When does a slump become a crisis?
Three straight Premier League defeats, making it four defeats in five, have seen Everton drop to 15th in the table, puncturing most if not all of the pre-season optimism that had gathered over the summer.
Last week’s performance against Manchester City was much improved, but it was also depressingly inevitable.
Just as the Sheffield United game was the kind of defeat to supposedly inferior opposition we have witnessed all too often over the years, the brave loss against elite opponents the following week is also an Everton trope.
It leaves you asking the question – why didn’t they play like that the week before? I know it is not as simple as that given the tactics deployed by the two teams. But it is still frustrating to see players raise their game against superior sides after letting their standards slip so drastically the week before.
What’s more worrying is Silva does not seem to have a Plan B when is inevitable 4-3-2-1 formation fails. In his last two matches, his substitutions and formations betrayed a manager who wasn’t really sure what he was doing.
Upon his appointment, Silva said his preferred formation was 4-3-3 and most of his signings since appear to suit that tactical layout. Yet the 4-3-2-1 persists - is this a Gylfi Sigurdsson-shaped problem?
The poor start means the Toffees’ tally of seven points from seven matches is the same Ronald Koeman achieved in 2017. Two Premier League matches later and he was sacked.
Now, the Dutchman was not only dismissed because of his poor league form, the club had also performed dismally in the Europa League, with their tally of one point from three games the worst start to a Europa League group campaign by an English club.
To counter that, Koeman also had to deal with a taxing set of league fixtures, with games against Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal in their first nine games. Silva meanwhile has had a much gentler start with two of the club’s four defeats coming against newly promoted sides.
So does that mean Silva’s job is in similar peril?
For now, I’d say no. Certainly there isn’t clamour for change from the majority of the fans and I’m certain there isn’t in the boardroom. Another defeat to Burnley though and there is sure to be some uncomfortable speculation brewing during the international break.
Burnley continue to defy expectations despite having a considerably smaller budget than the majority of their rivals.
The Clarets are now into their fourth successive Premier League season, their best top-flight run since the early 1970s.
Sean Dyche makes no apologies for his side’s physical and direct style, and why would he. It has proven thoroughly effective, especially during the 2017-18 campaign when they finished seventh.
There is no point trying to play like Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City if you don’t have the technical ability to do so. So Dyche instead focuses on playing to his side’s strengths and bringing the best out of each player.
That plan appeared to have stalled during the first half of last season, perhaps under the weight of extra Europa League qualifying matches.
The Lancashire club found themselves in the relegation zone at the halfway stage of the campaign, but a 5-1 thrashing by Everton on Boxing Day appeared to be the turning point.
An eight-game unbeaten run at the turn of the year steadied the ship, with the club eventually finishing clear of danger in 15th place.
They were modest buyers in the transfer market this summer, with the biggest purchase being the £10m return of Jay Rodriguez from West Brom while Danny Drinkwater, Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Erik Pieters were also recruited.
Like Everton, they have made a solid if unspectacular start to the new campaign, sitting 11th with 11 points from seven matches.
Everton 2-0 Burnley May 3 2019 (match report)
Everton wrapped up their Goodison Park campaign with a comfortable victory over the Clarets in early May.
Richarlison’s 17th-minute strike deflected off Ben Mee for an own goal to open the scoring with Seamus Coleman doubling their advantage three minutes later.
Manchester City (H) Lost 3-1
Sheffield Wed (A – Carabao Cup) Won 2-0
Sheffield Utd (H) Lost 2-0
Bournemouth (A) Lost 3-1
Wolves (H) – Won 3-2
Aston Villa (A) Drew 2-2
Norwich (H) Won 2-0
Brighton (A) Drew 1-1
Liverpool (H) Lost 3-0
Sunderland (H – Carabao Cup) Lost 3-1
Andre Gomes is back in training and could return after nearly a month out with a rib injury. Theo Walcott is also fit after he was forced off with a head injury against Man City last week.
Jean-Philippe Gbamin has resumed light training after six weeks out with a thigh problem but is still a few weeks away from a comeback.
What they said
Everton boss Marco Silva: “It will be a tough game. Not just for Everton, it is tough for everyone to play there. Sean Dyche is doing very good work.
“They are a very physical team. They want always to challenge the opponents, normally with two strong strikers.
“It is a game we must always be switched on, from the first minute. They play a direct game, with strong second balls, and we have to answer that.
”And after, when we have the ball,l to show quality and create problems for them and find the right moments to attack them.
“We have to show that desire when we have the ball to create chances to win.”
Burnley manager Sean Dyche: “The Premier League is difficult, we all know that. Whether they’re inconsistent or not, they’ve still good players, good individuals.
“We’ve all spoken about it as managers at varying times. The demands of the game are forever higher, the demands within clubs are forever higher, it’s just the way it is.
“I’m sure he’s (Marco Silva) working diligently to try and help his side to perform like all managers do.”
The last game before an international break is always important, as you will have a fortnight to stew on the result. Another defeat here would leave Everton teetering on the brink of a full-blown crisis. All the doubts and questions around Marco Silva that dissipated in the spring will re-emerge while our hopes and ambitions for the season will likely need some drastic re-evaluation.
Don’t lose Everton, please.