Why Everton’s gamble on Marco Silva could define their future

This is a defining period for Everton. They have history and a fanbase that demands the club is part of English football’s elite, but the practicalities of getting there are complex.

The Toffees haven’t played a Champions League game since August 2005 and haven’t progressed in a round in that competition since beating Borussia Monchengladbach on penalties to reach the quarter-finals of the then-European Cup in 1970-71.

Of course, Everton have a great history but the lack of recent contact with the biggest club competition in world football means that they receive less TV revenue than clubs they should be competing with; putting them in a state of flux.

Owner Farhad Moshiri has shown ambition since taking over in 2016, spending more than £154 million on transfer fees last season, but his pot of funds may not be bottomless and Financial Fair Play regulations would complicate matters even if it was.

For that reason, Everton must spend wisely and perhaps identify the best talent before it becomes high profile, whilst also developing players to a standard that exceeds their original value.

In Marco Silva, they might have a man capable of the latter. At Hull, he had a huge impact on the ball-playing qualities of centre-back Harry Maguire and the attacking contributions of left-back Andrew Robertson, who have both since benefited from big moves; he also got the best out of speedy forward Oumar Niasse, who had previously been regarded as a flop at Goodison Park but could now be set to continue his renaissance.

After moving to Watford, Silva inspired unknown Brazilian Richarlison to a wonderful run of early-season form, whilst also aiding the development of midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure, now reportedly a man on Arsenal’s radar.

It is the intensity with which Silva works on the training ground to improve individuals is perhaps what appealed to Director of Football Marcel Brands.

The 2016-17 Hull side and 2017-18 Watford improved their goals per game ratio by a combined 52% during Silva’s tenure in comparison with the Mike Phelan and Javi Gracia regimes, while points per game improved by 31%; the percentage could even be higher had the Merseysiders not approached their man in October, before Sam Allardyce came in.

If we assume for a moment that Everton’s goals per game ratio now improves by 52%, they will score 67 times next season; which is five more than Chelsea got this year and one fewer than runners-up Manchester United. With the likes of Theo Walcott, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Cenk Tosun set to stay, it is a possible that a more attacking approach would be rewarded due to the team’s individual quality in the final third.

If their points per game ratio improves by 31%, they would end up on 64 points; more than sixth-placed Arsenal managed this term which, in theory at least, suggests they now have a reasonable chance of breaking into that top six.

On the flip side though, Silva’s approach also has it’s dangers. His Hull side had the worst defensive record in the Premier League with two conceded per game under his tutelage, while Watford had the second-worst with 1.83 conceded per game.

Silva typically plays with two full-backs high up the pitch, which requires high energy levels from both. Seamus Coleman has responded well enough to a long-term leg injury to suggest that he could do a job, but Leighton Baines simply does not have the pace to replicate his outstanding 2013-14 form.

The big challenge for Silva is to be respectful of popular figures at the club, whilst keeping crystal clear in his mind what he needs from his players to successfully execute his strategy. Phil Jagielka should not be first choice at 35, so at least one peak-age defender must be signed to help the development of Michael Keane and Mason Holgate.

If the current defensive personnel stays the same, there is a risk that Everton’s goals against record declines in accordance with Silva’s previous jobs, which would put them among a handful of teams to concede more than 60 Premier League goals.

If mobile defenders can be added however, as well as a more technically capable partner for renowned hassler Idrissa Gana Gueye, then these new high-pressing methods could pay dividends.

Is this appointment a risk for Everton? Yes, but then they won’t reach their goals by playing it safe.