When it rains, it pours.
Thirty-six hours after their 5-0 thrashing by Tottenham Hotspur, Everton fans learned that their side risks a Premier League points deduction if they are found to have broken profit and sustainability rules. A report by the Daily Mail makes clear that a fine is the more likely punishment, but this is an unwelcome distraction for a club which sits just one point above the relegation zone.
So too is the uncertainty surrounding Alisher Usmanov, who has had his assets frozen by the European Union in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Uzbekistan-born billionaire does not hold shares in Everton, but the club has been forced to cut sponsorship ties with his USM Holdings firm. That is a financial blow for the future as well as the present, since USM were said to be in line to purchase the naming rights for Everton’s new stadium, set to open in 2024.
It is no longer unthinkable that the Toffees could be playing in the Championship by then. Everton have 22 points to their name after 25 matches – their lowest total at this stage of a top-flight campaign in the club’s history. They do have games in hand on their relegation rivals, but Monday’s trip to Spurs was one of those and that simply resulted in Everton’s goal difference taking a major hit.
It feels like an awfully long time ago now, but Everton actually made a decent start to the season. After a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at the start of October, they occupied fifth spot in the standings. Since then, however, it has been an unmitigated disaster at Goodison Park.
The problems at Everton predate the appointment of Rafael Benitez, but a Liverpool legend was always going to struggle to win over the fans of that club’s local rivals. Injuries did not help and Benitez had little money to spend last summer after years of wastefulness in the transfer market, yet there was an air of inevitability about his dismissal in mid-January.
Results since then demonstrate that Everton’s problems did not start and end with Benitez: they have lost five of their six Premier League games since the Spaniard was handed his P45. His replacement Frank Lampard oversaw a 3-0 victory over Leeds United last month, but Everton have lost three in a row since then without scoring a goal. The Toffees had a busy January, bringing in Donny van de Beek, Dele Alli, Nathan Patterson, Vitalii Mykolenko and Anwar El Ghazi. That has not yet sparked an upturn.
Most concerning is Everton’s dismal away form. They have won just one of their 13 matches away from Goodison this term. A tally of six points on the road is the worst in the division. Only Norwich City have scored fewer goals at opposition stadiums. As Jamie Carragher pointed out on Monday, such a dire record hints at a deficiency of character.
The next two games feel huge. Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have also lost three games on the bounce, visit Goodison on Sunday, before Everton host an in-form Newcastle United next Thursday. Neither match will be easy, but it is vital that Lampard’s side pick up at least four points. Their away record suggests subsequent trips to West Ham United, Liverpool, Leicester City and Arsenal will yield little. Upcoming home games against Manchester United and Chelsea will be equally tough.
Everton have been part of the Premier League furniture since its launch in 1992, but their ever-present status is in grave danger this season. It would be folly for the Toffees to believe they are too big to go down.