Everton are running out of options after Wednesday’s devastating loss at Burnley sucked them further towards the drop zone, with a first relegation in more than 70 years now a realistic prospect.
It was a grim evening at Turf Moor, with Everton getting themselves in a winning position only to throw it away in the second half.
Yes, the display was once again an improvement on the capitulations at Tottenham and Crystal Palace. But the result was the same, complete with more brainless defensive errors.
It felt like a ‘must-not-lose’ game, which explains the feeling of despair that enveloped the fanbase at the final whistle.
The fact Sean Dyche told his players at half-time that Everton are a side that ‘doesn’t know how to win’ is the final kick in the teeth on what was a truly rotten evening.
There was a real sadness on Thursday morning as the reality of what might lie ahead began to emerge. There was also fear that relegation, with the devastating financial impact that would bring, may not be rock bottom.
So, what happens now?
As the games tick down the equation looks ever more daunting, with the next test a visit from Manchester United on Saturday.
Being back at Goodison will certainly help. Everton’s away record is so dire we have to take anything they claim on the road between now and the end of the season as a bonus. But that piles the pressure on the remaining five home games - with at least three wins needed from those to be in with a shout of survival.
For the club to be in such a desperate situation is an absolute scandal and a damning indictment of its leadership over the last few years. But while there is still a chance of salvaging their Premier League status, we must focus on backing the team.
The inquests can wait.
Manchester United arrive on Merseyside in a state of flux as Ajax boss Erik ten Hag reportedly closes in on the manager’s job.
For now Ralf Rangnick is in interim charge, though the inconsistency that eventually led to Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s dismissal remains.
In the Premier League they currently sit seventh, three points off fourth, with Rangnick under pressure to deliver his successor Champions League football for next season.
Man Utd 1-1 Everton - October 2, 2021
The last game before things started to go wrong. Everton moved into the top four thanks to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford when the sides last met in October. Andros Townsend cancelled out Anthony Martial’s first-half opener, with Yerry Mina having a last-minute goal disallowed for offside.
It has been all downhill since...
Everton can welcome back Michael Keane and Allan back from suspension, while Seamus Coleman could return from illness and Fabian Delph is fit to start.
Yerry Mina is still not ready to return but could be available for the visit of Leicester later this month.
Donny van de Beek is ineligible against his parent club while Andros Townsend, Tom Davies and Nathan Patterson are set to miss the rest of the season.
What they said
Everton manager Frank Lampard: “I can only ask the fans to turn up tomorrow and be absolutely behind us, as they have been since I’ve been here.
“We have won four out of six at Goodison, which is a contrast to our away form, and need to keep it going. It shows how strong we can be together.
“The game against Newcastle was incredible, people were talking about it as the best night at Goodison for years.
“The questions a few weeks later are very different but that is the nature of football.
“I have to be very level-headed, I understand the fans’ emotions and am doing everything to ensure we do right by them.
“We are a huge club and people want to talk about it [position in table].
“I am proud to manage here and keep the history of this club going in a positive way.”
Man Utd interim boss Ralf Rangnick: “For tomorrow, it’s probably the most important part: character, energy, commitment to winning that game in that atmosphere, which will probably be pretty similar to the one at Leeds, for example.
“We’re all aware of the importance of that game for both sides, both for them it’s highly important and for us as well. For me, game-plan and tactics is one thing tomorrow but the other thing, and probably the most important thing, is mentality, attitude, physicality and this will probably decide [it].”
Defeat here and Everton could well end the weekend in the relegation zone, which would only increase the sense of panic enveloping the club. With an 11-day break to come before their next match against Leicester, the Toffees could desperately do with some sort of result to give everyone some hope to cling to.