Nobody does pathetic fallacy quite like Everton managers. In the penultimate games of the tenures of both Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman, both men cut dishevelled figures alone on the touchline, drenched by relentless rain, the beaming grins plastered on their faces as they walked into Goodison Park a distant memory by then.
Marco Silva, you feel, is now verging precariously close to re-enacting this. The galling defeat at Brighton on Saturday, where he was caught in a similar downpour to accompany the crushing late blow to the stomach, marked what will surely be his second-to-last game as Everton boss if he cannot find a way past Watford FC in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday.
It all feels too ironic, too cyclical, that Silva could conceivably leave Everton after defeat to Watford, the club who, less than two years ago, he was allegedly desperate to leave to join Everton after Koeman’s sacking. Factor in Watford’s winless start to the Premier League which has left them rooted to the bottom and it is as if football’s great narrative has consigned Silva to losing his current job thanks to his former employers, however hopeless they too may currently be. It is, as it was quite literally for him and Everton at the Amex Stadium on Saturday, a perfect storm.
There are a litany of accusations you could hurl Silva’s way, each of them perhaps enough in their own right to warrant his dismissal. His blind faith in overpaid under-performers, his one-dimensional tactics that come unstuck time and again against teams who put the bunkers up, and his utterly abysmal record of four draws and 20 defeats from league games in which they’ve fallen behind under him, certainly all rankle. But nothing feels quite as jarring to Evertonians as the fact that, ultimately, this team is impossible to warm to.
Why? Because, as much as many of Everton’s players boast technical ability in spades, they don’t have the requisite amount of heart or resilience to underpin it, as those unfathomable statistics bear out. Blues had long lamented the lack of investment provided by Bill Kenwright, but even with about £450 million of Farhad Moshiri’s wealth rather impulsively injected in the last three-and-a-half years, Everton are no closer to redefining themselves. Some may now dismiss the so-called ‘Dogs of War’ approach, initially coined by Joe Royle in the 1990s, as outdated or rudimentary, but the further Everton veer from this in favour of something easier on the eye, the more faceless they actually become.
And while it’s become almost fashionable to pin a football club’s loss of identity on an influx of foreign players, this should not be misconstrued as some sort of xenophobic slur. You don’t have to build a team in Nigel Farage’s image, or send out 11 straggly-haired skateboarding Scousers like Tom Davies to appease Evertonians, you simply need to compile a squad of players both good enough technically and immersed in the club’s culture. Indeed, some of the most revered players in royal blue, even during the fruitless last decade, have been American, Australian, Nigerian, Spanish and South African, to name only a few.
But the reason much of the Goodison faithful are particularly desperate to see Davies succeed at Everton is not just because they may resonate with him more on a personal level than others, but because he looks as if he would die for the shirt every time he takes to the field, an invaluable commodity that sadly goes amiss in not all, but too many of his colleagues. Simultaneously, almost 18 months into Silva’s reign, we still await the first Everton academy graduate to be handed their senior debut on his watch.
And so, a disgraceful run of six defeats in eight league games leaves Silva surely closer to the end than he has been so far. However cruel a hand VAR may have dealt Everton on Saturday, there was still a game there to be won, or at least a point to be taken after Neal Maupay equalised with that contentious penalty ten minutes from time. Again, though, they wilted shamefully.
They say football teams are a personification of their managers. Manchester City, for instance, perfectly reflect the chilled-out entertainer that is Pep Guardiola with their greatly intense but wonderfully composed style of play, and likewise Liverpool’s boisterous, irrepressible outfit under Jürgen Klopp. In that respect, so too do Everton, given they are as dour and devoid of personality on the pitch as Silva is, on and off it.
Even if Watford don’t follow the script on Tuesday, there is still the chance for Tottenham Hotspur, a team who haven’t won away in the league since January, to end that hoodoo at Goodison on Sunday; or for Southampton, who haven’t won at home in the league since April and were pulverised 9-0 by Leicester City in their own back yard on Friday, to break that duck when Everton visit St Mary’s the following weekend. And that’s the problem with Silva’s Everton. We all know where this is going. It all feels so dreadfully inevitable, yet so eerily similar to what has gone before.
A fool and his money are soon parted. And though Moshiri may be wise to now spend another hefty chunk paying off a fourth manager, there will still be the bigger picture to concern himself with regardless. What’s far more pertinent than who occupies the hot seat is rediscovering the spirit Everton possessed long before his arrival, rather than assembling another expensive mishmash of individuals playing on autopilot, merely passing through.