Another weekend, another defeat. Another sigh of disbelief that the inevitable again became reality. Another season essentially over by January.
And for Marco Silva, another set of grievances sent the Everton manager’s way.
Rev up your keyboards and hashtag your slogans, ladies and gentlemen, the Blues have just been knocked out of the FA Cup by Millwall, 19th in the Championship, and for that, the Internet would have you believe, the boss must pay the price.
Herein lies one of modern football’s greatest flaws. Ever since it subscribed to the cancerous ‘Twitter culture’, whereby gratification must be instant and delusions of grandeur are rife, no manager is more than one lean spell away from feeling the wrath of his own club’s keyboard warriors.
To have reservations or complaints about Silva is perfectly reasonable. Any manager who presides over a run of three wins in 12 games in all competitions will always be left susceptible to criticism, and justifiably so.
Indeed, the spectacular fashion in which Everton’s season has unravelled since the last-minute heartbreak at Anfield in December, as well as the basic defensive errors the Blues have repeatedly made lately, lends credence to the notion that Silva is simply not doing his job properly.
It is also fair to point to how he was unable to salvage the seasons of Hull City or Watford FC once both began to derail under him. The Tigers were relegated, and the Hornets parted company. It is, admittedly, hardly awe-inspiring stuff.
But if Everton were to give a manager half a season to eradicate a malaise that has beset the club for the best part of the last five years, then what hope is there for anyone, let alone Silva’s successor?
Time is a sparse commodity in football these days, but for Silva, and Everton, it must now be a prerequisite for owner Farhad Moshiri’s aspirations to come to fruition. Ultimately, there is no quick fix to years of over-spending on an under-motivated, bloated squad.
The squad at Silva’s disposal is, predominantly, a concoction of failings from past regimes which will take more than a couple of transfer windows to apply the right sort of surgery to. Director of football Marcel Brands has already made a big impact in that department last summer, but will need more time to remedy this dysfunctional hotchpotch.
It is difficult to question Moshiri’s decision to pull the handbrake on the club’s spending sprees, either. Almost three years into his tenure, he has received scant return from an investment of more than a quarter of a billion pounds.
But for the Iranian to be prudent in the extreme will only be to Silva’s detriment. The manager’s frustration is palpable, and certainly understandable, but he should at least be afforded the opportunity to build a squad in his image, just as Roberto Martínez and Ronald Koeman were. As soon as the expensive cast-offs, namely Morgan Schneiderlin and Yannick Bolasie, are off the wage bill, the picture will become clearer.
It is even hard to see a long-term future for some of his regular starters. Seamus Coleman, 30, and Theo Walcott, 29, have both endured torrid campaigns, yet have been picked more often than not, seemingly due to a lack of a viable alternative, rather than on merit.
The same applies to Gylfi Sigurðsson, also 29, who, despite notching ten goals so far this term, seems ill-suited to the more dynamic style of play craved by Silva, and whose own recent performances, or lack thereof, do not warrant an almost-guaranteed place on the team sheet. But there is no natural replacement for the Icelander, so he will probably survive, for the time being, at least.
Silva’s persistence with the patently overworked André Gomes in central midfield also suggests an element of distrust in the alternatives, in particular the one-paced Schneiderlin, the injury-prone James McCarthy, or the raw Tom Davies. Fans bemoan a lack of identity about Silva’s Everton, though there can be little wonder this is the case when too many of them evidently have no future on his watch.
It is too simplistic, facetious even, to draw serious comparisons between Martínez and Silva. The former inherited a settled, talented and unified squad which had just secured their seventh top-seven finish in the previous nine years. The latter was lumped with an ungodly mess high on earnings but low on quality.
Yet there are also undeniable similarities between the two reigns. Both churn out the same dreary post-match platitudes, both have their admirable footballing philosophies hamstrung by an inability to organise a defence, both seem oblivious to their managerial faux pas.
Silva cannot legislate for his left-back, Lucas Digne, giving away a needless free-kick which led to Millwall’s second goal, nor can he be deemed culpable for the Lions profiting from a handball which ended up in Jordan Pickford’s net. An equable, composed individual by nature, the ferocity in his wild gesticulations on the touchline bore all the hallmarks of a man reeling from a burning sense of injustice.
But it hardly requires a tactical masterclass to prepare accordingly for a physical, rough-and-ready Championship side such as Millwall. Lions boss Neil Harris did his homework, sent his side out to play to their strengths, and made Silva’s gameplan for a staggeringly unprepared Everton look asinine in comparison.
Martínez’s utter blindness to his own shortcomings led him to the point of no return as Everton boss. Silva has not plunged to such depths in the Goodison Park hot seat quite yet, but a similar refusal to accept and address his team’s inadequacies will only accelerate the delivery of his P45.
That time, though, is not now. Not yet, anyway. Few would question Everton’s decision to dispense with Martínez’s services in May 2016, but ever since, the club has become intoxicated on transition.
Moshiri has already haemorrhaged his money on three spins of the managerial wheel, and his numbers have yet to come up.
Logic dictates that they wouldn’t again this time, either.