EVERTON are in free fall. Having gone into the season with relatively high expectations after spending £133 million (US$177 million) on transfers – albeit while losing top scorer Romelu Lukaku – the Merseyside club have no manager and are embroiled in a relegation scrap.
Their 4-1 loss at Southampton was as uninspired as their midweek 5-1 home defeat against Atalanta in the Europa League – and Everton are being kept out of the relegation places only because West Brom (August) and West Ham (September) have gone months without a league win.
Everton have conceded two or more goals in each of their last nine games in all competitions – and the last time they kept a clean sheet was against second-tier Sunderland in the Carabao Cup in September.
We look at 11 talking points from the 13th round of Premier League matches this season, beginning with Everton’s issues.
Everton need to sort out their managerial situation – or face relegation
Five weeks have passed since Everton – with eight points from nine games – sacked Ronald Koeman. Four games on, they have gained four points – chiefly thanks to the dramatic comeback win over Watford – but have lost five of seven games overall.
Interim boss David Unsworth said after the 4-1 loss at Saints: “It’s killing me. I take responsibility, but we all have to as well. We’re in a tough place and things have to change quickly.”
If Everton do not sort of their managerial situation, they face the very real threat of dropping out of English football’s top flight for the first time in 63 years.
Saints cash in on Everton’s woeful form to enjoy rare goal glut
Before Charlie Austin scored twice – with Dusan Tadic and Steve Davis also contributing – Southampton had scored only nine goals in 12 Premier League games this season.
The previous time they had scored four in a league game was in March against Watford – with 24 matches coming in between.
Everton are rapidly gaining a reputation as the team everyone wants to play – and, with home games against West Ham and Huddersfield coming before a derby date at Liverpool on December 10, they must shed that tag quickly.
Crystal Palace resurgence is bad news for Everton and West Ham
After seven games, Crystal Palace had registered neither a point nor a goal and appeared destined to fill one of the three relegation spots come May.
Six games on, the Eagles – who beat Stoke 2-1 at the weekend – have collected eight points and have closed the gap to the safe zone to three points.
Their unlikely resurgence under Roy Hodgson has shaken up the relegation scrap and is bad news for clubs such as Everton and West Ham.
‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ – Gunners are showing real grit
For years, Arsenal were famed for their ability to win titles off the back of grinding out 1-0 win after 1-0 win. They may be 12 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City this time – but Arsene Wenger’s Gunners are rediscovering a knack of showing resolve and winning tight games.
Arsenal, who beat Spurs 2-0 in their previous league outing, relied for a second straight season on a last-minute penalty from Alexis Sanchez to win at in-form Burnley, whose boss Sean Dyche was left “raging” by the outcome.
The Gunners are back in the Champions League places and have won seven of their last 10 league games, taking 22 points from 30 in the process.
Talented Tottenham are stuttering in the league
There is no doubt about Spurs’ quality. After all, they held Real Madrid at the Bernabeu and then beat them 3-1 at Wembley in their recent Champions League back-to-back.
But their domestic form has taken a hit, with Mauricio Pochettino’s team winning only one of their four Premier League games – and against Crystal Palace – since a 4-1 win over Liverpool last month.
In that time, they have lost big games against Manchester United and Arsenal, and needed a second-half Harry Kane goal to salvage a point against struggling West Brom at the weekend.
Manchester City maintain run – but unbeaten season is ‘impossible’
The league leaders went 1-0 down and needed an 84th-minute goal from Raheem Sterling to beat Huddersfield Town – but still managed an 11th successive league victory.
That has given them 37 points from a possible 39 and put them well on pace for a record-breaking season.
But Pep Guardiola, whose side have won 18 and drawn two of their 20 games in all competitions, ruled out an unbeaten season.
“We are going to lose a game,” said Guardiola. “Today was so close. With one game a week, you are less likely to drop points, but with three games a week and four competitions, it is impossible.”
Jose Mourinho too attack-minded in 1-0 win?
Manchester United needed a deflected Ashley Young goal to beat Brighton & Hove Albion – but manager Jose Mourinho said he selected “too many attacking players”.
Mourinho named Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and Paul Pogba in his starting XI, which he felt contributed to a loss of control in the game.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if today some of the pundits say we play with too many attackers,” said Mourinho. “I wouldn’t be surprised. But if they say that, I think they were right.”
Victory ensured the gap between United and cross-city rivals City remained at eight points.
Mohamed Salah emerging as the goalscoring star of the season
In a league that Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Alexandre Lacazette, Alvaro Morata, Lukaku and Kane call home, it is perhaps surprising that Salah leads the way with 10 goals this season.
But Liverpool’s summer recruit from Roma is emerging not only as the most impressive of the Reds’ many attacking gems but as an elite goal-getter.
His goal in the 1-1 draw with his former club Chelsea was his 10th in 12 Premier League starts this season and he now has 15 goals in 20 games overall.
Outstanding Watford continue to thrill on the road
During the 2016-17 season, Watford gained 12 points away from home. In seven away games this season, they have already surpassed that tally.
Their impressive 3-0 win at Newcastle United – their biggest away win in the Premier League era – was further proof of their steady improvement under Marco Silva.
Newcastle, meanwhile, must pick themselves back up after losing a fourth successive league game.
David Moyes has a big job on his hands at West Ham
West Ham did not lose Friday’s game against Leicester – but neither did they win, and it is seven games since the Hammers triumphed in the Premier League.
The stats do not paint a good picture for manager David Moyes, who has failed to win any of his 11 Premier League home games in 2017.
West Ham’s 10 points from their opening 13 league games is the club’s worst since 2010-11 – when they were relegated.
All of this makes for a big round of midweek matches…
The good (or bad – depending on whether or not you support Everton) thing about the Premier League is that the next game is generally never too far away.
There are four games on Tuesday evening, with the remaining six taking place on Wednesday, and the obvious highlights are Brighton’s first top-flight meeting with fierce rivals Palace since 1981, Watford’s clash with Manchester United and a match with major ramifications for the bottom of the table: Everton v West Ham.