We continue our review of the past Everton season, in which each individual will be recapped and rated. Next up: the manager Marco Silva.
Everton went through a tumultuous time signing Marco Silva. When Ronald Koeman had been let go midway through the previous season, Silva had come on the Everton Board’s radar while he was in charge of Watford FC.
The Hornets would later claim that the Blues’ interest turned his head and as their side went into freefall, sacked Silva in January. The saga that ensued throughout is a story for another time, but to cut it short, the Blues appointed the Portuguese manager over the summer, with new Director of Football Marcel Brands coming over from PSV Eindhoven to keep an eye over everything.
The Blues started the season hot, but then as the weather got colder, so did the team’s form. December and January were particularly horrendous months when a series of flat performances again raised the spectre of a relegation battle along with the now customary cries of “XYZ Out!”, where XYZ is any given manager on any given day of the season.
However, after one particular international break in February, it appeared as if Silva had finally hit upon the right recipe and from there on out the Blues looked a different side and finished the season strong.
The Blues finished in 8th place, the same as last season, but the sea change in the team and playing style was quite clear. Everton looked quicker and much more fluid when in possession, and while there were plenty of heart-in-mouth moments when defending, the backline seemed much more stable than the previous season.
Once out of the midseason dip, the team’s home form looked imperious as the Blues dismissed Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United with ease. The number of pink boxes in the away column above remains a concern as the away form needs to be better. At the end of the season, the Blues were the 7th best team at home, and 12th best away, so plenty of room for improvement there.
Another area that immediate improvement will be required is in the Cups. Despite fielding relatively strong sides, the Toffees went crashing out of the League Cup at the Third Round stage and the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. Anything less than at least one semi-finals appearance in either tournament next season will be considered abject failure.
The manager has brought a sense of flair to the team that had been lacking since the Roberto Martinez days. There are still some key issues to resolve for the manager though. His overreliance in a core of about 13-14 players led to the midseason malaise as fatigue and injuries kicked in. To some extent Brands can help him out by adding more quality pieces to the squad.
Improper execution of zonal marking at setpieces caused the Blues to concede a number of avoidable goals especially early on, but that is one area that has seen marked improvement.
The future for Everton appears to be full of potential. United, Chelsea and Arsenal all appear to be in turmoil, and should Brands & Co. pull out another transfer window like they did last summer, Silva should have a full set of effective tools to deploy at his bidding.
As called out above, fans will be looking for a Wembley appearance and a serious onslaught on the top six at the very minimum in Silva’s second season. It doesn’t seem unreasonable.
There have been parts of the season when we wanted to give him an ‘A’, and parts when he looked like a ‘D’ student. In the end we settled for a middle of the road ‘B’ grade - some plaudits for what he achieved already, but keeping him hungry to make the step up for next season.