An unusual international break in January has provided Everton with some much-needed breathing space to consider their next move in their search for a new manager.
It is more than a week since they started the process of looking for their seventh permanent boss in six years following the sacking of the unpopular and underachieving Rafael Benitez after just 200 days in charge.
The list of those linked to the vacancy is now in double figures and while those who are considered genuine contenders currently numbers less than half-a-dozen it is understood the club are still canvassing prospective candidates with only three on a potential shortlist so far.
One of those is the perennially-linked former Porto boss Vitor Pereira, who pulled out of the running to succeed Marco Silva in December 2019 when Carlo Ancelotti emerged as the preferred option but had been previously considered when other vacancies arose.
The Portuguese was sacked in the summer after 11 wins in 25 matches during a second spell at Fenerbahce and his previous experience of a relegation battle, when he took over struggling 1860 Munich in January 2017 and won just six of 20 matches as they dropped out of the Bundesliga, suggests he is not the firefighter Everton currently require.
Former Everton striker Wayne Rooney, currently at SkyBet Championship strugglers Derby, and ex-Chelsea boss Frank Lampard are also being considered.
However, the dilemma owner Farhad Moshiri has is that the manager he needs right now to get them out of trouble is probably not the man required to turn around an eight-year decline at a club currently without an established internal football structure and undergoing a strategic review.
But with 13 days before their next match – an FA Cup tie at home to Brentford which has suddenly taken on less importance with the club firmly mired in a relegation battle – Moshiri does not have to make any snap decisions.
Caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson, who oversaw a 10th defeat in 13 league matches, said after Saturday’s loss to Aston Villa he expected to be in charge for “the next two or three games”.
He revealed, however, he will not be involved in any discussions about potential transfers before the end of the window.
The Scot left Benitez’s two January signings Nathan Patterson and Andrii Mykolenko out of the squad entirely but a groin injury to Abdoulaye Doucoure, with fellow midfielders Fabian Delph and Tom Davies longer-term absentees, may mean further reinforcements are required.
Their next Premier League opponents Newcastle, whom they face in a relegation six-pointer on February 8, have already spent £25million to take striker Chris Wood from Burnley and with the riches at their disposal are likely to buy again before the window closes.
Everton need to do something to jolt them out of their current slump as since the start of October all the teams below them – Norwich (16), Newcastle (12), Watford (seven) and Burnley (10) – have accrued more points than their paltry six.
“We have no excuses and need to dig deep. We have the quality in the squad but need to start to show it,” winger Demarai Gray told evertonfc.com.
“We have to stick together and take accountability and make sure we put things right.”
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