By Paul Conatzer
Everton went into the Christmas fixtures in a festive mood. The Toffees had won five of their last seven games, with their only setback being a 2-1 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Everton had chances to snatch a point in this match, which would become a foreshadow of the Christmas period. A kind of footballing version of the Ghost of Football Future, if you’re a Charles Dickens’ fan.
The Blues rebounded with a 1-0 win against Cardiff, a result foreshadowing another problem.
Anyway, Everton ended November with a solid 0-0 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and a 3-1 victory against Brighton. So the Blues went into the Merseyside Derby in a fairly confident mood and their play reflected it. It looked like they were on the way to a very creditable point at Anfield. Until an error by Jordan Pickford, late in time added on, gave Divick Origi the opportunity to bundle home the winner.
Then the wheels and just about everything fell off for Everton in the next four matches. Drawing winnable games at home to Newcastle and Watford. Cue more foreshadowing as Lucas Digne curled home a late free kick to earn Everton a point against the Hornets. Everton’s inability to convert chances reared its head against Manchester City as the defending champions won 3-1 at the Etihad.
Everton must have gotten into their Christmas Stockings a little early and found lumps of coal as Spurs swash buckled into Goodison Park. At times, it seemed Everton were playing with aforementioned lumps of coal while Spurs had the actual football. Anyway, an impressive Tottenham thumped Everton, 6-2. Everton rebounded with a 5-1 away trouncing of Burnley. Digne scored twice, once on a free kick and then on a drive from outside the area. Those who see the glass as half empty would have noticed three of the five goals came from defenders. Gylfi Sigurdsson actually converted a penalty and Richarlison poked the fifth home after coming on as a sub. The next two games seemed winnable, however, Everton dropped them both 1-0 on the road to Brighton and by the same score at home to Leicester as Jamie Vardy showed what a predatory striker can do. The story was the same of Everton, missed chances and defensive mistakes.
By now, rumbles about Marco Silva’s job security started to feature in social media. It would be foolish to fire Silva, he’s had half a season and has bought a number of players in and to be honest they still need time to jell as well as a striker, who will score goals and perhaps another right back and midfielder. Especially with PSG sniffing around Idrissa Gana Gueye, a player Everton would miss sorely.
So that brings us to Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie against Division 1 high fliers Lincoln. Everton’s last trophy was the FA Cup in 1995 and Silva could go along way to appeasing the naysayers and cementing his job security for a little longer. Everton may or may not bring in a striker in January. Everton fans are watching the Everton offices for a puff of white smoke announcing “Habemus Striker” and one who can convert chances!
And while finishing in the top seven is still within Everton’s reach and it’s likely that seventh will result in a spot in the qualifying rounds of Europa League. However, winning the FA Cup means entry and the group stage and few games to play.
Against Southampton in the League Cup, Silva went with a weaker line-up and Everton crashed out on penalties. And while even a weaker Everton team should have enough to handle Lincoln, Silva shouldn’t take the chance and needs to play his strongest possible team.
It’s been far too long since Everton have won a trophy and with Liverpool in with a good chance of winning the Premier League, Everton needs to remind people there are two teams on Merseyside and can do that by lifting the FA Cup!