As the Premier League season begins to come to a close, Próxima Jornada looks at Silva’s first season in charge of Everton, analyses the key moments and looks to the future of this great club and its Portuguese manager.
As Marco Silva was announced as Everton manager, opinions differed depending on who you spoke to. Some supporters were unconvinced, both with his history of instability at previous jobs (6 clubs in 8 years) and also with his premier league track record. Other supporters were a lot more positive, impressed with his spell at Hull where he nearly pulled off the impossible by keeping them up and with his excellent form with Watford, that is until Everton declared interest and their form went somewhat awry. Many supporters, however, were simply happy that Sam Allardyce wasn’t the man in charge for the upcoming season and were willing to back whoever was to take the reins of this historic club.
Silva signed a three-year contract and began to get to work for the season ahead, bringing in Richarlison (who he worked with at Watford), Lucas Digne and Yerry Mina from FC Barcelona, Bernard from Shakhtar Donetsk as well as fellow countryman André Gomes from Barcelona and Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma on loan. These signings were echoed by Silva comments to Sky Sports, “I know the huge history of Everton as a club…I’m sure with everybody working together I will be ready for this challenge”. He saw that Everton needed an injection of quality if they were to achieve and fulfil his ambitions and bought and loaned wisely.
Everton started the season well, albeit drawing too many games (particularly after going ahead first, 2-2 v Wolves, 2-2 v Bournemouth) but overall there were plenty of reasons for Everton fans to be happy and hopeful in relation to the rest of the season. Silva deployed a 4231, in which Sigurðsson was supported by two deeper central midfielders, this allowed the Icelandic international to move freely across the front 3 and pick up the ball in the pockets of space, just behind the striker where he loves to strike the ball from or play an incisive pass into the frontman.
When Everton rolled into Anfield to face their high-flying neighbours, they were 6th in the table, had only 3 defeats in 13 games (2 of those coming against United at Old Trafford and Arsenal at the Emirates) and looked comfortably the best side outside of the top 6.
Then came the moment that turned Everton’s season, Everton battled well throughout the game, putting in one of their best performances at Anfield in recent years. They won more aerial duels, had 9 shots, hit the woodwork and had a chance cleared off the line by Joe Gomez. As the game was coming to a close, a freak error by Jordan Pickford gifted Liverpool the opener and winner, as he came up for a routine high ball into the box, he fumbled it back into the box where Origi was there to tap home. This is where the season began to turn for the worse for the Toffee’s. Everton went on an abysmal run of form in which in 14 games, they lost 9, drawn 2 and won just 3. Silva tried to change things tactically at Everton in order to change their fortunes, opting to alternate between a 4231, 443, 4141 and a 541. However, the changes in shape and tactics were not enough to stop this rotten form, Everton looked vulnerable particularly from set-pieces due to the zonal marking Silva had implemented and in general The Toffee’s looked like a team spiralling into mid-table mediocrity, at least for this season. Then came the second Merseyside Derby, the other turning point for Marco and his men. Silva had reverted back to his trusted 4231 in recent weeks and there had been signs of what Everton could be under Silva in the away match against Cardiff. Everton dominated in every aspect, winning 0-3 and defending well particularly set pieces, albeit against a poor side.
As Liverpool’s visit to Goodison Park loomed on the horizon, many Everton supporters could be forgiven for thinking their rivals in red (who themselves remained in locked horns with Man City for the title) where about to deliver unto them a demolition, however derbies are never foregone conclusions and the match itself panned out very differently.
The atmosphere was absolutely electric at Goodison, with the Everton PA system debuting the now infamous siren before Z Cars. The crowd did their part and were baying for a passionate performance against their rivals from across Stanley Park. Everton defended resolutely whilst still posing a threat themselves, throughout. The back four looked organised and assured, something it hadn’t looked for a very long time. The players ran themselves into the ground for one another, something that is not a preference but a necessity for the Goodison faithful. The match ended in a draw and whilst they never gained all 3 points the result was significant in that it felt like a weight had been lifted and The Blues’ dismal run had ended. The Blues had delivered a performance that their supporters could be proud of.
Since that game, Silva’s men have simply not looked back, particularly at home. Everton have played 3 games at Goodison since the Merseyside Derby, against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. Everton have won all 3, scoring 7 goals and conceding 0. In between the Chelsea and Arsenal game they visited the London stadium where they also dismantled West Ham 2-0 in an encounter that in truth, should have been at least 5 or 6-0.
The latest game at Goodison Park, the 4-0 demolition of Manchester United is without doubt the finest moment of Marco Silva’s first season in charge of Everton. Those 90 minutes against United represented everything an Everton side should be. Dominant, aggressive, up-tempo and ruthless. The crowd again were exceptional, getting behind the players for the entirety of the game and the men on the pitch responded with a performance that is one to remember. Of course, there are still kinks to iron out for Everton, mainly their inconsistency away from home, losing 2-0 away to a relegated Fulham and losing a 2-0 lead and subsequently being beaten 3-2 by Newcastle, are frustrating blots on what has been otherwise tremendous form.
All in all, this turning point has shown what Everton and Marco Silva are capable of, they must continue in this vain for the remainder of the season and solidify their position as the 7th best team in the league, which they are. Looking ahead to next season, it is important that Marco can tie down both Gomes and Zouma permanently, as both have been key men in their first season. Marcel Brands and his team will be tasked with finding and securing key additions to the squad, boosting both depth and first team quality in preparation for an assault on the top 6 next seasons.
Everton have already proved with their recent form that they can not only take points off, but dominate other top 6 sides, if they can become more consistent away from home and develop their ability to effectively manage games when in the lead, there is no reason why Everton and Silva cannot have a fantastic and fruitful season next year.