Despite an early goal by Bernard, Everton would find themselves on the short end of a 3-1 loss to Manchester United at Goodison Park. After a strong start to the campaign that saw the club top of the table, the mixture of injuries and red cards has proven too great a burden to overcome since the club returned from the first international break of the campaign. While this is no excuse for either poor offensive efficiency or terrible defensive organization, these are the realities the club is faced with as they regroup themselves and prepare for a date with Fulham in two week time.
For that game, the club will thankfully have Richarlison back, who appears if anything, the most important piece of the Carlo Ancelotti machine from either out wide or centrally. His loss the last three matches has shown a horrifying vulnerability for the club, one of which may have been lessened with another winger option from over the summer; in any event, we are through the Brazilian’s three match ban now, yet we’ve not proven ourselves capable of winning without him yet for eight games now. This will have to change at some point in the near future for Everton to have any realistic shot of either hardware or a spot in Europe next season, and this is the current hurdle to climb at Finch Farm for the Toffee brain trust.
The Season Only Ramps up from Here
The Fulham match should be a good match to bounce back after a rough stretch with, but one might’ve said something similar for the matches against Southampton and Newcastle. With these results understood, we must be wary when underestimating the Cottagers coming off the international break. But the Toffees understand the urgency of their position and the need to shake off the poor form, for without the proper innovations of play and style, the season could quickly become difficult to manage, as last season is evidence of.
There is no one area to point out and say, “this needs particular innovation” because we are seeing failures up and down the pitch. Inconsistent offensive play leaves vulnerable inconsistent midfield play, leaving vulnerable an inconsistent backline and goalkeeper; because they all flow together, when they are on together, they are difficult to stop. But like any set of mechanisms, when one fails, the rest prove incapable of functioning properly either.
For the club therefore, it appears apparent that strong offensive play is necessary not only for the obvious reasons, but to protect the inconsistencies of the players behind them. The defence has now conceded two or more goals in five straight games and it is not enough to score one goal, because if possession and initiative are not consistent or strong enough, circumstances where Bruno Fernandes snatches two back in just minutes can completely deflate a program and Everton’s own ambition.
With this in mind, the club will have to be more staunch in their aggressive, attacking football, and will have to find the gear in which they found earlier in the campaign, of which saw both victories and smiling faces. The matches against Leeds United and Burnley, the following weeks after the trip to Craven Cottage, will see similarly hard fought matches against scrappy, well coached teams. With Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa in particular, the match at Goodison Park will be a true contest of footballing genius, as Don Carlo faces the man Pep Guardiola admires intellectually, as much as any football mind in the game today.
These three matches coming out of the second international break will be crucial and snatching nine points from them should be top priority for the Royal Blue. Doing so will not lessen the loss of the last three weeks, but it will get us on the proper track as the match against Chelsea follows. The amount of weapons at Frank Lampard’s disposal currently is absurd and so like the United match, should be cause for concern should the club not take the proper steps to insure a similarly embarrassing loss does not occur. Luckily for us, we have world class management.
Don Carlo: This is Your Moment as much as Anyone Else’s
Times get tough in football, and this is not exclusive to Everton despite what it might feel like from time to time. Arsenal has been down for years relatively speaking, while the same can be said about Manchester United as well in their own right. Before Liverpool caught fire and lightning at the same time on the Red side of Merseyside, they had found no domestic success in thirty years and had struggled across competitions relative to their lofty ambitions. And so for Everton, a team in the midst of a longer stretch of misery than any of the aforementioned, it is essential to keep hope in these little rough patches, knowing that they will not last, no matter how it might feel.
After so many years and so much hope, a brilliant start to the campaign is something like euphoria, while the failures of the last three weeks cause trauma and stress related to the anxiety of blowing all the momentum and opportunity we created for ourselves early on. But this type of situation with a young, talented group of veterans and ambitious youth, is exactly why you hire a boss like Don Carlo in the first instance.
His experience, his fatherly, settling tone and focused intellectual tenacity will have to positively effect this struggling bunch right now, for right now is when we need innovation. The season is by no means lost of course, and so there is that much more reason to endeavour towards rejuvenating the season with nine points, through three victories, before meeting Chelsea at home before the brutal schedule of December truly intensifies and separates the Premiership contenders with its pretenders; by that time however, we will surely have a better sense of where the Toffees lie on that spectrum.