Another FA Cup week with no Everton gone, the identity issue and what Silva can do..

To be out of both domestic cups for the 2018/19 season makes it 24 years without a competitive trophy for Everton, a scourge that many Evertonians believe to be simply unacceptable, especially for those that witnessed the trophy laden days of the 1960s and 1980s.

It’s a fair statement to say Everton have not come close to the calibre of side that saw them crowned champions of England in 1986/87. Dogged 1-0 wins in both the 1995 FA Cup final and Community Shield against then champions Blackburn are the only times Everton have made good on delivering silverware back to Merseyside since, but even so most would have told you- Everton were far from the best team in the land, finishing 15th in the 94/95 Premier League thanks to an SOS job under the management one of Goodison’s favourite sons, Joe Royle.

Since then, Everton have reached four semi-finals and one FA Cup final. Whilst an improvement on the “Dogs of War” mentality of the 90s, Moyes’ Everton sides could be surmised by their tenacity and ability to claim the occasional scalp against what mainstream media proclaimed “big six”. The competitive balance in England has since shifted dramatically with the commercialisation of the Premier League, and Moyes’ predecessor, Roberto Martinez, at first looked to be guiding Everton to gatecrashing the established order in a 5th place finish in his first season at the club and a respectable quarter-finals exit in the FA Cup to eventual winners Arsenal.

Raw, developing talent such as Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, John Stones and Gerard Deulofeu saw Martinez’ prioritise the clubs ambitions to win a cup in order to keep the youngsters of huge monetary value happy to stay. A spectacular failure in the 14/15 Europa League round of 16 and two semi-final disappointments in the 15/16 season could not justify consecutive bottom half finishes in the league.

The cash-in on Everton’s rough diamonds began, with the aforementioned “fab four” parting ways to regular European competitors. A large quantity of the £314,945,500 has been spent since Farhad Moshiri was announced as new majority shareholder in February 2016- on the pitch, Everton are yet to produce any return on their investment.

After 11 years wedded to Moyes and the false promises of Martinez, there has been a thorough disconnect between club and fanbase for the most part of the last five years prompted by the failed player recruitment strategy of Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh. Marco Silva is the 27th man tasked with handling the lofty weight of expectation at Everton and since his appointment in May 2018 has had several challenges to confront.

Player recruitment has improved drastically which can be attributed down to the business poise of Director of Football, Marcel Brands. All 25 or under, Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes, Kurt Zouma, Richarlison and Yerry Mina are all promising assets to the football club and looked to have taken to their new clubs with immediate impact with the club in 6th place by the end of November with a more apparent football identity- another task at hand.

All the momentum was swift to be derailed as December’s injury-time freak loss at Anfield bookmarked a negative turn in both results and on-field performance. A promising effort yet familiar bitter ending against the mortal enemy has since saw Everton pick up 11 points from a potential 39, developing unfavourable collective habits such as conceding near enough every time they have to defend a set-piece and looking toothless on the front foot. Rather than battling for places against Liverpool and Manchester United, Everton find themselves behind in the race for 7th against the likes of Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Pressure is undoubtedly on for Silva and will continue to mount if issues such as zonal marking errors persist. Unlike Howard Kendall in the 83/84 season, Silva doesn’t have the opportunity to silence the current detractors with a cup run, so salvaging respect from his season as Everton manager hinges on upcoming home games against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Results vs style has been a longstanding issue for Everton Football Club over the last five years, as the champagne football of Martinez’s first season quickly disintegrated into a wasteful possession-based game, many draw these similarities to Silva and how ineffective this tactical approach is when up against top sides, particularly when your squad of players technically and physically do not match up to their counterparts (prime example: December’s 6-2 loss v Spurs.)

Long gone are the days of Watford or Sheffield Wednesday making it to cup finals, and the latter stages of English domestic tournaments are populated with the big names of whom Silva will welcome to Goodison Park for in the remainder of the 2018/19 season. One of the only ways Silva can begin preparations for next season with his future at the club fully assured is to recapture the old Everton spirit is by finally claiming 3 points against those once considered Everton’s main rivals.

Whilst it is apparent Everton do not possess the same financial clout or star power as those that consistently qualify for European football, tearing a page out of Atletico Madrid’s book and slugging out a strategic 1-0 win may pay dividends in the long run, in hope that psychologically players approach these big games as winnable- which they most certainly are. Marco Silva must give the board a reason as to why they should stick to their gun and a string of big home wins would eliminate the doubt around whether or not Silva is the right man for the project at hand.

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