In times of difficulty the sensationalism of social media creates an immediacy that was not apparent in football even a decade ago. This truth lingers long as I attempt to evaluate quite how the club has got itself into the bind it is stuck in and how it can truly get itself out of such a bind. Each game lost is now met with a public outcry of rage that may have once been confined to a coach or car home, or a pub with friends but is now broadcast all over the internet. To a certain degree I myself an guilty of this, going onto internet spaces to vent anger and frustration in the aftermath of another defeat. As with all clubs there is an element of an echo chamber that resides around this and often it is the most angry and concerned voices that become amplified the most. I suspect the same dynamics have always been in existence, but the immediacy and scope of social media has acted as an amplifier for such trends.
It creates an environment where the solutions to any problems a club faces are resolved in a simplistic manner. The faults that are built up can be laid at the doorstep of one man and his coaching staff and the solution can be to replace him. The brutal truth is Everton have tried this solution on 3 separate occasions since Moshiri bought into the club, firstly removing Martinez, then Koeman and finally Allardyce. With each manager that was removed, so too came a confidence that the new manager found would almost inevitably lead Everton up the table. While the reasoning for each departure varied there was a commonality of experience with all 3- turgid football, fragility in defence and at times a lack of imperative and desire from game to game. Much of the discussions on each focused around the tactical shortcomings of all 3 (and now Silva is very much in that category) yet no manager sets a team out to be predictable offensively and open in defence. This is not necessarily a reflection of tactical naivety as much as an inability to get the playing staff to implement the tactical game plan they have.
There is much conversation that despite the varied tactical approaches and backgrounds of each of Martinez, Koeman, Allardyce and Silva have the reality on the pitch when a side lacks confidence and belief looks remarkably similar. It’s not that each of the managers are desperately tied to the rigidity of the 4-2-3-1 formation but more that when confidence of the players is running low the flexibility that comes from confidence soon evaporates and footballers tend to stick rigidly to their positions and roles thus making the team easier to play against. We have not made any tactical adjustment since December, but players don’t want to take the additional touch, make the additional pass or show for the ball in the difficult spaces. The self preservation (or cowardice depending on ones perspective) leads to a rigidity and a tedium in the playing style.
None of this means that Silva should be exempt from criticism or should automatically keep his job. While much if the discussion over who is to blame focuses on a dialectic of manager versus the players ultimately in either incidence the manager has to take the blame. No football club can operate on the basis that a manager can only be expected to produce good football once he has an entire squad of his own players. For Everton, who have gone through 3 managers in as many years such logic would have led to 3 separate playing squads being recruited and a further heightening of the imbalances of the current playing squad. A managers job is as much about getting the best out of the existing members of the squad as it is about being able to identify players who can suit his system. While David Moyes would eventually get the luxury of building his own squad, this came only after he had proven capable of utilizing many of the senior pro’s left behind who had struggled under previous managers- for many years he managed to coax performances out of messers Carsley, Ferguson, Campbell, Stubbs, Wier & Watson before gradually upgrading those players.
Where Marco Silva is concerned I would like to see more of this. The re-adjustment of the formation and the use of Davies in a more advanced role, or the re-introduction of Jonjoe Kenny at rightback are small hints that he is prepared to look at this. We need to see more examples of this if he is to have a long term future here as the idea Everton can buy their way into the top 4 must surely be eradicated from the clubs thinking. Prudent recruitment can certainly help but it will have to be done alongside flexible and creative management of the playing staff.
The real question around the managers future now extends beyond the strict confines of the head coach himself. As stated above the flow of managers in and out of the club is too high. Whatever we do with Silva (and I maintain sanguine about all options in this regard) repeating the same process that saw Koeman, Allardyce and Silva brought in is unlikely to herald massively different results. The process above Silva needs a major overhaul.
If you were identifying a process that has existed since Moshiri’s arrival at the club you would be hard pressed to use adjectives much nicer than erratic, inconsistent and unprepared. Koeman looks to have been selected following a positive interview with Moshiri (though it took an unusually long time to get him to sign on the dotted line). Allardyce seemed to be given the job when we approached him for a 2nd time in 6 weeks, at the point where the club had exhausted all avenues while Silva seemed to be a man who had identified as early as autumn last year and remained the top choice all the way to the summer. He was subsequently described by Moshiri at the AGM as a “big gamble”. In and of themselves the difficulties faced in each appointment can be explained but when viewed collectively, particularly in lieu of a single positive managerial decision to fall back upon. From an outside perspective it looks as if far too much credence is given to Farhard Moshiri who has done very little to show he has the necessary tools to identify and select the right coach for the first team squad. Successful business and football clubs try to avoid “big gambles” and seek to minimize the risk of each appointment whereas to date we seem to have been quite accommodating to the idea that gambling is a constructive way to select a manager.
This is not to say that any solution can be risk free. Each appointment is a risk, but the aim of any process is to minimize the risk not look to embrace it. In the background the club ought to be building a thorough approach to recruiting a manager and this should be being done without the central involvement of Farhad Moshiri. It ought to be Marcel Brands who leads the process, while others (including Moshiri) can offer some thoughts as and when they are asked for. This process needs to be an ongoing process rather than a singular event at a moments difficulty. In any workplace giving people the confidence to know that however difficult things are currently it can be turned around, but however well things are going the results need to be maintained is the sort of good practice the club should be looking to emulate. It reduces the potential for complacency but also should insulate the club from the worst moments of panic that can overcome it.
If you view the recruitment of potential coaches as an ongoing process rather than an event that begins with sacking a manager and ends with recruiting a new one then the centrality of what happens with Silva become less important and also there still exists the possibility that he can turn it around. We have to hope that Marcel Brands has an idea of the sort of coaches he would look to work with if Silva were to leave and that he is at least entertaining the idea that he may need to have more firm dialogue with one of them over the coming weeks and months. If he believes there is a candidate available that would make the move now, who will improve Everton not just over the next 3 months but over the next 3 years then he is right to act. If questions exist over any of the above then it doesn’t make sense to move Silva on until you have a firmer answer on whether the above criteria can be met. Avoiding another “big gamble” must be imperative to the club.
Unfortunately not of this easily translates itself into a binary choice, which is the core issue being asked around managerial choice. While the issues at hand are complex the final decision-whether to remove Marco Silva or not is at it’s core a binary decision. My starting position would be whether you view Marco Silva as the long term answer for Everton, I am unsure on this question so would ultimately want a little more evidence. If I was certain/confident a different manager, who could be attained immediately then making the call makes some sense over the coming days. The manager has a two week period to work with the players without having a game. If the change is not made in this window, then barring a complete disaster it would make little sense to pull the trigger before the end of the season.
The actuality of this means that Silva should be given until the summer to convince the supporters of the club and it’s board he is the right candidate. If he cannot reverse the recent run of 10 defeats in the last 16 the question it will be difficult to make much of a case for him. He will need some luck over the next 12 games but will also need to get the best out of the players and prevent soft set piece goals being conceded. Failure to do this will mean the voices of discontent will grow stronger and the club may be forced to act.