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The Silva Debate

The debate around the future of Marco Silva is a legitimate one and unfortunately for him one that is unlikely to go away before the end of the season, one way or another. Even with the best upturn in form it’s hard to see Everton finishing much above 7th and they will not either win a cup competition or go far enough in a cup competition to easily allay the concerns that we remain some way off winning a trophy. Within that context it is unlikely Silva will unify all aspects of the fan base or even give complete confidence to those who are at the more supportive end of the spectrum. That is in the best case scenario. The worst case scenario, namely that the malaise in performances and results that has set in since December isn’t shaken off as the season goes on not only keeps the debate alive but it may well lead to him losing his job come the summer.

Within any debate I believe the best thing to try to do is be as impartial as possible. To me it would be an enormous shame if Silva were to lose his job in the summer not just because I believe him to be a decent fit for the club, but because it would put enormous pressure on the club to again spend another summer and subsequent season trying to rebuild via a transitional time frame. You begin to run the risk that the transitional periods each manager requires before tangible improvements are ever never reached and you therein remain in a permanent state of transition. Not only does this lead to a drain of precious resources (both buying out new managers contracts and settling up ones that went before) but you end up with a turnover on the playing staff that often leads to high earners being complete out of favour with a manager and providing very little value for the resource.


Whichever side you sit on regarding Marco Silva and his position at Everton there does have to be some acknowledgement that it is unlikely that Everton will find a magic bullet to solve the difficulties they face. Everton have been through 4 permanent managers until Moshiri and each of them have manifested similar traits within their teams. The idea that a 5th or 6th (or 7th) manager would be able to undo all of the difficulties and challenges faced by the previous managers is not impossible but on the evidence presented to us currently, it is unlikely. What seems more likely to me, is with each manager that comes and goes it makes the job slightly more difficult for the next one who follows. The initial upturn in results will be shallower and the subsequent decline likely to be further.

Some have rightly put the prolonged problems we have experienced upon the playing staff. I have sympathy for that viewpoint but there also has to be an acknowledgement that most of the players starting for Everton were not around for all 4 managers. 5 of those who played against Millwall were signed by just Silva. The sort of tepid, lifeless display seen at Millwall would appear to be a learned behaviour within the culture of the club, as opposed to just indicative of a group of players who have been allowed to put in such displays over a 2-3 year period. The distinction may be subtle but in the context of planning it is significant. If it’s an incapable or unwilling set of players replacing them is perhaps the only option. If it’s a behaviour that is being learnt while at the institution then recycling the playing staff is unlikely to radically shift the problem, as the new players simply learn bad habits.

To a certain degree this is a problem we face as a club. Relative to what went before Moshiri Everton have invested large sums of money but the same problems keep emerging. If I was advising from the outside I would suggest to him to be wary of investing more money until you had resolved the potential culture within the club. In general the best way to do this is through consistent and clear management, the sort of management that is difficult to practice when you continual change the first team coach. If Silva is able to work through this difficult patch and have another go next season it will be enormously more beneficial to that culture than if we have to remove him before the season is out (or at the end of the season).



None of the above can or does make Silva immune from being sacked. In any business you are always playing off short term difficulties against longer term plans. If the problems on the field become so acute that they put into question the longer term plan then decisions have to be taken. For Silva it will mean the sort of run he went on where we only won 3 games in 11 cannot really be repeated. If performances and more importantly results don’t pick up then supporters criticisms will become amplified. Whether fairly or not, Moshiri made clear 11th place wasn’t good enough, whether it would be seen as good enough after 38 games to give him another opportunity in the following season will be an open question. Whether it should is also a difficult question to answer. For Silva it is a question he should strive to avoid needing answering come May.

In recent years Everton’s longest serving manager has been David Moyes. For his many faults he did 2 things very well- one he won lots of vital games (particularly in the 2nd half of seasons thus finishing them well) and secondly he made a very strong start to his Everton career so he had credit in the bank when he faced challenging times. It is unlikely that Silva can emulate the money in the bank David Moyes gained by leading Everton to their highest finish in 7 years   in 2003 but he still has it within his powers to end the season positively. The vital games for Moyes he won were not necessarily the big cup games, but games such as Sunderland away on New Years eve when we were struggling, or following up a bitter Cup defeat to rivals Liverpool with a string of 4-0 victories. Even in his final season, after a surprise defeat in the FA Cup to Wigan we followed up with a defeat of the champions Manchester City. For a manager those games were crucial. He didn’t allow the general feeling of bewilderment, frustration and anger to be generalized across the fanbase (and then the media) to a mood of insurrection. Where a poor performance happened, generally Moyes’s teams followed up with a reaction which won wavering sections of the fan base back (whether rightly or wrongly).

There felt more than a bit of that on Tuesday against Huddersfield, where Everton clung on with 10 men for a crucial away win. There is now both a pressure and an opportunity (for they both often go hand in hand) for Everton to begin to move in a positive direction. A defeat of Wolves would put us into 7th and give us a springboard to show that progress is still being made with a young squad.

If I could make one poignant observation from the Huddersfield game (which I have seen noted elsewhere) is that we showed a level of discipline, heart and organization with 10 men that has been sadly missing at times with 11. I am nervous of throwing the players we have under the bus entirely, as the 3 away games we have played (for substantial periods) with 10 men we have won 1 and drawn 2 of those games and but for some sub standard officiating it may have been even more positive than this. Against all of the top teams away from home we have also shown a discipline that has been lacking in other games. It would be wrong to say we are incapable of showing the fight and determination to win games, but it would be fair to say it is only currently being shown on an erratic basis (and before Huddersfield it looked alarmingly like it had left us completely). The management of the team do need to ask, if we can play so effectively with 10 men, why can’t we replicate that with 11 on a consistent basis while utilizing the additional man advantage we have.

The evidence of this would suggest some complacency from the players. It would fit that going to team such as Chelsea and Liverpool and matching them would give them a confidence that they have cracked the code. The truth is, unless you work hard and keep the effort levels at the place then you will be punished in this league, where most sides are looking to outwork you. This is especially true for this Everton tea, who while they possess better players than over half of the league, are not so far ahead of them than they can afford to be playing in 2nd or 3rd gear to win.

As indicated earlier into this piece we have now unfortunately reached a point with this season where it cannot really be a resounding success. However there are still positives that can emerge from the season and there is still an enormous variation in how it plays out. Finishing 7th while ideally getting into the high 50’s for a points total will give a positivity that can be taken into the summer and hopefully used as a foundation to build upon next season. If we are able to do that, while hopefully showing the sort of determination and will to win so absent at Millwall (and many of the previous games) but in evidence at Huddersfield supporters will at least have some confidence that a blue print is emerging that can be used to propel us forward. I hope in the space that exists between now to the end of the season, that Silva can do this, and it is Millwall not Huddersfield which will be seen as the blip when looking back.


Within any debate I believe the best thing to try to do is be as impartial as possible. To me it would be an enormous shame if Silva were to lose his job in the summer not just because I believe him to be a decent fit for the club, but because it would put enormous pressure on the club to again spend another summer and subsequent season trying to rebuild via a transitional time frame. You begin to run the risk that the transitional periods each manager requires before tangible improvements are ever never reached and you therein remain in a permanent state of transition. Not only does this lead to a drain of precious resources (both buying out new managers contracts and settling up ones that went before) but you end up with a turnover on the playing staff that often leads to high earners being complete out of favour with a manager and providing very little value for the resource.

Whichever side you sit on regarding Marco Silva and his position at Everton there does have to be some acknowledgement that it is unlikely that Everton will find a magic bullet to solve the difficulties they face. Everton have been through 4 permanent managers until Moshiri and each of them have manifested similar traits within their teams. The idea that a 5th or 6th (or 7th) manager would be able to undo all of the difficulties and challenges faced by the previous managers is not impossible but on the evidence presented to us currently, it is unlikely. What seems more likely to me, is with each manager that comes and goes it makes the job slightly more difficult for the next one who follows. The initial upturn in results will be shallower and the subsequent decline likely to be further.

Some have rightly put the prolonged problems we have experienced upon the playing staff. I have sympathy for that viewpoint but there also has to be an acknowledgement that most of the players starting for Everton were not around for all 4 managers. 5 of those who played against Millwall were signed by just Silva. The sort of tepid, lifeless display seen at Millwall would appear to be a learned behaviour within the culture of the club, as opposed to just indicative of a group of players who have been allowed to put in such displays over a 2-3 year period. The distinction may be subtle but in the context of planning it is significant. If it’s an incapable or unwilling set of players replacing them is perhaps the only option. If it’s a behaviour that is being learnt while at the institution then recycling the playing staff is unlikely to radically shift the problem, as the new players simply learn bad habits.

To a certain degree this is a problem we face as a club. Relative to what went before Moshiri Everton have invested large sums of money but the same problems keep emerging. If I was advising from the outside I would suggest to him to be wary of investing more money until you had resolved the potential culture within the club. In general the best way to do this is through consistent and clear management, the sort of management that is difficult to practice when you continual change the first team coach. If Silva is able to work through this difficult patch and have another go next season it will be enormously more beneficial to that culture than if we have to remove him before the season is out (or at the end of the season).



None of the above can or does make Silva immune from being sacked. In any business you are always playing off short term difficulties against longer term plans. If the problems on the field become so acute that they put into question the longer term plan then decisions have to be taken. For Silva it will mean the sort of run he went on where we only won 3 games in 11 cannot really be repeated. If performances and more importantly results don’t pick up then supporters criticisms will become amplified. Whether fairly or not, Moshiri made clear 11th place wasn’t good enough, whether it would be seen as good enough after 38 games to give him another opportunity in the following season will be an open question. Whether it should is also a difficult question to answer. For Silva it is a question he should strive to avoid needing answering come May.

In recent years Everton’s longest serving manager has been David Moyes. For his many faults he did 2 things very well- one he won lots of vital games (particularly in the 2nd half of seasons thus finishing them well) and secondly he made a very strong start to his Everton career so he had credit in the bank when he faced challenging times. It is unlikely that Silva can emulate the money in the bank David Moyes gained by leading Everton to their highest finish in 7 years   in 2003 but he still has it within his powers to end the season positively. The vital games for Moyes he won were not necessarily the big cup games, but games such as Sunderland away on New Years eve when we were struggling, or following up a bitter Cup defeat to rivals Liverpool with a string of 4-0 victories. Even in his final season, after a surprise defeat in the FA Cup to Wigan we followed up with a defeat of the champions Manchester City. For a manager those games were crucial. He didn’t allow the general feeling of bewilderment, frustration and anger to be generalized across the fanbase (and then the media) to a mood of insurrection. Where a poor performance happened, generally Moyes’s teams followed up with a reaction which won wavering sections of the fan base back (whether rightly or wrongly).

There felt more than a bit of that on Tuesday against Huddersfield, where Everton clung on with 10 men for a crucial away win. There is now both a pressure and an opportunity (for they both often go hand in hand) for Everton to begin to move in a positive direction. A defeat of Wolves would put us into 7th and give us a springboard to show that progress is still being made with a young squad.

If I could make one poignant observation from the Huddersfield game (which I have seen noted elsewhere) is that we showed a level of discipline, heart and organization with 10 men that has been sadly missing at times with 11. I am nervous of throwing the players we have under the bus entirely, as the 3 away games we have played (for substantial periods) with 10 men we have won 1 and drawn 2 of those games and but for some sub standard officiating it may have been even more positive than this. Against all of the top teams away from home we have also shown a discipline that has been lacking in other games. It would be wrong to say we are incapable of showing the fight and determination to win games, but it would be fair to say it is only currently being shown on an erratic basis (and before Huddersfield it looked alarmingly like it had left us completely). The management of the team do need to ask, if we can play so effectively with 10 men, why can’t we replicate that with 11 on a consistent basis while utilizing the additional man advantage we have.

The evidence of this would suggest some complacency from the players. It would fit that going to team such as Chelsea and Liverpool and matching them would give them a confidence that they have cracked the code. The truth is, unless you work hard and keep the effort levels at the place then you will be punished in this league, where most sides are looking to outwork you. This is especially true for this Everton tea, who while they possess better players than over half of the league, are not so far ahead of them than they can afford to be playing in 2nd or 3rd gear to win.

As indicated earlier into this piece we have now unfortunately reached a point with this season where it cannot really be a resounding success. However there are still positives that can emerge from the season and there is still an enormous variation in how it plays out. Finishing 7th while ideally getting into the high 50’s for a points total will give a positivity that can be taken into the summer and hopefully used as a foundation to build upon next season. If we are able to do that, while hopefully showing the sort of determination and will to win so absent at Millwall (and many of the previous games) but in evidence at Huddersfield supporters will at least have some confidence that a blue print is emerging that can be used to propel us forward. I hope in the space that exists between now to the end of the season, that Silva can do this, and it is Millwall not Huddersfield which will be seen as the blip when looking back.

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