By the time Fulham and Everton kicked off on Saturday afternoon, the blankets of rain that had pierced through West London just a few hours earlier were a distant memory, having long been rolled away by clear, perfect blue skies.
In a way, though, aside from epitomising the predictable unpredictability of British weather, it was a rather apt reflection of Marco Silva’s first season at Goodison Park. One week, they can be a pleasure to watch; a free-spirited, united team with the requisite blend of technical ability and high work rate. The next, you would be forgiven for wondering how they are not far closer to the bottom six than the top six.
Perhaps, then, after three of the most encouraging results and performances under Silva’s tenure all arriving successively, a fall from grace was long overdue. And yet, even in a season with as many troughs as this; the 6-2 drubbing to Tottenham or the FA Cup catastrophe at Millwall, for instance, this still felt particularly galling.
Indeed, the meek fashion in which the Toffees fell to defeat by the Thames, to a side with the worst defence in the league, who had lost their last nine, and were relegated with five games to spare, was poles away from last week’s 1-0 win over Arsenal. Then, there were a litany of positives for Silva to take. Here, absolutely none.
It is these sort of incomprehensible defeats which remain the reason why few continue to take Everton, or the lofty ambitions of Silva and majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, seriously. The 1-0 loss at Brighton & Hove Albion, just three days after dismantling Burnley. The aforementioned Spurs and Millwall defeats. And now, this latest embarrassment.
The harsh reality is, supine as Everton were for the entire game at Craven Cottage, many will still back them to at least hold Manchester United at Goodison next Sunday, if not defeat them, especially having broken their top six hoodoo with the recent victories over Chelsea and Arsenal.
It strikes as a team where an underlying attitude problem, much as Silva has tried to eradicate it, remains. To think they could simply turn up at the beleaguered, hapless Whites and watch the result take care of itself smacked of naivety and sheer arrogance in the extreme.
Maybe, with four games to go, the players have simply reached their maximum for the campaign. Maybe they don’t fancy all that finish seventh will entail should Manchester City win the FA Cup, a late July start to next season and all.
Either way, while little blame should be attributed to Silva for the Craven Cottage, other than perhaps allowing his heart to rule his head in sticking with Phil Jagielka rather than the returning Michael Keane at centre-half, Everton’s performances in these sort of games will be one of the best barometers by which to judge their progress under his watch.
Wins against far more glamorous opponents than Fulham are great, but count for precious little if you can’t then back them up next time around.
Outside the Bullens Road End on Goodison match days, pairs of trainers are almost guaranteed to be found dangling ominously from telephone wires. Only when Silva’s Everton become similarly reliable, rather than as erratic as Saturday’s fluctuating conditions, will the chasm between them and England’s elite begin to be bridged.