It’s been another bruising week for Evertonians, with this already shambolic season plunging to new depths.
First we had Oumar Niasse’s ridiculous two-match ban issued by the FA for diving against Crystal Palace last weekend.
Niasse was the only Everton player worth watching over the past few weeks (given he is the only one who looks like he gives a ****) so the FA taking away our best player for two crucial matches sums our season up.
Then we had UEFA fine the club (an admittedly arbitrary) £26,600 after one of our fans tried to punch an opposition player.
Then, the pièce de résistance: A truly shambolic humiliation at the hands of Atalanta in the Europa League.
There is no getting away from it, this team is in serious trouble. If something doesn’t drastically change then they are going down.
Teams that stay up show - at the very least - some heart, passion and desire. David Unsworth asked for all three on Thursday night but instead got a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of a side who hadn’t won away from home all season.
A run of four points from the past two league games suggested things were slowly starting to turn, before Thursday night’s obliteration hurled us back to square one.
The defeat all but ends Unsworth’s fleeting hopes of getting the job full-time. He finds himself in an unenviable position but has maintained his dignity throughout. It’s the players who are letting him down.
Unsworth made nine changes for the game and asked those players to make it “difficult” for him to drop them. Instead they did the opposite and only reaffirm the sense of crisis that has engulfed the club for weeks. .
Farhad Moshiri insists the club are “close” to appointing a new manager, but that won’t come before Sunday’s trip to Southampton.
Given the week we have had, the new man can’t come in soon enough.
It’s fair to say Sunday’s fixture will have an edge to it. Not just because of the two team’s plight at the bottom of the table, but also the lingering resentment from Southampton fans over the departure of Ronald Koeman.
Saints supporters felt betrayed when, in the summer of 2016, Koeman initially appeared to commit his future to Southampton before having his head turned by Everton.
They also, understandably, took great delight in the Dutchman’s downfall at Goodison Park and will no doubt remind Evertonians of that this Sunday.
Claude Puel came in as Koeman’s replacement last year and despite guiding them to an eighth place finish and EFL Cup final, was sacked in the summer due to his supposedly dour style of play.
Former Argentina defender Mauricio Pellegrino succeeded Puel in June, but has made a mixed start to life on the south coast.
The Saints are currently 14th in the table - one point and two places above Everton - with just three wins from 12 league games so far this season.
Pellegrino insists his side are not in a relegation battle and isn’t afraid of losing job.
However, the table doesn’t lie and Sunday’s game is a critical one between two sides desperate to claw themselves away from the foot of the table.
Oumar Niasse is, of course, suspended following his two-game ban for diving against Crystal Palace last weekend.
Tom Davies also misses out through suspension after collecting five yellow cards.
Morgan Schneiderlin is doubtful with toe injury while captain Phil Jagielka is battling a groin problem.
Unsworth is likely to restore the majority of the team who played at Crystal Palace last week, given the dire performance by their understudies on Thursday.
Predicted starting XI
Pickford, Kenny, Jagielka, Keane, Baines, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Lookman, Sigurdsson, Lennon, Calvert-Lewin.
Unsworth says the players “owe” the fans a performance after Thursday’s shambles. But to be honest they owe us a performance for this whole season.
Luckily we are still at that stage where one or two wins can lift you away from danger fairly quickly.
But we can’t keep using that as a reason to excuse defeats. We need wins, and quickly.
Even a goalless draw would be nice give the terrible defending we witnessed on Thursday.
Over to you, Rhino.