Carlo Ancelotti took the unusual step of publicly lambasting his players after Saturday’s game, labelling their performance “lazy” and questioning whether they had been too complacent in their approach.
It is a risky strategy for the manager to take, but in this instance it seemed justified. The Toffees were awful against Steve Bruce’s side, who were without a win in 11 games yet came away worthy winners.
With Tottenham, West Ham and Leicester all losing it represented a huge opportunity missed, though on the flip side it was at least not too costly.
Some shock results over the past week highlights just how unpredictable the league is at the moment and that Everton are not immune. Maybe it was just one of those days.
Monday also saw the January transfer window come to a close, with a late move for Bournemouth’s Josh King the only new arrival of the month, while seven departed either permanently or on loan.
Though it is not the most inspiring of signings, King does represent an upgrade on Cenk Tosun, who returned to Besiktas on loan. He is quicker and more versatile than the Turkey forward and his short-term deal minimises the risk. The days of handing long, lucrative contracts to ageing players are hopefully over.
We all wanted the club to bring in some top-class players to boost the European charge, but Covid has suppressed an already difficult market to operate in, making such hopes unrealistic.
We are also still paying the price for previous mistakes in the transfer market. But with the squad and wage bill down to a manageable size Marcel Brands may finally be able to operate in the transfer window this summer without one hand tied behind his back.
Leeds have proven every bit as thrilling and unpredictable this season as we all thought they would. It’s all or nothing with Marcelo Bielsa’s breathless side, who have drawn just two of their 20 Premier League games so far this season.
They have nine of those matches, the most by a promoted side since Wigan recorded 11 in 2005-06, to sit 12th and all but banish any worries of relegation in what is their first top flight season since 2004. Another victory on Wednesday would move them to within a point of the Toffees.
Their long spell outside of the Premier League made me forget Everton’s dreadful record away at the Whites - the Toffees have won just one of their past 37 top-flight trips to Elland Road, drawing nine and losing 27.
Their only victory in that time was a Wayne Rooney inspired 1-0 victory in November 2002, producing one of my favourite ever Everton images.
Everton 0-1 Leeds November 28, 2020
Another bad evening at Goodison as Raphinha’s long-range strike gave Leeds all three points in November.
Newcastle (H) Lost 2-0
Leicester (H) Drew 1-1
Sheffield Wednesday (H - FA Cup) Won 3-0
Wolves (A) Won 2-1
Rotherham (H - FA Cup) Won 2-1
Leicester (A) Won 3-1
Newcastle (A) Won 2-1
Brighton (H) Lost 1-0
Tottenham (A) Lost 3-0
West Brom (A) Won 5-0
The Toffees will be without Jordan Pickford after the goalkeeper suffered a rib injury against Newcastle, with Robin Olsen will deputise.
Fabian Delph is also available again after six weeks out with a hamstring injury but Allan and Jean-Phillipe Gbamin are not yet ready to return.
What they said
Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti: “The Champions League remains a dream for us... the game against Leicester could be a good sign [for top-four potential] but against Newcastle, we showed another face.
“To fight for fourth position we have to improve. Without spirit, we cannot fight for a position in Europe.
“We want to be there until the end of the season and, of course, we have confidence [for Leeds], away we usually do better than at home.”
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa: “In the last two games they had segments and periods of the games, they’ve shown why they have been protagonists in the league this year.
“They’re a team with very big players, very good players and good behaviour.
“Whilst they suffer the problems that we all suffer, sometimes they’ve had absences of players.
“As I stated, I think they are one of the protagonists in the league and the way they play is very creative and very good.”
With a trip to Old Trafford lying in wait on Saturday, Everton’s blip could quickly become something serious if they don’t arrest the slide, meaning some sort of result is essential on Wednesday.
Carlo Ancelotti’s public criticism of the team will put pressure on them to muster a response, though a lot will also rest on what side of Leeds we will witness in west Yorkshire.