Eleven days after Ronald Koeman was sacked by Everton, the question was finally put to Marco Silva. The response was simple, fair. The manager of the club in sixth turned his nose up at the one in 18th: “Why change?”
Over the next month, the mask gradually slipped before crashing to the floor. Silva would denounce and dismiss speculation linking him with the Goodison Park managerial vacancy, all the while fluttering his eyelashes at a club whose position belied their potential. The Toffees were a Europa League team battling relegation, much the same as Silva at Hull City last season. The allure was obvious, the temptation understandable.
But while Silva said the right things in public, his eye may well have been taken off the ball in private. Watford’s defeat to Huddersfield on Saturday was their fifth game without a win, and leaves them slipping further towards the mire of the Premier League’s bottom half as opposed to scaling the same heights as Burnley. It will not go unnoticed by Everton fans that a draw against Swansea on Monday will lift them above the Hornets.
It has been quite the downturn in fortunes. In the eight games before Koeman was sacked and Silva was installed as the early favourite for the Everton job on October 15, Watford had won four, drawn three and lost one; they were fourth. In nine games since, they have won two, drawn one and lost six; only three sides have picked up fewer points in that time. Everton’s inability to replace their manager has derailed Watford’s season as much as their own.
Silva has had difficult afternoons since arriving in England earlier this year, but none more so than this. After less than half an hour the manager accepted culpability for an insipid performance, removing Adrian Mariappa on 28 minutes, bringing on Roberto Pereyra and abandoning a three-man defensive formation that has offered as much protection as a drunk bodyguard in recent weeks. But it did little to improve the situation. Huddersfield came to Vicarage Road having not scored once away since the opening day; they left with four goals and three points in a comfortable 4-1 victory.
Not one to shirk his responsibilities as captain with the club struggling, Troy Deeney piled on the misery in the first half. His red card was Watford’s third in as many games, and the 29-year-old has now been sent off as many times as he has scored (1) in six appearances since questioning Arsenal’s “cojones” in October.
3 – Watford are the first team to be given a red card in three successive Premier League matches since West Ham United in August 2015. Ill-disciplined.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 16, 2017
But as worrying as the club’s apparent lack of discipline, their defence is cause for greater concern. “You can win, draw or lose, that’s normal,” said Silva on Friday. “We take the risks to win every game, that’s our philosophy.” And while it is an admirable one, the manager might want to revisit that style. Watford have now conceded 33 goals in 18 games this season – only Stoke (37) have a more porous backline.
Valuing attractive, expansive football is fine, but not when this level of defensive disorganisation is the consequence. Managers should use a system that accentuates the strengths of his players; Watford are playing football that highlights their flaws more often than not.
For the first time in his Premier League career, Silva is charged with correcting issues of his own design. The Portuguese almost dragged Hull to unlikely survival last season after Mike Phelan’s failings, and oversaw a fantastic start at Watford this campaign following Walter Mazzarri’s underwhelming reign. With managers, as with sub-editors, great ones can rectify the errors of others, but only the best can corect their own.