Everton’s horror show of a season continued on Thursday night, as a below-par side capitulated away to Lyon, losing 3-0 and crashing out of Europe in traumatic fashion.
It will be a long way back from here for David Unsworth’s side, and also for whoever may take over from him if he isn’t handed the job on a long-term basis. Europe is gone, the League Cup is gone, and even the top half of the Premier League now looks quite a long way away.
And as if to underline the toothlessness of Everton so far this season, last night’s side against the Ligue 1 team saw caretaker manager Unsworth opt to play a side without a recognised striker, as record-signing Gylfi Sigurdsson was given a starting berth in the most advanced role.
That has, since Romelu Lukaku left the club, been the obvious weakness in a team who have struggled all season. Not having a recognised striker is more than just about having someone to finish off moves, it’s also about having a player to lead the line, make intelligent runs, and generally be in a position to take a pass.
That was made abundantly clear by Gylfi Sigurdsson’s nightmare of a performance at the Groupama Stadium on Thursday night.
The Icelandic international touched the ball a paltry 34 times all night as he struggled to find the right kind of spaces while leading the line, and was unable to drop deep into the areas he usually patrols behind the striker.
That is also borne out in Sigurdsson’s passing stats. And although he didn’t have a terrible completion rate – 85%, better than all but four Everton starters – he only attempted attempted 20 passes in total, completing 17. Indeed, his 20 pass haul is exactly the same number as Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, showing just how bad things got for Everton on Thursday night.
And when it came to actually attempting to score goals, things weren’t much better for Sigurdsson. On a night where he managed just two shots in the whole game, only two found their way on target.
It’s harsh to single Sigurdsson out too much given he was playing in an unfamiliar role on a night when his team were humiliated away from home, but what it does highlight is that the Icelandic international is not the answer to Everton’s striker problem – something they saw coming and did nothing about.
In the end, what his performance serves to highlight is not that Sigurdsson isn’t performing well for his new club, but that Everton made a huge recruitment blunder in the summer which has necessitated playing an attacking midfielder up front in a big European tie.
And that, more than anything else, is why they find themselves out of Europe in November and in the Premier League’s bottom three.