It felt as though we got exactly what we expected from Everton when Manchester City rolled into town on Saturday.
A lively atmosphere at Goodison Park? Yep, for long spells.
A positive performance? Yeah, there were good aspects to take from the game for a team that has thrived against the better sides at home.
A defeat? Unfortunately so. But they are good, aren’t they?
As such, it felt as though we didn’t learn too much new about Marco Silva’s Toffees after their third successive league defeat. One thing is clear though—his players and a majority of the supporters remain aligned with him.
There was no slacking off in effort from Everton against City. For a side that have been rotten when falling behind under Silva’s guidance, there was a brilliant response to both of City’s goals—Everton had their best spell of the match after Gabriel Jesus put City ahead, while Ederson made a string of excellent saves to stop them squaring the match at 2-2 late on.
It didn’t feel like one of *those* games. A match where tools are downed and looks are cast towards the sideline. Where broadcasters’ cameras’ zero in on the directors’ box, as if trying to intrude on the mind of the decision-makers in focus.
But Burnley away on Saturday feels like it has the potential to be one of those fixtures.
In many respects, it’s easy to put the graft in against City. The Everton players would have been prepared for 90 minutes of toil and chasing, it was in front of a lively home crowd and it was shown on Sky’s flagship slot.
On what you can assume will be a chilly autumn day at Turf Moor, that willingness to dig deep may not be there.
This isn’t to doubt the mindset of the footballers, as there’s little question they’ll all be focused and well prepared for the fixture.
But what if the match becomes tough? What if you’re a forward getting roughed up by James Tarkowski? What if you’re a midfielder getting harried and hit hard by Jeff Hendrick? What if you’re a centre-back and Ashley Barnes is getting the better of you in his inimitable bustling fashion?
What if it’s cold? What if there’s a stiff breeze?
These are scenarios that happen frequently at Burnley and it’s not rare to see them grind down technically superior sides at home. Those teams who pick up results there not only need quality, but it’s necessary they dig deep too. Unity is imperative, as is a belief that the track you’re on is the right one.
Against City, the 11 lads in blue looked like they were battling for this manager. On Saturday, the environment feels rife for any nascent doubts building in the minds of players to potentially emerge. When the hosts eventually build momentum, seeing how and if Everton stem that flow will likely be the most crucial point in the game.
It’s not something they’ve done well as of late, with their wretched away record well documented, as well as their propensity to limp to a loss when they do go a goal down.
For Silva, it’s an enormous fixture. While the mood after a draw would depend on the type of draw, a win would give supporters something upbeat to reflect on ahead of a home clash with West Ham United.
Lose? It’ll be four losses in a row in the league and just seven points from eight games—only one of which was against last season’s top six.
Defeat would no doubt trigger a swell of opinion to see the back of Silva among the support, as hopes of an exciting season a couple of months ago would have been completely eradicated.
With two weeks to go until the next match due to the international break, there’s also a window for the club to make a potentially big decision on the back of another defeat.
Everything feels precarious when it comes to Everton at the moment. What happens at Burnley will push the balance one way or another. Time to buckle up.