It’s been a testing couple of weeks for Everton as the confidence and momentum gained by a promising run of form began to run out of steam.
Though it is hard to quantify, the defeat - or perhaps more accurately - the manner of the defeat at Liverpool certainly dented the team’s confidence and I don’t think they’ve got it out of their system yet.
The hangover was definitely evident against Newcastle and given it was only four days after the loss at Anfield that’s understandable.
But the display against Watford suggests confidence and belief has been hit more significantly, and the timing couldn’t be worse given the matches we have coming up.
After a promising opening 25 minutes that included taking the lead, the Toffees wilted from then on and were outplayed for much of the season half.
Few would have begrudged Watford the win, though I’m grateful for a bit of magic from Lucas Digne to bail us out at the death.
Silva has been fairly consistent in his selection in recent weeks, something the side sorely lacked last season. But with a handful of players suffering from a dip in form, it now the time for change?
The front three in-particular don’t seem to be clicking at the moment. Richarlison continues to score goals but I wonder whether he would be even more effective pushed back on the left. However, Cenk Tosun struggled in his audition for the central striking role against Newcastle so I I’m not sure that’s an option.
Bernard flitters in and out of games but I feel he is developing an understanding with Lucas Digne so would be loathed to break up that developing partnership. That leaves Theo Walcott, who doesn’t seem to be contributing as much as a player of his experience should.
However, Ademola Lookman - so bright in recent weeks as a substitute - was patchy when he came in from the start against Newcastle.
And there lies the crux of Silva’s problem. He has a competitive starting XI, but I’m not so sure the squad depth is there.
But before we all panic it pays to remember that this season remains a transition year for everyone. There has already been great strides made under Marco Silva and Marcel Brands compared to the mess we endured last campaign.
The squad has been refreshed and the team tries to play with an attractive, attacking style. There are going to be blips along the way, the Watford game was certainly one of those, but now isn’t the time to go in too hard on the players.
There is never a good time to play Manchester City these days, but a week after their first defeat of the season may just be the worst.
Pep Guardiola’s expensively-assembled side have swept all before them over the past 12 months as Sheikh Mansour’s fantasy football project scaled new heights.
Say what you like about the morals and ethics behind City’s investment, further details of which were published in Der Spiegel earlier this campaign, but Guardiola’s side play some of the most glorious football this country has ever seen.
When they are at their best there aren’t many sides in the world, let alone the country, that can handle them.
However, their 2-0 loss at Chelsea punctured the veneer of invincibility that had enveloped the team in recent months, while the continued presence of Liverpool at the top of the table suggests they will be pushed far harder for the title this year than they were last time out.
They slipped behind the Reds for the first time last weekend, placing further importance on Saturday’s meeting at the Etihad Stadium.
Everton can at least take some heart from their impressive recent record against the champions. The Toffees have drawn their last three visits to Etihad Stadium and have lost just two of their last seven meetings in all competitions, including that memorable 4-0 win under Ronald Koeman in February 2016.
Marco Silva has confirmed Idrissa Gueye is doubtful with a minor injury suffered against Watford on Monday.
Morgan Schneiderlin and Tom Davies are contenders to come in if Gueye doesn’t make it.
Silva has no other injury concerns, though he may be tempted to change things up after their below-par display against the Hornets.
Manchester City are without David Silva who has been ruled out for three weeks with a hamstring injury.
Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne have been out for several weeks but resumed training this week and could feature.
Predicted starting XI
Everton Predicted XI: Pickford, Digne, Keane, Mina, Coleman, Gueye, Gomes, Bernard, Walcott, Sigurdsson, Richarlison.
Given City’s imperious form a trip to Etihad Stadium is pretty much a free hit. No-one expects us to get anything and it’s pretty unlikely that we will.
However, what we do expect is a competitive performance that suggests the team’s form and confidence is starting to return, especially with such a glut of fixtures to come over Christmas.
The impact it has on Liverpool’s fortunes doesn’t matter either. What’s most important is Everton and keeping our season on track.