Leicester took all three points in the first Premier League fixture of 2019, with Everton starting the new year as they ended the previous: with a 1-0 defeat.
Jamie Vardy struck the only goal of the game just before the hour, after a Michael Keane error gifted the England striker a rare sight on goal.
It was a game of few chances, as both teams looked to be feeling the effects of a busy festive schedule. Jon Joe Kenny went closest for The Toffees in the first half when he struck the post and substitute Bernard did well to square the ball into space in the 6 yard box late on but no one anticipated the pass.
Everton’s sorry form of late leaves them 10th in the Premier League, eight points adrift of Manchester United in 6th (who have a game in hand).
Derby misery still haunts Blues
It hasn’t been a very merry Christmas for Marco Silva’s men. Coming into the Merseyside derby on 2nd December, Everton ranked 3rd in the league’s form table (for the previous seven games), having won 5 and lost one and drawn one. In the same period, they’d also picked up more points than Liverpool (16 to 15).
But since that dramatic night at Anfield the Toffees have won just once in eight games and find themselves 19th in the form table; only Huddersfield – who have failed to pick up a point – find themselves worse off from their December fixtures. We need not ask ourselves where our neighbours currently sit in the table.
Considering how well Everton played that night at Anfield, it’s obvious that the manner of the defeat more than the result itself has had a hugely detrimental effect on the confidence of the players.
Silva must ask himself why Everton were nervous
And so not for the first time since that derby defeat, the signs of a side shorn of confidence was on display for all to see. The host’s two shots on target tell most of the story, with little creativity and few moments of quality.
After the game Silva said: “I felt our team was too nervous and anxious today, without reason”. He’s not wrong, but he could well have said the same thing following any of Everton’s previous seven games. With the exception of the (now somewhat uncharacteristic) 5-1 thrashing of Burnley on Boxing Day, Silva’s men have looked laboured, dropping points at home to Newcastle and Watford, before failing to get anything from a struggling Brighton at the Amex Stadium.
The management have had plenty of time to identify the confidence issue haunting the side, while the players have had ample game time to put it to rest. The fact that neither seem to have addressed this problem in eight games is a concern.
Now is not the time to panic
With just five points accumulated from the previous eight games, Everton’s form is an obvious concern. But there is no need to panic. Take a look throughout the side. Richarlison (9 goals, 1 assist), Sigurdsson (8 goals, 3 assists), Bernard, Andre Gomes, Idrissa Gueye, Lucas Digne, Jordan Pickford; all proven in the league or have proven themselves in an equivalent European league. There is quality in the team, quality enough to finish the season in the top half of the table. Such a prediction may not satisfy the motto on our badge, (and of course a top ten finish is hardly an achievement worth celebrating) but it’s a realistic one.
The players acquired in the summer are better than the ones who departed. The squad is more balanced, and Silva has improved the quality in some key areas but of course there is much room for improvement. If the club is intent on stability it must keep its nerve and place trust in Marco Silva, despite the disappointments of his first five months in charge.
Gomes form huge factor in Everton slump
Gomes has received almost unanimous support from Evertonians since making his debut against Crystal Palace back in October. The Portuguese midfielder announced himself with a series of elegant displays over the following few fixtures, show-casing his impressive range of passing and ability to dictate and control play.
He was one of Everton’s standout players against Liverpool and should have capped his performance with a Merseyside derby goal. But since that game his form has dipped. It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to correlate his own personal slide with Everton’s poor form.
Of course he isn’t the only one out of sorts, and this is far from a Gomes-bashing segment. Whether he’s been playing through a knock, isn’t 100% fit or is feeling the effects of a busy first Christmas schedule in England, what’s obvious is that as Gomes has been out of form, so have Everton.
Gana performance not enough to stem the tide
On the other hand, his midfield partner has been one of few positives from the past couple of games. Absent for the games against City, Watford, Spurs and Burnley, Gueye started the last two and despite the results has been the best player on the park.
Not only content with doing his job as a defensive midfielder, the Senegalese took it upon himself to be the attacking force in the side against Leicester when those in front of him were struggling. Excellent in retrieving the ball from the opposition, he’s usually the first point from which Everton mount an attack. There were few of those on New Year’s Day, but one of the few at least trying to make a positive effect was Gueye.