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Old habits die hard at predictable Everton

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Latest away day debacle at Bournemouth typifies why many people still don’t take the Blues seriously

AFC Bournemouth v Everton FC - Premier League
Marco Silva’s men fell to a 3-1 defeat at Bournemouth on Sunday
Photo by Matthew Impey/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

It only took four unfiltered, unapologetic words from Fabian Delph to echo the sentiments of every watching Evertonian.

“Everyone is f****** s***,” the Everton midfielder appeared to bellow at his team-mates during the Toffees’ chastening 3-1 defeat at AFC Bournemouth on Sunday. A brutally honest yet entirely fair assessment; it took Delph until just his second start in a royal blue shirt to figure as much out.

His team-mates may have needed telling as much, but the supporters, who tuned in to yet another showing of Groundhog Day, certainly did not. Welcome to Everton, Fabian, where at least on the road, nothing is beautiful and everything hurts.

AFC Bournemouth v Everton FC - Premier League
Delph was visibly angry on Sunday afternoon
Photo by Matthew Impey/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Because, feeble as Everton were at the Vitality Stadium, the harder aspect of the result to stomach is that they have succumbed to carbon copies of this latest loss countless times before; not least on their last league away day, when they were similarly abject in a 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa just three weeks ago.

It is utterly incomprehensible that a team brimming with individual talent like Everton can be so imperious on their own turf - with six wins, as many clean sheets, and one draw in their last seven Goodison Park matches - and yet so painfully limp on their travels.

And yet, in December, when the Blues face four of those teams they have hosted in this near-perfect home run - Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal - you can guarantee they will rise to the challenge in all of them. In a way, this though, only emphasises further just how spineless Everton can be that they take trips to teams like Bournemouth and Villa almost for granted.

In fairness to Marco Silva, this malignant cancer on Everton long predates his arrival as manager in May 2018; Ronald Koeman, in 2016-17, his only full season as Blues boss, achieved just four away league wins. His predecessor, Roberto Martínez, reached no more in one campaign than eight in 2013-14, while David Moyes’ personal best during his 11 years was nine in 2008-09.

Watford v West Ham United - Premier League
Silva, like Moyes did, has a patchy away record with Everton
Photo by Avril Husband/West Ham United FC via Getty Images

But while there have been a plethora of positives to take from Silva’s reign so far, there has been scant evidence to suggest he can arrest this interminable travel sickness; five away league wins since his arrival is a testament to that. Only once he finds the remedy to this seemingly ingrained issue at the club can he achieve with Everton what he evidently believes in his own mind he can.

And yet, at times, Everton’s shortcomings are so patently obvious that Silva can appear to be his own worst enemy. Seamus Coleman, for instance, barring a brief renaissance late last season, has been in decline for more than a year now, yet even with the summer loan signing of fellow right-back Djibril Sidibé, seems to be in no danger of losing his place. And while there is still a time and a place for a midfielder as defensively-minded as Morgan Schneiderlin, it is not against a side as notoriously porous as Bournemouth, next to the impressive yet similarly risk-averse Delph, while the exuberant Tom Davies remains stapled to the bench.

Further forward, Gylfi Sigurðsson remains as committed as ever to donning his cloak of invisibility when Everton hit the road, while Silva’s decision to recall Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front on Sunday, at the expense of £27 million man Moise Kean, was particularly baffling.

Aside from his goal, an admittedly perfectly-executed header to equalise just before half-time, Calvert-Lewin’s general game was again desperately lacking at Bournemouth. It may sound contradictory given he netted on Sunday, but for all of his effort and obvious talents, he still fails to occupy the right positions to score often enough.

AFC Bournemouth v Everton FC - Premier League
A goal for Calvert-Lewin papered over the cracks on Sunday
Photo by Matthew Impey/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

On a weekend when another young England striker, Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham, scored three to become the league’s joint-top scorer with seven, Calvert-Lewin’s performance, by comparison, suggested that an innate sense of composure and arrogance that Abraham possesses goes amiss in him. Kean, though new to the club and still only 19, simply offers more.

In all likelihood, Everton will be able to hold Sheffield United at arm’s length at Goodison on Saturday and extend their home winning streak. Yet this will only act as a sticking plaster on deeper cuts, a momentary muting of the groans of discontent, before these same woes inevitably rear their ugly heads again.

Had Everton beaten a previously pointless Villa in August, they would have - only if for a night - gone top of the league. They choked. Had Everton beaten Bournemouth on Sunday, a side who had lost their last two games, conceding six in the process, they would have gone joint-second. They choked again, and instead, after a relatively kind opening five fixtures, find themselves in the bottom half of the table. Routine Goodison wins will not resolve this, as has been proved by the stark contrast in home and away form in the last six months.

AFC Bournemouth v Everton FC - Premier League
Defeat at Bournemouth marked another low in Everton’s underwhelming start to the season
Photo by David Horton - CameraSport via Getty Images

Silva’s often dour demeanour may not suggest it, but privately, he will be desperate to oversee this essential fundamental change in culture at Everton. If nothing else, the fate of his managerial career depends far more on him making a success of his own time at Goodison than it did for Koeman or Sam Allardyce, for example.

Only then will deaf ears stop being turned to the targets Everton repeatedly claim to be within reach of. Silva should be in no danger of being sacked currently, but a failure to do this, and swiftly, could ultimately see Farhad Moshiri lead another manager out of Goodison’s revolving door.