As months go Everton won’t have looked back on theirs fondly. December 2018 turned out to be a write off for Marco Silva and his squad.
A 1-0 loss to Liverpool at the beginning of the month, courtesy of Jordan Pickford’s moment of madness, set the tone for what was to come. Losses to Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton, coupled with home draws against Watford and Newcastle, made it a miserable end to a miserable year.
Even a 5-1 hammering of Burnley on Boxing Day did little to raise the spirits at Goodison Park. While it was the perfect response to the drubbing by Spurs, it turned out to be little more than a small rise in an otherwise rapid decline.
That regression continued into the New Year. A drab, listless 1-0 defeat to Leicester City at home is not how Everton would have wanted to start 2019. It means they have now managed one win in their last eight league games and haven’t kept a clean sheet since beating Cardiff on the 25th November.
Worse still they find themselves 11th in the table and on the exact same points as at this stage last season. That year was supposed to be a blip, one in which they went through three managers and had to call in Sam Allardyce to save the day. This year was supposed to be different. Instead, that disastrous run has left many questioning if Silva is actually the long-term answer.
After all, at the same time last season his Watford team were doing a similar thing. They managed one win in 11 between 28th November and 20th January before the Watford board dismissed the Portuguese boss. The one win, like Everton’s, came on Boxing Day.
Words from majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri at the club’s AGM this week did little to improve the mood. According to the Iranian businessman, Everton sitting in 11th place is ‘just not good enough’. He has, though, insisted Silva retains the full backing of the board. The message is clear, though; results must improve and fast or Silva will find himself on the managerial scrapheap once again.
The visit of Bournemouth this weekend would be the perfect place to start for the Blues. The Cherries find themselves on a run of 11 games without a win and sliding down the table after an impressive start to the campaign had raised hopes. Confidence is low and Everton should be taking advantage.
Beyond that, Eddie Howe’s team are one that Everton are suited to playing again. They will not sit deep and look to frustrate before hitting on the counter, as the likes of Leicester and Brighton have done to great effect in recent weeks. Instead, they will play an open, attacking style. Furthermore, they will give Everton opportunities to create chances and score goals. It is up to the Blues to take advantage of it.
This Bournemouth game starts a run of fixture that presents Everton with a chance to make up for a disappointing first half of the campaign. They do not take on any of the top six until a home game against Manchester City on the 23rd of February.
Crucially too, their six games before then see them take on two of the bottom three. Their other four games are against teams currently sitting around them in the table in Wolves, Watford and Bournemouth. It is an ample opportunity to pick up points, form and confidence.
December dragged them down but it did not finish them off. Despite their poor run of form, only five points separate them from seventh-placed Watford. Their ambitions may be higher but that would represent a strong first season on Merseyside for Silva. It would also mean a higher finish than Allardyce’s eighth. That feels very important given the former manager’s willingness to sound off in the press at any given moment.
Bournemouth is not a must-win game but it does represent an important one for Everton. Silva is not under pressure but both the owner and fans are asking questions. The football may be far prettier on the eye but in the results-driven business of the Premier League it is points on the board that matter.
Silva and Everton has to start delivering on that front sooner rather than later. A win over the Cherries at Goodison Park would be the perfect place to start.
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