As fans, we really did not want to be talking about replacing the manager this early in the season, just when it was starting to look like the club structure was looking strong, Marco Silva had more offensive weapons and was implementing his pressing and attacking mindset.
However, three limp performances in six Premier League games where the Blues have lacked direction after getting to midfield and looked Sunday League-level when defending setpieces will do that to a fanbase.
And now we welcome the defending champions Manchester City fresh from handing out a 8-0 hiding to Watford FC and it’s really, really difficult to have any sort of hopes of turning things around this weekend.
Defensively, this Everton defence is exactly the same as the one that ended last season banging out clean sheets like they were going out of fashion, with Yerry Mina replacing Kurt Zouma as the only difference. However, how badly the Toffees are missing all-action hero Idrissa Gueye and his ballwinning abilities is only just starting to be felt.
The Blues had a rocky start last season defending setpieces with Silva’s zonal marking system , but appeared to have worked that as the season progressed. However, this season those issues have returned with a vengeance with a lot of looking around and finger-pointing going on between the players at just about every setpiece and high ball that lands in the box.
In the opposing half, Everton are only behind City in ball possession, but converting that into chances, shots and goals continues to be a problem even with the addition of Alex Iwobi and Moise Kean.
The Blues have looked completely unable to move the ball through the middle or even the half-spaces on either wing, relying almost exclusively on deep crosses from near the touchline, and that book on stopping Silva’s side has been out and published since last year, with the second edition only requiring minor updates this season.
That lack of a cohesive Plan B from the Portuguese manager - no, pulling off a defender or a midfielder and throwing on another striker does not count whatsoever - is looking more and more like what will lead to the demise of his tenure at Goodison Park.
All that said, the Blues do seem to play differently when playing at home against top six sides especially in 2019. Once again, a lot of that was due to the presence of Gana in the middle of the park, but with the infusion of pace this season with the new signings, a counter-attacking style where we do not have the majority of possession could actually work to our benefit.
Going into the game as rank underdogs and expected to park the bus in front of Jordan Pickford from the first minute might not be the worst thing. A high press in a 4-4-2 setup might actually work well, as long as we continue to stay watertight in the back from setpieces while tracking runners behind the backline, an area that City seem to excel at.
The Sky Blues have vacillated early on this season from the tremendous (ask the Hornets) to the irresponsible (see the loss at Norwich City), but more often than not they can summon the goals they need with that tremendous arsenal of firepower they have.
After how close Liverpool ran them last season, there will be some murmurs of discontent that City are already lagging five points behind just six games in, but Pep Guardiola will call for his side to dismiss any thoughts of the Reds and focus on what lies in front of them.
Injuries in the backline have already become a major issue for City with John Stones and Aymeric Laporte ruled out for the game this weekend. However, youngsters Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood Bellis have been training with the seniors this season, and at least one could be in line for a start paired with either Nicolas Otamendi or Fernandinho, depending on how adventurous Pep wants to get with a likely easier Champions League clash against Dinamo Zagreb coming up on Tuesday.
On the attacking front, City have looked imperious averaging four goals per game, with 18 of those coming from open play, one on the counter attack, three from setpieces and two penalties. In contrast, Everton’s five have all come from open play which hopefully means we’re due some from setpieces too, but don’t hold your breath quite yet.
Everton 0-2 Manchester City – Premier League, February 6th, 2019.
Quite ironically, this loss marked the beginning of the turnaround in fortunes for the Blues last season. After this home defeat the Blues went on an international break where Silva was able to tweak his tactics and Everton went on a tear after that, and last weekend’s loss against Sheffield United marked their first loss at Goodison since then.
As for the game itself, Laporte scored from a corner (setpiece, of course) and Gabriel Jesus put the final nail in the coffin deep into time added on with Everton throwing everything upfront in search of an equalizer but never really looked like getting with 39% ball possession and just four shots, one on goal.
Sheffield Wednesday (A - Carabao Cup) Won 2-0
Sheffield United (H) - Lost 2-0
AFC Bournemouth (A) - Lost 3-1
Wolverhampton (H) – Won 3-2
Lincoln City (A – Carabao Cup) Won 4-2
Preston North End (A - Carabao Cup) Won 3-0
Watford (H) - Won 8-0
Shakhtar Donetsk (A - Champions League) Won 3-0
Norwich City (A) - Lost 3-2
Brighton & Hove Albion (H) - Won 4-0
Everton will again be without Andre Gomes who at this point looks like he won’t return until after the mid-October international break, when Jean-Philippe Gbamin is expected to start training after recovering from a thigh problem.
Man City will be missing Stones and Laporte for this one, and Leroy Sane looks unlikely to play again in 2019.
What they said
Everton boss Marco Silva on turning things around sooner than later:
“Of course, we’re not happy, but it’s too early to look at the table and panic. If we won our last game, we are talking completely differently about the position in the table; everything is too close. If you ask me if I’m really concerned or panicking, of course not.
“We know what we’re doing, we know we should improve, and if we do, then the results will come, and after more games we’ll see a different position in the table, for sure. But if you ask me if I’m happy with our last performance, of course not. It wasn’t good enough. I shared our fans’ frustration after the match.
“We have a new challenge tomorrow. It will be a big challenge, but it is a challenge we want to face, at home with our fans, to try and get a good result.”
Man City manager Pep Guardiola on facing the Toffees:
“They’re an incredible team, top manager. It’s one of the toughest games you can play during the season, we know it. We’ve prepared, the players know how difficult it is.”
Not even the most ardent Blues is going to be predicting anything better than a solid beating tomorrow, so at this point I think we’ll all settle for a strong showing from the players, basically anything that displays that they do have pulses and have not already tuned out Silva’s instruction.
A coherent gameplan, committed defending and a couple of goals would all be cherries on top of what can only be described as a sh*t sundae of a season so far.