MERSEYSIDE DERBY COULD BE SILVA’S LAST STAND
▶ The Portuguese is under mounting pressure with Everton 26 points and 16 places behind Premier League leaders and cross-city rivals Liverpool
Perhaps it ranked as the understatement of the season. “It will be tough,” Marco Silva said. Some would have said “impossible” ranked as the more appropriate adjective.
Liverpool and Everton are separated by a few hundred metres, but by 16 places and 26 points. They are league leaders and the side perched precariously one position above the relegation zone.
Everton have a solitary away win this season. Liverpool have not lost at home for 47 games.
Merseyside’s Blues have not returned across Stanley Park with a victory this millennium. If Silva has one game to save his job, he must wish it was not the Merseyside derby.
He could not voice those sentiments, of course. “Twenty years without a win there is a long time but it is a good opportunity to change that,” said the beleaguered Portuguese.
“They are beating almost everyone they’re playing against but we go there to play, the form is not important because you’re playing a derby.”
“They can sort out problems with a win,” said Jurgen Klopp, though Everton’s recent experience is that problems are compounded by a meeting with their neighbours. They played admirably at Anfield a year ago, but a dreadful blunder by Jordan Pickford gifted Divock Origi a 96th-minute winner.
Klopp’s exuberant celebrations, as he charged on to the pitch to hug Alisson, earned him an £8,000 (Dh38,000) fine for misconduct.
“A very strange goal and my celebration which I said sorry for,” the German added.
“That will not happen again, not even in a derby.”
In one respect, it is a certainty there will be no repeat: Alisson is suspended after Saturday’s sending-off against Brighton and Hove Albion.
Adrian will deputise but while his performances have not been flawless, his record is: with 27 points from nine games, he has been Liverpool’s impeccable understudy.
The numbers are altogether less flattering for Everton. Over the course of Silva’s reign, they have taken 69 fewer points than Liverpool.
Theirs is a brand of expensive underachievement. “Go through the Everton squad, nobody denies it is a really good squad,” Klopp said. “It’s just not clicking 100 per cent.”
It was not meant as criticism – the Liverpool manager referenced their rivals’ “difficult injuries,” particularly the absence of Andre Gomes – but even as he voiced his support for Silva, it underlined the sense Everton should be doing better. “There is a lot of pressure, of course,” Klopp added.
“Everton is an ambitious club, rightly so. Of course, I have sympathy for him. I know how difficult the life of a manager is.
“But I think the last thing Marco needs now is that I feel kind of sorry for him. We expect Everton at their best. The last game against Leicester they were really good.”
Everton were condemned to defeat deep into injury time at Leicester; if that was luckless, after facing the side in second, now they have the league leaders. Yet the fact that they have lost seven times in 10 games shows their failings against the lesser lights have taken Silva to the brink.
“Some games we were winning and should have managed in a different way, some we were better than the opposition but didn’t score,” he reflected. “I’m here to find solutions.”
Whether he is still in place when neighbours meet again in January’s FA Cup tie is another matter, though Silva claimed his board “don’t need to say anything” by way of reassurance. Bulletins from the medical department have been bleak enough, with Fabian Delph, Seamus Coleman, JeanPhilippe Gbamin and Gomes out, even if Theo Walcott is fit again.
Liverpool have rather different issues. Slightly cheekily, Klopp referred to January as “the Man City transfer window.” With only Fabinho and Joel Matip out, he may not need reinforcements. He does have four of the top seven finishers in the Ballon d’Or voting, with Virgil van Dijk pipped to the prize by Lionel Messi.
“Last season I cannot remember a more impressive season by a defender ever,” Klopp said. It was not quite enough for the Dutchman to claim the individual award, but it was the type of problem Silva and Everton would love to have.
Left, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says the last thing Marco Silva needs is for him to feel sorry for his predicament at Everton