With each passing game, it becomes an increasingly arduous to judge quite where Everton are under Marco Silva’s management. Week on week, the Toffees continue to perplex.
It is difficult to find a more accurate microcosm the Blues’ frustrating campaign than their last three games, a 0-0 derby draw, the 3-2 defeat to Newcastle United, and Sunday’s 2-0 win over Chelsea.
To negate one of the Premier League’s most potent attacks in Liverpool, and to eventually sweep aside Chelsea with relative ease, epitomises the quality in the squad at Silva’s disposal.
But as heartening as those highlights were, it only makes the capitulation in the North East, when the Blues threw away a 2-0 lead against the fourth-lowest scorers in the league, and the feeble first half against Chelsea more inexplicable. Time and again this term, Everton have been the architects of their own downfall.
Certainly, though, Silva has turned a personal corner. Since the 17-day break in February, following a 1-0 defeat at Watford when the Portuguese manager looked on the brink, he has barely put a foot wrong, barring the introduction of Yerry Mina at St. James’ Park last weekend, perhaps.
And rarely will he have derived more pleasure in his tenure at Goodison Park than in the Chelsea victory, with the Blues’ second half performance a huge improvement on a first period in which they resembled a side merely waiting to concede.
Sam Allardyce may disagree, but while the statistics may suggest Everton’s campaign has been a carbon copy of last season, this was the sort of showing the Blues simply could not produce under his leadership. In that regard, Silva has undoubtedly overseen some form of progression at Goodison.
Sunday’s victory finally saw the Blues reach the holy grail of the 40-point mark, arresting any lingering, far-fetched fears of relegation, a notion which seemed inconceivable when Silva’s men looked set for an assault on the top six only three months ago.
And while it has made for infuriating viewing to see the way Everton have imploded this season, the fleeting moments of genuine promise about his side surely merit the boss being spared the sack once this campaign concludes.
The ever-improving understanding down the left flank of Lucas Digne and Bernard, the unmatched tenacity of Idrissa Gueye, the flair and unpredictability offered at times by Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurðsson; Evertonians will hope these are all the embryonic signs of a special team forming.
On Sunday, all of these qualities came together to produce the Toffees’ best result of Silva’s reign. Unfortunately for the manager, such instances of this have only been sporadic over the course of a turbulent year.
Perhaps it is naive to invest such faith in a man who has repeated countless mistakes in recent months. But if Silva can continue to rectify these past errors, combined with the potential and quality in his squad and the almost spotless transfer record by director of football Marcel Brands so far, then Blues fans have good reason to approach the summer with high hopes.
Silva has failed to alleviate the sinking feeling among Evertonians post-January in his first term. But while this season has been yet another endurance test at times, there have been enough signs of encouragement to deserve a show of faith in him from owner Farhad Moshiri.
It is imperative that the campaign ends strongly for the Blues, and surpassing last season’s points total of 49 must be a minimum requirement.
But once the remaining seven games are dealt with, Silva’s focus must immediately turn to planning for his most defining season as a manager yet.