Everton: Marco Silva & Farhad Moshiri coming up short amid grand ambitions

Marco Silva
Marco Silva will face his former club Watford on Saturday

Everton manager Marco Silva returns to Watford on Saturday facing the double jeopardy of a former club still locked in acrimonious dispute with his current employers and a season fading into mediocrity.

Manchester City's 2-0 win at Everton on Wednesday came after a vastly-improved display from Silva's side but extends a dismal sequence of only three wins from 13 Premier League games which also contained an FA Cup fourth round loss at Championship strugglers Millwall.

Everton have spent in the region of £300m since billionaire Farhad Moshiri effectively took control of the club in February 2016 - and yet they are not even tapping on the top flight's glass ceiling let alone breaking through it.

So how has the new era of big-spending at Everton left them so far adrift from Moshiri's grand ambitions?

Is Moshiri to blame?

Moshiri's commitment, aspiration and financial support is not in question.

He has funded lavish spending and is pushing forward with plans for a £500m stadium, making his own "commitment of equity" to fund the project at Bramley Moore Dock.

He increased his stake in the club to 68.6% last December and will increase his majority shareholding to 77.2% no later than July this year.

The flipside is that Moshiri's decision making on football matters has looked hugely flawed and lacking in direction.

Earlier this week there was talk of the need to "hold your nerve" in times of trouble as Silva's position became a subject for debate.

This, past history suggests, is not one of his character traits.

Farhad Moshiri
Everton owner Farhad Moshiri is continuing to increase his stake in the club

Moshiri is now on to his fourth full-time manager at a club that was once a symbol for stability when David Moyes and Bill Kenwright were in partnership.

The early moves were understandable.

Roberto Martinez, not his appointment, was sacked as his tenure hit the buffers.

The appointment of Southampton's Ronald Koeman was regarded as a coup and he enjoyed a good first season, finishing seventh.

Scratch the surface, however, and Moshiri reveals a liking for quick wins and a tendency to bow swiftly to the will of supporters.

Moshiri saw Steve Walsh's success at title-winners Leicester City and effectively appointed a chief scout as director of football after Koeman was in place.

The pair never appeared to have any sort of relationship and embarked on a disastrous transfer policy lacking direction and structure which Everton are paying for to this day.

As for holding his nerve, Moshiri sacked Koeman nine games into his second season with Everton in the relegation places but with no succession plan in place other than a ham-fisted attempt to prise current incumbent Silva from Watford, provoking a dispute over the approach that remains unresolved.

Moshiri then appointed Sam Allardyce as a desperate last resort - before sacking him at the end of last season.

The club's most recent accounts revealed £14.4m had been spent on "settlement costs" for former employees such as Koeman and Allardyce.

Silva eventually arrived in June but Watford still want Everton punished for making him their target to replace Koeman after a promising start at Vicarage Road. He was eventually sacked but the bitterness remains, as he and Everton will discover on Saturday.

Everton's owner insists he wants success not "a museum" but harsh, expensive lessons may tell him he needs to take a step back and leave the big football decisions to others.

The highly-respected Marcel Brands arrived from PSV Eindhoven with Silva in June and has already made such an impact that he was elevated to Everton's board of directors in January. He was given a broader remit and responsibility for the club's entire football strategy.

Given Moshiri's track record on big decisions, it now makes sense to let Brands control the football levers.

Can Silva arrest Everton's slide?

On previous evidence, there must be doubts - although he will have been lifted by Everton's efforts against the reigning champions on Wednesday.

Silva's career in England has been characterised by bright starts before steep decline at Hull City and Watford.

Hull City accumulated 17 points from his first 11 games but only four from the next seven as they were relegated. He won 21 points from 13 games at Watford but only five from his next 11 - although some of this was attributed by the Vicarage Road hierarchy to Everton's unwanted advances.

Silva and Richarlison
Marco Silva brought Richarlison to Everton, after previously managing him at Watford

The disturbing pattern has continued at Everton, with a promising start of 22 points from his first 13 games but only 12 from the next 13.

Silva must also show he has the capacity to plug holes in his defence, again a fault line throughout his career and one he must correct if he is to survive.

And at the heart of the problem is Silva's use of zonal marking, which has become such a bone of contention among fans that it was one of the first questions he was forced to address from supporters at Everton's annual meeting.

Even in the satisfactory early days, Everton were easy to score against from set-pieces - and Silva shows no signs of solving a riddle that has plagued him.

Everton conceded all three goals, one from a handball it should be stressed, from set-pieces in the FA Cup loss at Millwall and there was genuine incredulity and anger at Goodison Park when Wolves striker Raul Jimenez scored with embarrassing ease from a free-kick in the 3-1 loss on Saturday.

Silva is again damned by statistics after Aymeric Laporte's first goal for City from another set-piece.

In his spell at Hull City, from January until the end of the season, they conceded more goals (11) from set plays than any other club in that period while at Watford his side shipped 12, behind only Brighton and Leicester City.

Everton currently top this season's roll of set-piece dishonour by losing 12 goals in this manner in the league this season.

He will need to change his recent management history - and will have to start in what will be hostile and unforgiving surroundings at Vicarage Road.

Is Silva solely to blame - or are there too many bad signings?

Everton are currently a monument to under-achievement - but this is nowhere near a situation solely of Silva's making.

Silva walked into a dysfunctional club along with Brands in June, surrounded by the wreckage of a flawed structure and disastrous transfer policy that saw the pair inherit a bloated, unbalanced squad populated by exorbitantly high earners.

Everton might as well have piled up some of the cash spent on big deals in the middle of Goodison Park and set it ablaze for all the good it has done them.

Indeed, Everton can be held up as a shining example of how not to operate in the market, examples being the huge contract handed to Spain under-21 striker Sandro Ramirez, bought from Malaga for £5m in summer 2017.

Sandro Ramirez
Sandro Ramirez has failed to live up to his price tag at Goodison Park

He has become an itinerant player, drifting on loan at Sevilla and Real Sociedad, while Ajax captain Davy Klaassen was signed for £25m when clearly not fit for Premier League purpose before being shunted off to Werder Bremen at a £12m loss a year later.

Klaassen was part of another senseless purchasing policy which saw three players signed for the same "number 10" position along with Wayne Rooney and £45m Gylfi Sigurdsson.

This meant the wage bill, revealed in recently published accounts as £145.5m, and squad numbers needed to be trimmed drastically, instantly. It has been a top priority for Brands, hence the locks put on the coffers in January.

Rooney went to DC United while the likes of Yannick Bolasie went on loan to Aston Villa then Anderlecht and £25m Morgan Schneiderlin, another high earner, sits idle and out of contention.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, a £30m buy from Sunderland, has been an isolated success but Silva is surrounded by too many bad signings and money that has effectively been wasted by previous regimes.

Everton have recouped cash with the sale of three of their most talented players in Romelu Lukaku, John Stones and Ross Barkley but the striker sold to Manchester United for a deal that could be worth £90m has never been adequately replaced and much of that re-invested cash has been squandered.

And even in his brief reign, Allardyce - now a constant and somewhat selective commentator on his Everton era - managed to inflict more serious damage.

Allardyce claimed he wanted to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who left Borussia Dortmund for Arsenal for £56m, in January but the deal was too expensive "because of what they'd spent previous to me arriving".

The argument is flawed by the fact Allardyce was handed £47m in that window to spend on Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun, two expensive, highly-paid flops Silva has been saddled with.

Yes, Silva has struggled to get performances and results but it would be wrong for him to assume total blame for the mistakes of others.

Will Silva survive?

Moshiri still backs his manager but has been shown to seek the acceptance of fans with swift decisions when the atmosphere turns toxic. This will be a danger if Silva continues to struggle.

Apart from requiring an improvement in results, it will help that the calm, measured Brands is an advocate of stability and will have a strong say in any decisions Everton may be under pressure to take.

Brands, now the most powerful footballing figure at the club, will be well aware Silva has only been in charge a matter of months but also took on many players on exorbitant salaries who are currently not in his plans such as Schneiderlin, Ramirez and Bolasie.

Morgan Schneiderlin
Morgan Schneiderlin moved to Everton from Manchester United in January 2017

The early work of the pair in the markets has shown promise, with Lucas Digne suggesting he can be a successor to left-back Leighton Baines, while Richarlison, who regards Silva as a father figure, has excelled at times.

Andre Gomes, on loan from Barcelona, is a fan favourite and Bernard has the capacity to create and also improve with more time in the Premier League.

Everton are keen to encourage development of younger players and the inclusion of Tom Davies, Jonjoe Kenny and Dominin Calvert-Lewin against City reflects that policy, with high hopes also held for Ademola Lookman.

Brands will call a lot of the shots, an experienced figure who will not act in haste, panic or with excess emotion. He can be a counter to Moshiri's more hair-trigger tendencies when it comes to managers.

Everton will hope Silva pulls the situation around because they desperately need a period of stability after the changes and folly of recent years.

Silva, however, will know Everton is no longer a club that gives its managers years to build. He needs results - and he needs them starting in the unwelcoming environment of his former club this weekend.