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Marco Silva interview: Everton manager defiant on vision for future
Everton host Chelsea on Sky Sports Premier League this Sunday
Last Updated: 17/03/19 3:16pm
After a promising start, Everton's form has dipped under Marco Silva but the Portuguese coach remains committed to his ideas. In an exclusive interview for Sky Sports, Adam Bate went to find out why Silva is still backing himself to take the club forwards...
He is the first to arrive and the last to leave. Marco Silva's work ethic has won him the admiration of everyone at Everton's Finch Farm training ground, but to the man himself it's just normal. "It's not just a job," Silva tells Sky Sports. "I can't just look at my position as a job. It's my passion. It's my desire to give this club what they deserve."
As has been the case at his previous clubs, Silva is popular with the players too. The demands are huge but so is the respect. His idea of playing attacking football in possession and pressing football out of it has been embraced. Everton should be a picture of health. The problem is that 30 games into the season, results have not been good enough.
"We know," says Silva. "All of us, we know, not just in football but in life, that we cannot achieve important things without consistency. You cannot be a winner without maturity and consistency. It's one of those things that we are missing. We have to sort it out."
Perhaps this situation should have been expected. Everton have the exact same points tally as they had at this stage of last season. They are in the same position in the table in which they finished in two of the three seasons prior to that. This should not be such a shock, particularly given the upheaval that this club has endured in recent times.
"It's a new coach, new players and new pressure," says Silva. "Everton signed 12 or 13 players last season. This season we signed seven more. Twenty new players. Some of the players signed last season aren't here now. Twenty months and four coaches also.
"It's so many changes for one football club."
The transition from last season was necessary but challenging. Sam Allardyce delivered eighth place but it was achieved by playing a brand of football that's a world away from what Silva is seeking to instil and that the supporters are hoping to see at Goodison Park.
"If you play direct and go for second balls, you have one idea," says Silva. "I am not saying it's better or not, but it's a completely different idea. For our players, everything is different from what they did last season. Our idea is not one of the easiest ideas. Everything is different about the defensive process and the offensive process."
Some of the underlying numbers at Everton are promising and highlight the transformation of style. Only Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea begin their attacks closer to the opposition goal. Only Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea restrict their opponents' movement towards their own goal more effectively.
Everton also rank in the top four for the number of high turnovers and pressed sequence - all metrics that are indicative of a team playing an organised pressing game.
The problem for Silva is that something is going wrong somewhere. Everton were sixth at the start of December and there was optimism about the direction of travel. But it's harder to make the case for progress when the results since then put them in the relegation zone. Only Huddersfield and Fulham have picked up fewer points from their last 17 games.
Whether it's a cheap goal conceded from a free-kick or a decision going against them, as was the case against Newcastle last weekend when a two-goal lead turned into a 3-2 defeat, the work is being undermined. "If you are asking me, do I expect us to be a bit higher? Of course I expected that," says Silva. But he was never seduced by the earlier form either.
"I wanted to sort everything out fast, to get our team to that level. But when that run of good form came and people were expecting us to be in the Champions League or the top six, in that moment, I was clear that we had to keep our feet on the floor because many things had to improve. I could feel that the consistency was not at the level it needed to be."
Is he the man to guide the club on that journey? The accusation levelled at Silva is that he hasn't stayed anywhere long enough to be sure. There was a league title at Olympiakos and a cup win with Sporting but not a second season. His impact at Hull and Watford was dramatic but brief. If Jose Mourinho suffered third-season syndrome, the jibe about Silva is that those three seasons tend to run from autumn to spring.
He is well aware of that criticism, of course, but insists he is a better coach now than the one who took tiny Estoril into Europe not once but twice. "No doubt about that," he says. "But when I speak about demanding more, I'm demanding more of myself too. I am 100 per cent sure that we as a club and me as a manager have the conditions to get through this.
"I am not asking for time, because in football you never get time. But if the players believe, and the feedback from the players is good, and the club believes, if everyone is together, I don't doubt we can reach the level that we want. The most important thing is that the players believe that our way can make us stronger. If they believe we will achieve that."
Champions League draw
Tottenham have been drawn against Manchester City in an all-English Champions League quarter-final tie, while Manchester United will face Barcelona.
The question of what Everton can achieve is a thorny one. Silva is speaking on the day of a Champions League quarter-final draw that included four Premier League teams, while there are another couple in the last eight of the Europa League too. These are the teams that stand in the way of Everton's ambitions, but those ambitions do remain.
"The vision of the project is still clear to us", says Silva.
"This is a club that has to fight every time to play in European competitions. The fan base we have will help achieve that, the owner wants that. These are things that we can achieve by growing our idea together, keeping our best players, and creating one identity. We are a big club but to achieve great things we need one identity."
Is he seeing that identity on the pitch right now? Are his ideas taking root? "Some of them I can see," he says. "When you have all the players playing with confidence you can do it, but to build our idea for attacking football you need to do that with confidence and personality. Even for the best teams in the world, it is difficult to do that without confidence.
"I saw that confidence for 45 minutes away at Newcastle. We had a good derby even if we didn't win and we started the Newcastle game with confidence, going 2-0 up because of that. For different reasons we lost in the second half, but I saw moments, things that can show our ideas building as a football team. Good results will help that confidence."
If that game proved a false dawn, it feels like there have been too many of them at Everton. But there is little appetite left for another rebuild. The fans want to believe in this one.
They just need a few more reasons to believe. Everton's home wins this season have come, in chronological order, against Southampton, Rotherham, Fulham, Crystal Palace, Brighton, Cardiff, Lincoln and Bournemouth. These are victories that bring relief, not real joy.
The supporters want more than that. They want a moment. The last time that Everton beat a team that went on to finish in the top eight came in January 2017 - that 4-0 win over City. That's the sort of thing that these fans need. Maybe it's what these players need too.
The next three visiting teams? Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal.
"We need to have this taste of winning a big game at Goodison," says Silva. "I understand that these are the games that can galvanise everyone. It will give the feeling to our fans but we have to show it for ourselves. We have to prove to ourselves what we can be."
Then and only then will all the hard work be worth it.
Everton host Chelsea live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4.15pm on Super Sunday.