Premier League

4-point plan for Silva to get sticky Toffees unstuck

 • by James Piercy
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Whereas most new appointments are thrust into a new job with little preparation, Marco Silva has enjoyed a significant period of time to ready himself for Everton with knowledge of their interest dating back to November and having been sacked by at Watford in January.

As a very modern manager with a firm focus on the devil being in the detail, the Portuguese must know the Everton squad more comprehensively than even the most ardent Toffees fan.

It’s a sizeable job for the Portuguese with the belief that owner Farhad Moshiri wants to turn the club into the  Atlético Madrid of the Premier League; that is a well-managed and well-run club capable of punching above its financial means and competing with the elite of the division.

There a considerable chasm to cross with Everton finishing 14 points behind sixth-placed Arsenal and 26 adrift of Liverpool in fourth, while the club’s average points haul over the last five seasons of 55.2 is well below what is usually required to break into the higher echelons of England’s top flight.

Not only does Silva have to immediately improve on what Ronald Koeman, David Unsworth and Sam Allardyce managed in 2017/18, with their season fractured from start to finish, he must show immediate signs in his first season that the leap can be made.

We take a look at some the immediate tactical tasks in Silva’s in-tray as he begins a new era at Goodison Park…

 

Building a Brands

A significant reason behind Everton’s dreadful start under Koeman last season was a summer transfer window that made little sense conducted by three different parties, seemingly operating within their own set of rules.

To highlight the discord between manager Koeman, director of football Steve Walsh and Moshiri was the arrival of Davy Klaassen, Gylfi Sigurðsson and Wayne Rooney. Each appeared to have been picked by someone else but all essentially played in the same position.

Rooney’s days as a No.9 were long gone and it was quickly apparent he could only function as a No.10, Sigurðsson’s best position, with the Icelandic international shunted to the left to accommodate the returning hometown hero.

Mix in Klaassen, who needed time to adapt to English football and best existed as a No.8 or 10 with protection behind him, and you had a real logjam in that area of the field which was only exacerbated by the fact no real replacement for Romelu Lukaku was signed.

Marco Silva has the legacy of last summer's failed recruitment drive to deal with

That disastrous summer cost Walsh his job and was a major factor for Koeman’s firing with Moshiri left standing. The reaction has been to appoint former PSV decision-maker Marcel Brands and the synergy between his department and Silva needs to be strong.

Silva has experience from his time at Watford of working in a model where transfer decisions are deferred upstairs but it was not always an easy relationship between head coach and recruitment department at Vicarage Road. 

Given how faithful Moshiri has been to Silva and the length of time he had to consider the merits of the 40-year-old, all the time thinking of the Brands appointment, you would expect the appropriate due diligence to have been done and the pair to dovetail correctly.

Cenk Tosun of Everton celebrates following his side's win during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Everton at Bet365 Stadium

Goals wins games

Everton’s top scorer in the Premier League last season was Rooney with ten – four of which were from the penalty spot and the 32-year-old didn’t score after December 18. Behind him was the oft-ignored Oumar Niasse with eight and then January arrival Cenk Tosun’s five.

Rooney’s departure from the club appears inevitable and should now be accelerated with the arrival of Silva and Brands while Niasse will, at best, play a bit-part role (although his 0.62 xG per 90 was the tenth highest of all Premier League players to have played ten games or more) which means Tosun, at least for now, is the main man.

Tosun’s form was encouraging given he arrived from a settled existence at Besiktas where he was a star into a dysfunctional team, playing average football in a city and country he had never lived in.

The Turkish international showed himself to be a solid and unselfish targetman, ranking tenth among strikers for aerial duels won per 90 with 2.4, while his 0.2 accurate pull-backs placed him seventh and 0.4 assists was 20th.

His expected goals, however, was a slightly disappointing 0.29, only marginally better than Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s 0.26, and he was 35th for total scoring attempts per 90 with 3.0 and 26th for touches in the opposition box at 6.41.

A significant part of that is mitigated by how shot-shy and anemanic Everton were in the final third, ranking 19th in the league for total scoring attempts per 90 with 9.44, 13th for big chances created per 90 with 1.07 and 15th for xG per 90 at 1.03.

Silva’s strengths at Watford (1.24 xG per 90) and Hull (1.03) doesn’t scream he’s an outwardly-offensive coach but Everton simply have to be better and more productive in the final third for him to fulfil Moshiri’s wish.

Whether it be Tosun, Niasse, Calvert-Lewin or a new arrival, more emphasis has to be made on chance creation for his frontmen.

Everton forward Theo Walcott

The case for pace

How those opportunities are created becomes of utmost importance as Silva has shown in his short but eventful managerial career to be a coach who likes to counter-attack and encourages the ball to be worked wide.

It’s an area of the field the Toffees have prospered down the years, particularly in the cross-heavy days of David Moyes, but there remains little obvious width in the squad Silva has been left with, bar Yannick Bolasie and all his enigma-like qualities and frustrations.

Theo Walcott is a wide forward in the sense that is his starting position, and he is a player to beat defenders on the inside rather than push for the touchline. Nikola Vlašić and Calvert-Lewin are options but neither are perhaps quite ready for such a role.

Silva could be a coach to unlock Bolasie’s best as under Allardyce the Congolese international was poor, especially in penetrating defences as his 1.79 successful take-ons per 90 was a significant drop on the 7.5 he averaged in 2016/17.

Reinforcements are clearly needed if Silva is to prioritise this area as a source of attacking creativity, while he’s also likely to look to his full-backs for offensive support.

Leighton Baines has been a figure of stability and continuity but his key passes per 90 (open play and set pieces) has slowly slipped from the range of 1.5-2 per 90 to the 1.1 he delivered during last season’s injury-plagued campaign. At 33, he is a prominent dressing room presence but his influence on the field is dwindling.

Séamus Coleman battled back from injury to return for the second-half of the campaign and delivered encouraging numbers for open play chances created per 90 with 0.6 (30th among full-backs) but especially successful take-ons with 2.17, second-best in the Premier League.

The Republic of Ireland international is an ideal fit for Silva’s transition attacking and with the emerging Jonjoe Kenny in support, the new coach’s focus will undoubtedly be on shoring up the left side with Cuco Martina a strong defensive presence – 2.99 tackles per 90 (third overall) and 2.11 interceptions (sixth) – but lacking that attacking thrust.

Buying Danny Rose from Tottenham, for one, makes an awful lot of sense

Centre of the storm

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Silva has prioritised shape and organisation in building teams and that starts with the heart of his defence which has to be the bedrock for any successful side; with the exception of Pep Guardiola-led teams.

With Phil Jagielka still Everton’s most reliable centre-back, Silva has major work to do in this area.

Michael Keane was expected to be Jagielka Mk. II but instead, removed from the stringent system he had prospered in at Burnley, he looked exposed, lacking confidence and incapable of making the step up in quality.

He wasn’t helped by the wretched form of Ashley Williams with the Wales captain appearing to lose all sense of defensive duty and leadership as the rest of the team crumbled around his mistakes and questionable decision-making.

Williams’ future needs to be sorted, and you would expect him to leave, but Keane should stay along with Jagielka plus two arrivals, depending on Ramiro Funes Mori’s fitness having returned towards the end of the season from a torn meniscus.

Everton’s 14.23 scoring attempts conceded per 90 ranked them 15th in the Premier League and they possessed the seventh-highest xG conceded at 1.42; from one of the most disciplined and defensively sound teams in the league they quickly became a soft touch.

That’s emphasised by the fact that no team conceded more goals in open play than the Toffees’ 46.

Defending is a collective responsibility which starts from the front and filters back but, in truth, the example and standards have to be set by the men whose main job it is – the centre-backs.

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