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Anfield nightmare still haunting jaded Everton

It will take more than a January quick fix to revive a side in an ever-deepening rut

Everton FC v Leicester City - Premier League
The Blues have lost four of their last five games
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It was all going so swimmingly for Everton one month ago.

Having produced one of their best performances at Anfield in recent memory, the Blues were seconds away from a deserved point against neighbours Liverpool to cement their place in the top six.

Then Jordan Pickford’s error presented Divock Origi with the cruellest of late winners, and simultaneously precipitated the collapse of a season that had began with such promise.

In their seven league games since the Merseyside Derby, Everton have won just one and drawn two; their 5-1 Boxing Day thrashing of an abysmal Burnley reads as more of an anomaly with each passing match.

It may seem flippant to say this with the benefit of hindsight, but it is difficult to imagine the Blues taking only five points from the last 21 on offer had they left Anfield as only the second team this season - Manchester City being the other - having avoided defeat.

Liverpool v Everton - Premier League
Everton have not recovered from Origi’s derby winner
Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

To have held their fiercest rivals and imperious league leaders to a draw would have added further credibility to the notion that Everton could break through the proverbial glass ceiling of the top-flight’s ‘big six’.

But as much as Origi’s winner has undeniably stymied Everton’s progress under Marco Silva, it is indicative of the mental fragilities among this crop of players that they still seem to have not awoken from this traumatic slumber a month later.

This is a deep-rooted issue at the club which stemmed long before the arrival of the Portuguese manager in May; look no further than the Blues’ pitiful 25-game winless run against England’s elite, or their 24-year trophy drought for evidence that this is a problem Silva inherited, rather than one he has caused.

Such shortcomings were always going to longer than half a season to rectify, and if Everton’s spectacular capitulation in the 6-2 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur proved anything, it is that the Blues’ squad still requires extensive surgery to realise the vision of owner Farhad Moshiri.

Everton FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Spurs were rampant against Everton and tore the Blues to shreds
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

The lack of rotation in Silva’s side over the Christmas period, despite having the shortest amount of time inbetween their four festive fixtures, essentially bore this out.

To persist with André Gomes in each match, with the midfielder patently carrying an injury, was a damning indictment of Tom Davies, Morgan Schneiderlin and James McCarthy. Even when barely fit, Gomes was still seen by Silva as a better option than any of this trio of fringe midfielders.

Consider also the fact that left-back Lucas Digne, admittedly excellent for much of his maiden campaign on Merseyside so far, has played every minute in each of Everton’s last 17 league games, and that is rather telling about what Silva feels his deputy Leighton Baines, now 34, can still offer this side.

In addition, the lack of faith shown in youngsters Ademola Lookman, a starter in just one league match this term, or Jonjoe Kenny, who played his first game in three months on New Year’s Day, to replace the misfiring Theo Walcott or Seamus Coleman, is another indication of Silva’s thoughts on the squad past his favoured starting 11.

Everton v Huddersfield Town - Premier League
Both Walcott and Coleman have had difficult seasons
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Indeed, it seems increasingly clear that many of the players currently on the Blues’ books will not be for much longer, but Silva will need longer than a mid-season transfer window, which often produces stop-gap signings rather than long-term investments, to ameliorate both the quality and depth of Everton’s squad.

After such an exhausting schedule, both mentally and physically, an FA Cup tie against Lincoln City on Saturday, before an eight-day wait to return to league action at home to AFC Bournemouth, should provide some much-needed respite for an Everton side who have looked in dire need of a break.

Playing four games in ten days clearly took its toll on the Toffees, as they laboured to consecutive 1-0 defeats against Brighton & Hove Albion and Leicester City, two games in which they looked as weary on the pitch as they did impotent in attack.

Though the performances were unforgivable, they were not inexplicable, but failure to re-energise the squad before the visit of the Cherries next Sunday and there will be far graver concerns about where Everton’s season is heading.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Everton FC - Premier League
Everton were similarly poor at Brighton on Saturday
Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

It is worth also remembering that, two years ago, the Toffees endured a similarly horrible run under Ronald Koeman, winning just two league games in twelve between October and mid-December, including another last-gasp derby defeat.

But both the easing-up of the fixture list after the turn of the year, and the January signings of both Schneiderlin and Lookman, seemed to revitalise a team limping towards mid-table.

Questions will be asked of Silva now; albeit some more unfairly than others. To expect him to rid Everton of all of their troubles in just 21 league matches would have been a fallacy; but there can be no denying that his side are nosediving in rapid fashion, and it is his job to arrest that decline as quickly as possible.