Should Sam Allardyce be looking over his shoulder for Marco Silva at Everton?
Upon arriving in the Premier League 12 months ago, Marco Silva had a clear plan. His ambition led the path to the top for him in English football, but he had to start at the bottom of the top flight. Job one, the role that would spark the journey if he got it right, was at Hull City. The Tigers were lowly, doomed to relegation and appeared to have no hope. Had it not been for some strange attitudes towards him getting the job ahead of an Englishman, the stylish Portuguese coach would have been under no pressure at all.
Very few people knew of him and even fewer expected Hull to survive the drop. All Silva really needed to do was show he could motivate the players, make them fight and perform, in a way Mike Phelan, his predecessor at the KCOM Stadium, couldn’t. Even though he eventually failed to deliver on his ultimate goal on Humberside, Silva’s meticulous planning, attacking style of play and supreme confidence in his own ability meant people had taken notice.
Crystal Palace, Southampton and Watford were all immediately credited with an interest in his services; he chose the latter. The Pozzo family, who own the club, were known for chopping and changing their managers; Silva was named their eighth in just five years and was looking to become the first man to survive more than a season since the Hornets returned to the Premier League in 2015. Phase two of his plan was kicking into gear.
Over-ambition haunts Marco Silva
As of Sunday morning, though, he had lasted half the time of either Quique Sanchez Flores or Walter Mazzarri. Watford sacked him after a run of two wins in 13 games, despite still being tenth in the Premier League. It didn’t take long for it to become apparent that results weren’t the primary reason for his departure, rather an excuse. The breakdown in trust between the owners, the manager and the players was quickly blamed for their slump after Everton made it clear they wanted Silva to replace Ronald Koeman at Goodison Park in October.
The Toffees pushed and pushed, irking Watford with every step. Silva did not hide his desire to at least discuss a deal with the Merseyside club, who are undoubtedly at the next level in terms of stature, ambition and wages, but his bosses stood firm. Silva was completely non-committal, just as he had been at Hull towards the end of his time there. Eventually, Everton moved on, having seen a sizeable compensation package rejected. Sam Allardyce was a much more unfashionable choice to fill Koeman’s shoes, but as he was hired, Silva had to turn his attention back to Watford. It was never the same; the statement attached to Sunday’s announcement even directly blamed the entire saga for the sour end to his reign at Vicarage Road.
Garcia appointed at Watford
Former Malaga boss Javi Gracia has already been named as the new man in town. Silva will have woken up shell-shocked; he can rightfully point to the serious injuries suffered by key players, such as Nathaniel Chalobah, and the fact he couldn’t get his strongest team on the pitch, or that he was shackled in the transfer market, having to answer to a director, with the one signing made on his say-so, Richarlison, proving the biggest success. But he showed his hand; his ambition got the better of him and he gave the board a reason to act as soon as results turned. Nine games is all it took for him to look elsewhere, so they didn’t think he could ever be in it for the long-haul.
There will be regret on both sides, not least from the Pozzos who will wish they had taken the vast sums offered to them for their manager just four months ago. Silva, though, goes looking for another job with no doubts over his quality as a coach; his upward trajectory is still very much in tact and, but for some loyalty issues, there aren’t many reasons he can’t go again soon, in England or abroad.
What must Everton majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, the man behind the Toffees’ intense pursuit of Silva, be thinking now? Allardyce arrived with relegation a real possibility, and though he has calmed those fears, results have deserted him of late, and his reputation these days does not go beyond a glorified fire fighter.
Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to struggling West Brom stretched Everton’s winless run to eight games in all competitions, and brought a scathing assessment from Allardyce. The initial honeymoon period, which saw a run of seven games unbeaten, is long gone, and though it would be incredibly harsh on the man in charge now to end his stint at the first sign of trouble, there would be external factors behind any decision, just as there were with Silva at Watford.
The longer this terrible run of form goes on, the more the shadow of Silva will loom over Allardyce. His style of management is not suited to the squad; despite spending £47million on Theo Walcott and Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun this month, he has said his side must become ‘more boring’, and insisted last summer’s major arrivals Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson cannot play together. Any success under the former England boss will mean hefty surgery on the squad, taking Everton further away from where they see themselves, as an entertaining team challenging the very best.
Marco Silva has not necessarily proven he would be a better man to lead Everton, but the club certainly felt he was at one stage. His sacking from Watford creates debate with points on both sides, but now he is free again, Sam Allardyce must pick up form soon or face the obvious questions.