Despite a much-improved season from Everton in 2018-19 including a strong finish, there were plenty of dark days for Blues to endure in Marco Silva’s first year in charge.
Here are the five worst days of the Toffees manager’s maiden season on Merseyside:
5. Everton 1-1 Southampton (3-4 on pens), October 2, 2018
As residents of the dark side of Stanley Park take great pleasure in reiterating, Everton have not won a trophy since 1995. With that in mind, you would think a Carabao Cup third round tie at home to struggling Southampton would be the sort of tie Silva would relish in getting this particular monkey off the club’s back.
But he didn’t. He made seven changes to the team who had beaten Fulham 3-0 at Goodison Park the previous Saturday, giving starts to fringe players such as Maarten Stekelenburg, Jonjoe Kenny, Kieran Dowell and Ademola Lookman.
Everton unsurprisingly looked disjointed and were comfortably kept at arm’s length by the Saints, who took the lead just before half-time after Stekelenburg’s feeble attempt at stopping Danny Ings’ shot backfired. Theo Walcott equalised late on, only for the Blues to lose the subsequent penalty shoot-out; a miserable night capped off by Richarlison’s appalling stuttering run before blazing his spot-kick over the bar and into the Lower Gwladys.
Ultimately, the manager and the team both got what they deserved that night.
4. Fulham 2-0 Everton, April 13, 2019
Only Everton would deliver one of their most abject performances of the season in-between two of their most accomplished.
The Toffees arrived in West London in high spirits having recorded three straight wins without conceding against Chelsea, West Ham United and, most recently, Arsenal. Beating an already-relegated Fulham side who had lost their previous nine games and had the worst defence in the league should have been a formality, then.
Yet Silva’s men were comprehensively outplayed on the day and could have no complaints about the scoreline, with André Gomes being retrospectively handed a three-match ban for a needless stamp on Aleksandar Mitrović compounding a miserable day by the Thames.
In many ways, the way in which they dispatched Manchester United 4-0 at Goodison the weekend after only served to make this showing all the more befuddling. It is the sort of inconsistency they will have to eradicate next season if they are to even come within touching distance of the top six.
3. Millwall 3-2 Everton, January 26, 2019
To his credit, Silva seemed to have learned his lesson from the Carabao Cup debacle by the time the FA Cup rolled around in the new year. Yet even with a near-full-strength team, Everton hit one of their lowest ebbs of the season on a sodden Saturday evening in the capital.
Leading Millwall, who occupied the lower echelons of the Championship all season, by two goals to one with 15 minutes remaining, should not have been anywhere near as difficult as Everton made it. But such was the Blues’ propensity for limply defending set-pieces during their mid-season malaise, perhaps the 3-2 defeat they succumbed to should not have come as much of a surprise.
The Lions’ second equaliser may have come via the arm of goalscorer Jake Cooper, but Everton could have no complaints. Neil Harris’ side simply outfought them on the night.
In fact, to contextualise just how abysmal Everton were, it is worth noting that they conceded three goals to a side who then failed to score in their next three games, who won just one of their following eight league matches, and who finished just one place and four points above the Championship’s relegation places.
2. Everton 2-6 Tottenham Hotspur, December 23, 2018
Delivering by far the best team performance at Goodison this season, Spurs outclassed Everton and fully deserved to win by such an eye-watering margin.
Despite Everton taking an early lead through Theo Walcott, and then denied a second goal when Dominic Calvert-Lewin was harshly judged to have fouled Davinson Sánchez, the chasm between the two sides was evident from almost the first kick.
The Blues may have resisted Tottenham’s advances up to then, but once Son Heung-min had capitalised on Kurt Zouma running into Jordan Pickford to equalise, Everton caved. This quickly became one-way traffic, and a brutal reminder of just how much work is needed before Silva’s side are capable of challenging teams like that of Mauricio Pochettino’s.
Son, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen eviscerated a limp Everton defence, while even the much-maligned Moussa Sissoko excelled against a club he reportedly turned down signing for in favour of Spurs two years earlier.
1. Liverpool 1-0 Everton, December 2, 2018
Despite this actually being one of Everton’s better performances of the season, there was no competition to this game for the number one spot. It was utterly heartbreaking.
Everton had done almost everything right - Pickford had been excellent, denying the likes of Sadio Mané and Xherdan Shaqiri, Michael Keane and Yerry Mina had coped admirably with the waves of pressure that eventually, inevitably came, Gomes dictated the play with striking ease in the centre of the park.
If only Mina had planted his early free header more accurately, or if Gomes had not headed an effort on goal quite so cleanly that Alisson Becker and Joe Gomez somehow managed to scramble off the line, the Blues could have been the first team to leave Anfield with three points since Crystal Palace - then managed by Sam Allardyce, of all people - in April 2017.
But then came the moment Everton’s season derailed, as Pickford inexplicably went to reach for Virgil van Dijk’s aimless punt towards goal. Even the Dutch defender turned his back on proceedings, expecting nothing, only to gain everything.
As the ball bumped against the crossbar, straight into the path of Divock Origi, Everton’s fate was sealed. The Belgian won it in the 96th minute, and Jürgen Klopp was off and running, prancing on to the turf to celebrate with Alisson with similar speed to that which the Toffees’ season then unravelled.
Indeed, it took Silva’s side three months to recover from this setback, by which time all hopes of any tangible reward from a season which had started with such promise had evaporated.
Still, the 0-0 draw in March’s reverse fixture at Goodison ultimately cost the Reds the league, so it’s all swings and roundabouts, isn’t it?