If you’ve come here this week looking for insightful tactical nuance, I have bad news for you.
It’s not that I have Marco Silva tactical fatigue (I mean, I do have that, but it isn’t the point) — it’s just that there very simply isn’t anything interesting to say about what Everton did tactically on Sunday. Mind, that’s not even a real criticism of the manager.
Silva was dealt an impossible hand this weekend, with so many important players out injured. His only real option was to do what he did — recall Michael Keane, play five at the back, and find some combination of forwards and midfielders that made at least a modicum of sense.
He did that, opening with a 5-4-1 that morphed into a 5-3-2 after the introduction of Morgan Schneiderlin and Moise Kean. His team sat deep, absorbed pressure, and tried to break on the counter, because with the talent at his disposal and the way Leicester City is currently playing, that’s about all he could do.
It worked in the first half, but eventually the dam broke with Jamie Vardy equalizing, then Kelechi Iheanacho grabbing the winner in stoppage time. 96+ minutes is a long time to play the way Everton set out to, and Leicester managed to eventually break them down.
As I said though, there isn’t much beyond that to speak of tactically. It’s hard to blame Silva for what happened on Sunday, because his hands were tied by injuries to key players, with his squad up against one of the best in the Premier League.
That attitude though, is much more interesting to me at this stage.
No one — not me, not you, not the supporters, not the board — genuinely seems to think that Silva has the tactical or motivational nous to navigate this tricky spell of the season. The Leicester match was just the start of this difficult stretch, as Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Leicester in the League Cup, and Arsenal compose the Toffees’ next five opponents.
And surely you can’t sack a manager for failing to get results against the league’s top teams when he’s down half a dozen first-team players, right?
Well... that’s the danger of Everton’s current situation.
It does feel somewhat unfair to Silva to say “well, you just failed to get points against Leicester (and presumably Liverpool), so you’re out the door.” And yet, the sacking of Marco Silva still feels inevitable — it isn’t a matter of if it’ll happen this season, just when.
So what exactly are we waiting for here? Silva to inevitably help Everton to drop more points against beatable teams, just to finalize that correctness of the decision?
Surely the club’s decision-makers cannot expect Silva to repeat the form his team showed in a similar run of fixtures at the end of last season, right? They’re aware that Idrissa Gueye now plies his trade in Paris and Andre Gomes’ foot was at a perpendicular angle to his ankle just a few weeks ago, right? The high-pressing style that served them so well against the traditional Premier League powers just isn’t possible with a midfield of Tom Davies and Morgan Schneiderlin.
Everton management is currently playing the part of the too-nice girlfriend, stuck in a relationship it and all its friends know is broken beyond repair. “But he’s going through a hard time,’ they insist, “it wouldn’t be fair to him to break up with him now.”
So we’ll all sit and watch as the couple awkwardly shows up together at parties — her acting like everything is fine while he sulks in the corner refusing to talk to anyone. And we’ll try to be the supportive friends, but there’s only so many ways you can politely say “I don’t think he’s right for you” before you just give up and hang out with your other friends.
And so Everton needs to cut the cord — the sooner, the better.
I’m no fan of David Unsworth, but the man can trot out five at the back and coach a bunker-and-counter approach for a month while the club lines up Silva’s true successor. Heck, so can Duncan Ferguson, while giving opponents a bloody nose. Let’s be real, Everton aren’t taking any meaningful quantity of points until Boxing Day at least, and it looks pretty obvious from the outside that the club is at least weighing its options in regards to a replacement.
So cut the pretense, end the waiting game, and save us all a month of predictable misery. Make the move we all know you’re going to be forced to make so that the players can adjust, we can be relieved, and you can conduct a coaching search in earnest.
The longer you wait, the harder it becomes.