You’d be hard pushed to find even the most loyal Everton fan denying that manager Marco Silva isn’t about to lose his job after another, albeit this time agonisingly late, defeat at Leicester City on Sunday.
However, pragmatism and patience, words rarely used in the cut-throat world of Premier League football, would surely benefit Everton right now. Yes, the Toffees lie in the precarious position of 17th and just above the relegation zone but the hierarchy need to weigh up all avenues before making a kneejerk switch.
Fans on the blue half of Merseyside may wince at the sight of their teams next five fixtures going into the festive period. A trip to Anfield for the Merseyside Derby against their high-flying local rivals is followed by a clash with Frank Lampard’s youthful and energetic Chelsea outfit. The Toffees then travel to Old Trafford before hosting Arsenal. Sean Dyche’s Burnley travel to Goodison Park on Boxing Day. Here, fans may think, are five reasons why Everton should change their manager. I’m not so sure.
A lot was said before their trip to The King Power Stadium. Silva reportedly had lost the dressing room with his playing style not too favourable amongst the players. Yet what we witnessed on Sunday evening was a defensive performance full of commitment, resilience, and organisation. Everton also broke with energy and pace and caused the previously water-tight Foxes defence major problems.
They were content to allow Leicester possession from deep and patiently sat back. Whenever Leicester encroached in or around the 18-yard box, the three centre halves of Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate and Michael Keane were annoyingly effective in turning the ball over. Leicester simply had no answer to this, and credit must go to Marco Silva whose pre-match message had clearly been conveyed. The likes of Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and young Harvey Barnes were visibly miffed by their inability to puncture the Everton resistance.
If it wasn’t Everton’s defenders sweeping up, it was Tom Davies and Gylfi Sigurdsson who sat comfortably in front of the back three as deep lying midfielders. Credit must go to Sigurdsson who really fronted up in an unfamiliar deeper role. Davies surely gained confidence in having the experienced Icelandic international alongside him. Certainly away from home these two players could play a vital part in the club’s aspirations to climb the table.
Silva would also have been happy with the contributions of his attacking players with the inconsistent Alex Iwobi producing moments of brilliance, Richarlison getting back into the goalscoring act and Djibril Sidibe working hard and providing Richarlison with a pin-point cross to break the deadlock.
What will concern Everton fans, I’m sure, is the manner in which they let three points turn into none. And it has to be said that one man was responsible for that: Kelechi Iheanacho. From the moment he was introduced to join Vardy up front, he was a nuisance for Everton and delivered a glorious ball across the face of goal for the prolific Vardy to restore parity. The enigma that is young ex-Juventus striker Moise Kean was sent on and almost restored Everton’s lead with a speculative effort. He was certainly up for the fight and yet another positive Marco Silva can take from the game.
But with the game deep into injury time and Sidibe flailing around on the turf doing his best dying swan act, Leicester launched another attack and it was inevitable that Iheanacho was going to steal the show. He coolly slotted past Jordan Pickford and got the goal his substitute appearance merited. The goal, however, was only confirmed after VAR overturned the linesman’s incorrect offside call.
The Everton boss looked like he had seen a ghost at the final whistle. It is always hard to look back on a last-gasp defeat with any positivity, but he and his Everton players can take pride in their performance and must dust themselves off in time for their clash with Liverpool on Wednesday. A local derby is maybe just what Everton need - underdogs coming off the back of a performance full of positives with players who evidently are willing to fight for the blue jersey. Don’t be surprised if Everton go to Anfield on Wednesday and come away with local bragging rights.
I understand that Everton ultimately lost the match on Sunday but lets imagine that owner Farhad Moshiri and Chairman Bill Kenwright make the decision to part company with Silva and appoint a new face, whether temporary or permanent, and he loses the next four matches before Boxing Day. Where will that leave the Toffees? Certainly no better than the position they find themselves in currently. There were sure signs of improvement in the East Midlands and I believe Marco Silva at least deserves until Christmas to turn around the fortunes of Everton Football Club.