Everton caretaker manager David Unsworth was hoping to stake his claim to be Ronald Koeman’s successor on a permanent basis following the Dutchman’s sacking last week, but it’s probably fair to say that things haven’t exactly gone to plan for the former Toffees defender so far.
The 44-year-old’s first task was to try and help the club reach the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup when they faced Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and he instantly made his mark by bringing in wide players Aaron Lennon and Kevin Mirallas for rare starts, with players like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen often being chosen out of position on the flanks earlier in the campaign.
While the duo both made a positive impact as they look to prove that they should be starting every game, the Merseyside outfit still fell to a 2-1 defeat with Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s injury-time goal proving to be nothing more than a consolation.
Unsworth would have known that was going to be a tough game against the Premier League holders but he certainly would have been slightly more hopeful of picking up a positive result against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Sunday, with former Southampton boss Claude Puel taking charge of his first Foxes fixture.
The east Midlands club were just one point above the 18th-placed Toffees after enduring a difficult campaign themselves, and the temporary Everton boss certainly chose to take a few risks against the 2016 Premier League champions.
While Tom Davies slotted in alongside Idrissa Gueye in the middle of the park despite not being the most defensively-minded player, both Mirallas and Lennon started on the wings with the likes of club-record buy Sigurdsson and former Manchester United man Morgan Schneiderlin left on the substitutes’ bench.
It proved to be a tactical and naive error as a quick break away from the hosts led to Jamie Vardy opening the scoring for Leicester – Gueye had failed to win the ball after committing himself earlier in the period of play which left his team short – and an unfortunate second goal followed when Jonjoe Kenny sliced a Demarai Gray cross past Jordan Pickford and into the back of his own net.
The Everton hierarchy seem happy enough to give Unsworth a trial opportunity to stake his claim for the job – which will include the forthcoming games against Lyon and Watford – but perhaps they should look at the example of Leicester and the performance their players put in on Sunday.
That was the vintage Foxes style of play that we have been so familiar with in recent seasons, but it isn’t one that had been regularly seen this term.
The arrival of Puel looked to have brought some stability, assurances and closure to the playing squad, and the Merseyside outfit could learn a few lessons from their Premier League rivals in that regard considering the lack of fight and spirit they have shown at times throughout the campaign.
Appointing Unsworth on a permanent basis before the Europa League clash against Lyon – which is ultimately must-win if they want to keep their chances of reaching the knockout stages alive – on Thursday would end any uncertainty for the players and let them know what is happening for the foreseeable future, while he also seems to be relatively popular among a squad that has many weaknesses.
While results perhaps haven’t gone his way so far he has already shown that he isn’t afraid to make big decisions, and the choice to bring out-and-out wingers back into the side will certainly prove to be a popular one for the Goodison Park fan base who watched Koeman regularly try and fit square pegs into round holes before he was relieved of his duties.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche has been heavily linked with the vacant role in recent days after leading the Clarets to seventh in the Premier League table, but many Evertonians would argue that he wouldn’t be a significant upgrade on Unsworth.
Yes he has performed admirably, but does he have the profile to be the manager of a club that is ambitious and looking to start challenging the top English clubs on a regular basis? The jury is certainly out on that viewpoint.
With the Toffees currently in 18th position in the top flight and with a clash against Watford at Goodison Park to come on Sunday, now is the time to show the faith in the 44-year-old by giving him the job on a permanent basis – at least until the end of the season – so everyone can focus on what is required and can start pulling in the same direction.