It hurts! It frustrates! It makes you question why such highly-paid athletes deliver yet another abject performance at the home of your city rivals who seemed prime for a Merseyside Derby defeat at the hands of Everton.
And with the Blues at last showing a bit of fight that saw Sean Dyche begin his Goodison reign with a win over high-flying Arsenal, coupled with Liverpool’s indifferent form this season, many Toffees could be forgiven for believing that maybe an Anfield scalp was a realistic possibility.
Then normal service was resumed and disappointment and anger yet again became the overwhelming feelings amongst the Blue half of Merseyside. Everton looked organised but made nervous mistakes while offering little in terms of offence as the Reds were hungrier, faster and had a greater desire for victory. Running out 2-0 winners, it could have been far worse for the Toffees, who will need a huge response if Leeds United are to be the second team to succumb to defeat against Dyche’s Blues.
Now the dust has settled for most, a sense of perspective has returned and, while it is no less painful, it provides yet another worrying reminder of where our beloved club is and the mammoth task the former Burnley manager has on his hands.
The derby always seems to bring out the worst in the Blues and the best out of the Reds, and the latest edition of the stories clash was no different.
In no way is this excusing Everton’s showing on Monday night, it is worth remembering who the team was up against. Yes, Liverpool have not been up to their usual standards this season, but these are standards that in recent years have only been eclipsed by Manchester City. Levels that had the Reds in contention for a quadruple just a few months ago. While they do not have the spending power of City or Chelsea and have been financially prudent in terms of making money from transfer fees, they aren’t the plucky paupers most the fanbase and media would have you believe. This is a global powerhouse with team that has been assembled and strengthened (maybe not to the levels their fans want) over a number of seasons, with additions made by a manager who has a clear vision of how he wants his team to play.
Of course, it cannot be ignored that Everton’s net spend over the last few years has been greater than that of Liverpool’s. What we did see though is that cash spent often has little relation to effort put out on the pitch, and presents a rather bleak picture of where the Blues belong in the top flight pecking order.
While Jurgen Klopp has been in charge at Anfield, Dyche has become the 10th man to have occupied the Goodison hot seat, with David Unsworth and Duncan Ferguson having two temporary reigns apiece. That, coupled with a scattergun approach to transfers and a clueless board, has culminated in what we now see most weeks on the pitch. Another relegation battle and the obvious problem that the majority of the squad is not good enough, is the legacy of a club that has no clear direction or plan.
The board members of this ‘famous’ football club that always ask what the Everton board would do as they always get it right must have a terrific sense of humour or no desire for success!
The Arsenal win gave us hope. A performance (and goal) that was made in Dyche’s Burnley finally gave the Goodison faithful a brief spark of belief, but the 51-year-old is no miracle worker, rather an organised pragmatist that is fully understanding of the task ahead.
And that task, as we all know, is steering the Blues away from the drop zone. With 16 cup finals ahead, Dyche will have to get the best out of what he has if Everton are to ensure their Premier League status for next season.
David Moyes established Everton as top-six contenders, something that allowed Roberto Martinez to steer the Toffees to fifth in his first full season. Since then, it has been gradual decline that has become far more rapid in the last few years. Different managers (and directors of football) with different ideas and buying different players has made what the fans have to suffer week-in, week-out. That is an expensive mess as the Premier League keeps a close eye on the Club’s financial fair play.
Ambitions have come full circle to the 1990s, with Everton once again becoming forgotten giants and Premier League also-rans that are grateful for simply remaining at England’s top table.
And if Dyche can negotiate another ‘Great Escape’ this season, then the fans should be the only ones to convey their relief. There should be no celebration from the Goodison hierarchy, rather a grim realisation as to what a lack of strategy and cohesion had led to.
It won’t be ‘good times’ but let’s hope they get no worse!