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Everton must take some blame as beleaguered Marco Silva returns to Watford

The Portuguese has endured a sharp fall in popularity, but some of it is his club’s fault.

Everton manager Marco Silva.
Everton manager Marco Silva.
Image: Barrington Coombs

THE PREMIER LEAGUE has had its fair share of hitherto unknown managers arriving from overseas to try and stop the mid-season bleeding at a club heading for the Championship: your Francesco Guidolins; your Pepe Mels; your Remi Gardes.

Few, however, were carried to England on such an overwhelming wave of good will as Marco Silva was when he arrived at Hull City in January 2017.

This was largely as a sympathetic response to Paul Merson’s bewildering rant on Soccer Saturday in response to Silva’s appointment. “Why’s it always got to be a foreign manager?” bloviated Merse, shouting “What’s he know about the Premier League? What’s he know?” while promoting Gary Rowett’s credentials over “this geezer” whose title win with Olympiakos featured a 17-game winning streak.

The Premier League likes to think of itself as the antidote to Brexit England; a sophisticated, outward-looking competition eager to accept ideas and employees from the rest of Europe and in response to Merson’s retrograde isolationism, Silva was a suave poster boy plucked directly from the Common Market.

His popularity endured his spell with dysfunctional Hull, where he did admirable things like giving them hope of surviving relegation and playing Lazar Markovic.

As Hull left the league, he stayed and his fantastic start to live at Watford was a further rebuke to Merse & Co. Then he showed some playeresque ambition, agitated to join Everton when they came calling, was forced to stay put and was then fired anyway.

Silva is now unpopular to the point that, ahead of his return to Watford with Everton on Saturday, Troy Deeney has pinned his club’s supporters back and told them that he just isn’t worth it.

“We’d prefer it if you left him alone… It’ll only motivate them more. Leave him alone, let us kick the shit out of them.”

Watford v Manchester City - Premier League - Vicarage Road Marco Silva as Watford manager, in happier times. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Silva is now the bookies’ favourite to be the next Premier League manager sacked, ahead of even Claude Puel, who has spent the last year in Damoclean treachery more often than Theresa May.

Ever since contriving to lose the Merseyside Derby at Anfield at the start of December, Everton’s form has collapsed. They have won four games, two of them against Huddersfield Town and Lincoln City.

Their defence has imploded, conceding six times at home to Spurs and thrice at home to Wolves. They have been beaten by lowly Southampton and knocked out of the FA Cup by lowlier Millwall.

Silva’s peripatetic Premier League life thus far has meant he hasn’t had a chance yet to be exposed as a ‘fraud’ by the Premier League’s crusading masses.

While that would be an exaggerated insult, some patterns have emerged as his Everton reign enters an unprecedented eighth month.

One is his inability to organise teams at set-pieces.

Everton have conceded a league-high 17 goals from set-pieces thus far this season, and this has been a recurring trend. Silva left Hull and Watford with the worst defensive record at set-pieces in the league, too, and 49% of all the Premier League goals he has conceded have come from free-kicks and corners.

There’s a second, deeply ironic trend. Although he has been cast as the foil to the Premier League’s cast of English managers, he seems to share their double-edged talent for ensuring little more than a short-lived bounce in form.

At Hull, Silva picked up 17 points in his first 11 games, and just four in his final seven. At Watford, his first 13 games yielded 21 points, and after his head was turned by Everton, they won just once in their next 11 games.

That pattern has repeated itself at Goodison Park: after 13 games this season, Everton had 22 points; they are now 26 matches in and have 33 points.

There are practical issues on the field beyond the complete inability to defend set-pieces. Their lack of a striker is a painful weakness: Opta stats show that Everton have made more crosses (482) than any other side in the Premier League this season, yet have been aiming for a wide-player, Richarlison, rather than the outrageously limited Cenk Tosun.

While the recruitment of a striker is a necessity, Silva may not be guaranteed funds to get one.

Owner Farhad Moshiri has already invested £300 million on players – most of it fecklessly wasted – and Moshiri is is showing the first signs of chafing at his meagre return, bemoaning at a club general meeting in January that he has “thrown £250m to turn a museum into a competitive outfit”.

The transfer policy seems oddly influenced by the prospect of a No-Deal Brexit: having stockpiled a series of trundling No.10s – Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klassen and Wayne Rooney – this season they added Bernard and Richarlison to their mountain of wide attackers.

While he has shown weaknesses as a manager, Silva has been hamstrung by his club’s chaotic transfer policy. He is calm about his future and has pleaded for more time, which he will likely get as firing another manager would be distinctly bad PR for Moshiri.

But as Silva’s ears are lashed with jeers and insults on Saturday afternoon, he will have cause to wonder to himself: who knew that it would take Everton longer to adjust to the departure of David Moyes than Manchester United?

Premier League fixtures (3pm unless stated)

Saturday 

Fulham vs Manchester United (12.30pm) 

Watford v Everton 

Huddersfield v Arsenal 

Southampton v Cardiff City 

Crystal Palace v West Ham 

Liverpool v Bournemouth 

Brighton v Burnley (5.30pm) 

Sunday 

Tottenham v Leicester (1.30pm) 

Manchester City v Chelsea (4pm)

Monday 

Wolves v Newcastle (8pm)

Following a tough Six Nations opening defeat to England, Joe Schmidt will look to regroup against a dangerous Scotland side. This week, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey are joined by Bernard Jackman to assess the damage of last weekend and look ahead to the clash in Murrayfield:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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