Premier League 2018-19: The pressure is mounting on Marco Silva at Everton, and for good reason
A run of bad results, the latest being a defeat at home to Wolves, has resulted in Everton manager Marco Silva finding himself under pressure. Everton fans have made their feelings known in recent weeks and have every reason to be unhappy with the recent performances of the team, despite their win against Huddersfield last week.
The defeat against Wolves showed the deficiencies that this team has. They were poor at defending set-pieces, slow in transition and defensively they were simply all over the place.
Everton have been largely unspectacular so far this campaign. They have been efficient in a few games but to say they have played good football or that the tactical philosophy has changed from previous seasons would be inaccurate.
Their woes are clear as they have only won six of their last 17 games in all competitions, and one of those was against League One's Lincoln in the FA Cup. The four defeats in the last six games should be a concern for Silva in terms of how they affect his team's confidence and the backing he receives from the fans and the Everton board.
Expectations at Everton
The top echelons at Everton are determined to see their club move into the elite of the Premier League. Ever since Farhad Moshiri has joined the club, he has overseen a massive £300m+ spending on transfers.
Despite this drastic spending though, the club looks as far as it ever has from breaking into the top six of the Premier League.
Moshiri has entrusted three different managers with the job of elevating the club to the next level, without success. He has certainly backed Silva, allowing him to spend over 80 million pounds during the summer of 2018.
The players that were acquired by Silva came to the club with big reputations, and when you consider the quality that was already at the club, the current 9th place position in the Premier League must be viewed as an underachievement. The club are closer to the relegation zone than they are the top six of the Premier League, which must be one of the biggest frustrations for Everton fans.
The FA cup defeat to Millwall was certainly controversial, but overall Everton did not deserve to win the game and progress in the competition. Overall the players looked lethargic, and progressively grew in frustration with each other on the pitch. There even seemed to be an element of complacency in certain instances.
This was not surprising though, as we have seen signs of these attitudes growing - especially in the 2-1 defeat at the hands of Southampton and the home defeat to Leicester City. The narrow 1-nil victory away against Huddersfield has done nothing to relieve the pressure that Silva might and should be feeling currently.
What has gone wrong for Everton and Silva?
The constant changing of the defense personnel and formation is a prominent factor in the problems the team faces currently. Silva has altered between a system of three at the back with wing backs, and a back four defense.
Everton playing with a back four is where they look most comfortable. But the big problem Silva has is that the on-loan Kurt Zouma and the under-performing Michael Keane make far too many mistakes, the latest evidence being the Wolves' second goal on Saturday.
Both players do not look like they command their defence; instead, they both look awkward on the ball the majority of the time. Keane often gets lost in a positional sense, especially with runners in behind.
Zouma forms a much better partnership with former Barcelona defender Yerry Mina. The physical presence of these central defenders means Zouma can cover in behind and drop deeper for the towering Colombian center half.
The Everton defence has suffered in recent years, especially when defending set pieces - a record that Silva has been known for during his managerial stints in England. This has been the team's biggest weakness the last two seasons.
With the changing to a system of three at the back system and wing backs, another player who has to change his play is new signing Lucas Digne. The French left back has been one of the major success stories to come out of Goodison Park so far this season, but only when he is in his familiar left back role.
When he is asked to play wing back, we see a more conservative player, someone who almost seems to be trying to learn how to play left wing. Playing a consistent back four has to be a priority for Silva moving forward, especially to get the best out of not only Digne but also Seamus Coleman on the opposite wing, who it must be said has looked far from his best since his recovery from a fractured leg.
Allowing the highly promising Mason Holgate to leave on loan to Championship challengers West Brom has be considered a mistake right now. Considering Keane has played alongside Zouma on so many occasions this season, it seems an oversight to not start Holgate ahead of the England understudy defender.
The former Barnsley defender can operate at right back just as efficiently as central defence. And Holgate, unlike Keane and Zouma, carries himself like a leader in the heart of the defence. He can play under pressure in possession, he can read the game both in the air and the ground, and his defensive positioning has improved significantly. His qualities would almost certainly have added stability to the Everton back-line.
The lack of a top striker
The lack of a centre forward has been a serious concern for Everton ever since the club sold fan favourite Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United. Silva has resorted to playing Richarlison, his top goalscorer with 11 goals, in this central role more often than not in recent times, and to lesser effect than he was getting in the early stages of the season when he was operating off the left hand side.
The former Watford forward has shown quality at Goodison Park, but his attitude can be a serious problem. He has evidently looked disgruntled with his teammates, even more so in recent weeks.
The club does need to address the issue of a striker within the team, but one player who constantly delivers when given an opportunity is young English striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The young forward has shown that he can be the man to lead the line for the club, but getting a consistent run in the side in his favoured position has been hard to come by.
The England under-21 international has the ability to run in behind the opposition defenders and stretch the game. He can score various types of goals, he is efficient aerially, and in front of goal he keeps his composure more often than not to finish chances.
The striker position needs attention by Silva and his coaching staff, but looking forward Calvert-Lewin must be in this team.
The reluctance to drop under-fire Jordan Pickford seems to be having a massive impact at Everton. His performances this season have been poor to say the least; his decision-making has been rash, he is trying too much when he is playing out from the back, he is far from commanding in set piece situations, and even his shot stopping has dropped from the standards of the previous seasons.
This has to be having an effect on the team, especially when defending set pieces.
Every time the opposition gets in these positions, there is an expectation that they will score. Pickford has to come out of the first XI, at least for a few games.
The mistake against their bitter rivals Liverpool earlier in the season was unforgivable. To make such an error at that stage of the match and on such an occasion was worthy of being dropped, a step that Silva should and must make with the current England number one.
The role of Gylfi Sigurdsson
Perhaps the most controversial point in Everton's crisis is the impact of Icelandic star Gylfi Sigurdsson. Despite contributing 10 goals himself this season, the former Tottenham and Swansea attacking midfielder has never quite looked the right fit at Goodison Park.
Watching Sigurdsson in the No. 10 role, ahead of the technical brilliance of Andre Gomes, reminds us of the issue that Everton faced when Wayne Rooney was at the club last season alongside Sigurdsson.
Sigurdsson does possess a great eye for goal, and his set-pieces are among the best in the Premier League. But the problem with the attacking play-maker is that when transitioning from defence to attack, Everton often look far too slow. And it is Sigurdsson who seems to be slowing the pace of the team attacks down.
Gomes has looked frustrated in recent weeks. His extremely promising start after making his loan move from Barcelona to Goodison Park has all but been nullified.
His frustrations can be seen with the lack of movement and the lack of players wanting to take possession and making runs off the ball for him to target. His goal against Wolves illustrated just how much more Gomes can bring to the team in advanced positions.
Without pace and runners off the ball, the risk will be Gomes not having the desired effect on the pitch - especially when in possession centrally. Could Silva sacrifice Sigurdsson and add some dynamism into his midfield with local lad Tom Davies? That would allow Gomes to take hold of the game from a deeper role and get movement in behind the opposition defence.
Silva does have options to bring in, but perhaps moving into a 4-3-3 shape or even adding pace into the No. 10 role would get the best out of his attacking threat on the pitch.
Next up for Everton are the champions Manchester City at home, so the precarious position Silva finds himself in currently could become worse. With away trips to Watford and Cardiff coming up before hosting bitter rivals Liverpool, Silva's position in charge of the club will be under increasingly sharper scrutiny.