can contribute. Under his new manager’s guidance, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has enjoyed his best season to date, whilst Ademola Lookman has been given more game time under Silva.
There is a good group of players and many a coach would relish the chance to work with such a wealth of talent. If the Portuguese can find the right formula to get these players delivering with more consistency, then they can definitely look at accelerating away from the mid-table drudgery they have endured this season.
Silva can also take heed of the reaction to his side’s victory over Chelsea. Everton have been simply awful against the big boys over the past few years. Just one away win against the top six since 2011 underlines their decline as a threat to the elite clubs in the division. The win against Chelsea is a start and Silva should look to build on it and use it as motivation for the players.
In their remaining seven fixtures, they face off against Arsenal and Manchester United at home, before a trip to Tottenham on the final day of the season. The manager could earn some massive kudos with an aggressive approach and some positive results from these three games, as well as steering clear of trouble in the other four fixtures against lesser opponents.
In this game of short-termism, seven games is a awful long time for any manager and it may just be enough time, with the right results, to regain the trust of some of the naysayers amoungst the fan base.
Silva will have gotten a glimpse at just how menacing a place Goodison Park can be, during last weekend’s win big win. It’s now up to him to show his fatigued supporters that he is the man to lead them out of their malaise and back to their old fierce and defiant status as one of the league’s toughest opponents.