Marco Silva says Everton are focussed on delivering a display brimming with confidence and desire in Tuesday's Carabao Cup clash with Watford – and the Blues players share their supporters’ burning ambition to reach a Wembley final.
Talking exclusively to evertontv, manager Silva outlined his determination to wash away the taste of Saturday’s luckless Premier League defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion by moving one step closer to a March date at the national stadium.
Everton were leading Brighton 2-1 with 10 minutes remaining – and had seen a penalty claim rejected after defender Martin Montoya collided with Richarlison in the box – when the hosts were awarded a spot-kick after the video assistant referee (VAR) judged Michael Keane had fouled Aaron Connolly as the pair contested a high ball. Neal Maupay converted and Brighton scored a stoppage-time winner.
Silva insists he remains entirely supportive of VAR and will “give my feedback in the right moment” over the system’s implementation this term.
The Portuguese also backed “really important” forward Bernard to channel his character and personality into recovering from the knee injury the Brazilian sustained at Brighton.
Everton host Watford on Tuesday with a cup quarter-final spot on offer for the winners.
“The first thing I want to see [in Everton’s performance] is the desire to play in the next round,” said Silva.
“Our ambition in the competition is clear and this is not the moment for us to hide.
“We want to reach the end of the competition, the final. That’s a dream for our fans and we have to share their ambition.
“We have to go step by step and the next step is the Watford match.
"Unfortunately, the taste in the end after Brighton was not good enough for us, because the result was not what we wanted.
"The players already know what we should do in that moment [after Brighton's penalty for 2-2] but we took many positives from that game. And the game before [2-0 win over West Ham]. Our last home performance was really, really good, with a good result. That has to give us the confidence we need for the next match.
“What I expect from our team is the same desire we showed in the last two cup games [against Lincoln City and Sheffield Wednesday].
“After a good win the mood and confidence will be different. It can support our next game against Tottenham [in the Premier League on Sunday]. But now the full focus is on this game… we will have to be really strong to win.”
Everton were deeply frustrated to come home from Brighton with nothing to show for a strong display which seemed poised to yield three points when Dominic Calvert-Lewin put the Blues ahead with 16 minutes remaining.
But the narrative of the contest altered completely – and decisively – six minutes later when centre-back Keane was penalised after VAR reviewed his coming together with Brighton forward Connolly.
“VAR is in football to stay, it will be a very good support to the referees,” said Silva.
“It is the first season [using VAR] in the Premier League and in other countries they had some issues in their first season as well.
“Of course, we have to support and give big respect to all the referees and to the VAR.
“Unfortunately for us as a football club, the last decisions were really tough for us. Some of them difficult to understand but we have to respect them, respect the referees and respect VAR.
“In the right moment, we are here to give our feedback and to give my feelings as a manager.
"I will do that… when we have our [managers’] meeting and they [Premier League] will know not just my feelings but also those of the other managers, as well as our expectations and the ways we think it can improve.
“Unfortunately VAR hasn’t been good for us, so far, but we hope it will be in future.”
Silva has not received feedback on the reasons underpinning any VAR calls affecting Everton this season.
He agrees such a response mechanism would expedite understanding of the process – but is supportive of the Premier League’s attempts to construct a near-perfect system.
“They are trying to do that [provide explanations for decisions],” continued Silva.
“Okay, in some games the fans are seeing the images on a big screen. Unfortunately for us in the last game when there was that penalty incident the moment didn’t come on the big screen.
“But they are trying to do everything to help people understand… they are working on the system to try to be as assertive as they can in future because I am 100 per cent sure they want to be almost perfect.
"It's important to the Premier League, and it’s important for the system as well.
“It’s up to us to keep supporting even if in some moments it is difficult to understand... for us at Everton at the beginning of the season it has been really tough to understand some of the things.
“But we have to keep working, we have to keep respecting them and their decisions.”
Silva must do without Bernard against Watford and for the immediate future after the South American’s knee issue was diagnosed as a grade 2 medial ligament injury.
The 14-cap international was operating high on confidence and scored last week against West Ham United before his campaign was interrupted.
And Silva expects Bernard to return in similarly proficient touch – although he will caution against rushing the player back to action.
“It is a blow for him and a blow for us,” added Silva.
“He was playing very well and helping the team, he is a very good player.
“But not just that, in my tactical point of view and our idea, he is a really important player – not just with the ball but without the ball.
“You are talking about a very good professional – a lad who takes care of himself, trying to be in his best condition every single day.
"We will be as fast as we can as a club [to get him fit] and he will do the best for himself, I am 100 per cent sure, because he has the character and personality to do that.
"We want to be quick with his recovery but it is important for us to have him in his 100 per cent best condition as well.
“Now it is a moment for another player to come in and get a chance.”
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