Marco Silva’s appointment at Everton certainly drew some controversy, with Everton now embroiled in a legal dispute with Watford over the way in which he left Watford back in January, but what can Everton fans expect from the young Portuguese manager and how will that fit in with the current Everton squad?
Career so far
Silva started his managerial career back in 2011 and Portuguese second tier team Estoril, where he moved into the role of manager from Director of Football. At the time Estoril were ranked 10th in the league – 24 games later they were champions of the league losing just 3 matches under Silva’s command. Silva performed way above expectation in his first season in the Primeria Liga, miraculously securing Europa League qualification after finishing 5th. The 13/14 season saw Estoril reach the group stages of the Europa League where they finished bottom of their group, below Sevilla, Slovan Liberec and Freiburg, but again a stunning league campaign saw them go one better than the previous season by finishing 4th including a historic win at Porto away – Porto’s first home defeat for 6 seasons.
Silva left Estoril at the end of the 13/14 season, and was undoubtedly without his suitors – officially joining Sporting just 9 days after leaving Estoril. His time at Sporting was brief – lasting just one season, despite achieving a 3rd place finish in the league and winning the clubs first trophy for 7 years – winning the Taca De Portugal, before bizarrely getting sacked less than a week later for not wearing the official club suit.
A move to Greece with Olympiakos then followed a month later, and again success followed, with Olympiakos winning the league by an astonishing 30 points, winning 28 out of their 30 games and conceding just 16 goals whilst scoring 81, achieving the greatest start to a European domestic campaign since the year 2000 – with Silva’s team winning their 17 games in a row. Silva however quit at the beginning of the 16/17 season citing personal reasons, amid persistent rumours that Porto were interested in hiring Silva.
With Porto instead hiring Nuno Espirito Santo, Silva went 6 months unemployed until Hull City looked to Silva in a desperate attempt to keep their Premier League status. Silva was hired on the 5th January 2017 and was thrown in at the deep end, picking up just 13 points from 20 games, leaving them 4 points (and 20 goal difference) away from safety before Silva was hired. Hull finished 18th, 7 points from safety and Silva resigned as the team were relegated.
Just 2 days later Silva was confirmed as Watford manager for the 17/18 season. Watford started the season superbly, picking up 15 points from their first 9 games – leaving them in 6th position. Rumours broke in November of Everton’s interest in Silva, which lead to Everton offering Watford a world record in managerial compensation. Watford declined and Watford’s form started to suffer. Despite Everton instead hiring Allardyce, Watford still dropped plenty of points and Silva was sacked on the 21st January with Watford in 10th – but only 4 points away from the relegation zone.
Silva’s tactics can largely be described as a primarily attacking style of play, relying on dribbling ability, pace and creativity to create chances for anyone playing up front or in midfield. His teams generally also concede plenty of chances for the opposition (more on that later!). His teams don’t display any remarkable characteristics in their style of play such as teams managed by Pep or Sarri and often struggle to keep hold of the ball for long periods of time, which most of the time results in an end-to-end game. When out of possession Silva likes his team to work hard, with the wingers aggressively chasing the ball back down the flanks to help win the ball back as quickly as possible. In central midfield Silva generally prefers one primarily defensive midfielder, partnered with either someone capable of building play up from deep – or a box to box midfielder.
During his time at Hull, Silva seemed to prefer playing with 3 at the back, although I have a feeling that was to try and stop Hull leaking the number of goals that they had earlier in the season. At Watford however, Silva preferred lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and I believe this fits the Everton squad better and will be what Silva will be mainly using during the 18/19 campaign.
As mentioned above, Silva loves pace and work-rate (on top of obviously finishing ability) for his forwards and wingers which is something that Everton currently have an abundance of. Tosun (despite not being the fastest of the 3 strikers that are likely to be in contention) still definitely suits Silva’s style and I’d expect him to be the main starter. Silva managed to get the best out of Niasse during their spell at Hull, and I’d wager on Silva being able to replicate that form again this season as a backup for Tosun. Calvert-Lewin doesn’t take up a squad spot due to his age, and his versatility as either a forward or backup winger means I’d say he’s unlikely to head out on loan and will be staying with the Everton first team.
Everton are stacked with options on the wings, with a potential 6 wingers (8 with Niasse and Calvert-Lewin also able to play on the wing if needed). New signing Richarlison is a Silva favourite and will most likely be the starter on the left-hand side. Walcott also fits the profile of what Silva tends to look for in a winger, and so I’d imagine would be the main option for the right-hand side. Lookman, Mirallas and Sandro’s futures are in doubt after they spent last season out on loan, with Lookman apparently being pursued by RB Leipzig. Only aged 20 and with his best years still ahead of him, I’d definitely keep Lookman and definitely move on Mirallas to clear some wages off the books. The jury is out on Sandro though, who I simply haven’t seen enough of to pass judgement.
Midfield is another tough decision to call. With Rooney and Klassen departing for DC United and Werder Bremen, it allows Sigurdsson to make the attacking midfield spot his own, with Vlasic as a more than capable deputy. Deeper in midfield raises some questions however with Gueye the only player I’d say is certain to start. At Watford, Silva often didn’t play 2 outright defensive midfielders, often playing Doucoure alongside someone capable of building attacks from the back (which was often Tom Cleverley, who I know most Everton fans don’t hold in particularly high regard, but he was fantastic for Watford last season!). Schneiderlin didn’t have the greatest of seasons last year, but with a lack of potential suitors and no new central midfielders being linked to Everton, I can see him partnering Gueye in central midfield.
However, it’s the defence that looks likely to cause the most problems for Everton this season.
You can see from the table above, that apart from the fantastic season at Olympiakos, Silva’s teams tend to concede a fair amount of goals and looking at the current players Silva currently has at his disposal in defence, it’s hard to see Everton being tight in defence this season.
With Ashley Williams joining Stoke on loan for the season, it leaves just Micheal Keane, Phil Jagielka and Mason Holgate as their only senior options at centre-back. At 35 Jagielka has certainly lost his pace that is required for the high-line that Silva tends to play. Last seasons £25m arrival Michael Keane is the obvious starter, although he looked the shadow of the player he was at Burnley and it’ll be interesting to see whether Silva can get the best out of him again, although the style of play will be drastically different to that at Burnley, so I have my doubts whether Keane will be able to replicate his Burnley form at Everton. Mason Holgate is the only other potential option and has shown flashes of being able to make the step-up, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be chosen as a regular starter under Silva. The rumours of Marcos Rojo signing from Manchester United may very well address a lot of the defensive concerns, but is still far from the reliable rock that Everton are after.
Set-pieces are another potential area for concern. Watford regularly conceded from corners under Silva, and his zonal marking set-up was undoubtedly the cause. Below is a picture of Watford’s defensive set-up against Arsenal in October 2017 and was the same set-up used throughout Silva’s time at Watford.
Zonal marking is a fantastic way of defending set-pieces – if used correctly. Silva’s set-up actually puts the team at a severe disadvantage. By positioning a majority of the team in a single line, it means this wall of players is vulnerable in 2 places. The first is the wall itself – by having a single wall of players you’re incredibly weak against players running at the wall as they’ll have momentum on their side. Also interestingly Silva man-marks the 2 biggest aerial threats in the opposition team – with the 2 weakest players in air. The above corner saw Tom Cleverley attempt to man-mark Per Mertesacker, which was never likely to end well.
The next area is the very edge of the area – whilst not as dangerous as conceding a header on the edge of the 6-yard box, there are plenty of players and teams in the Premier League that you don’t want to give a free shot from the edge of the area from. This was something few teams really picked up on though – although Chelsea did pick up on it with devastating effect.
As a Watford fan, I saw Silva bring some of the best attacking football I’ve seen to Vicarage Road, but there are huge question marks as to whether he’ll be able to reach the very very top of the game. He’s still incredibly young for a manager and certainly has time on his side, but elements of his managerial philosophy such as his defensive set-up from both set-pieces and open play certainly need looking at and refining.
Doubts about his loyalty means he’s unlikely to stick around long if a bigger or better offer is on the table, it’s notable that there isn’t a long time between most of his jobs (joined Sporting 9 days after leaving Estoril, Olympiakos a month after Sporting and Watford 2 days after leaving Hull), perhaps he is too eager to move up the hierarchy of clubs which may very well set him back in the future. I’d wager on him doing better long-term by sticking with a club and improving them season after season, showing that he will be able to handle a top job in football.
Everton chairman Moshiri seems to think Silva will be at Everton for many seasons to come, and Silva certainly has the talent to perform.