Everton caretaker manager David Unsworth has demanded his under-performing players prove their commitment to the cause after the club’s heaviest European defeat at Goodison Park.
The 5-1 Europa League loss to Atalanta, the heaviest home defeat by an English side in the various guises of this competition since Nottingham Forest lost by the same scoreline to Bayern Munich in 1996, was a new low in a season which is spiralling downwards fast.
A month after sacking Ronald Koeman the club are seemingly no nearer finding a replacement and the void created appears to be affecting matters on the pitch even more than the former manager’s muddled tactics.
Unsworth has struggled to find a successful formula and his decision to make nine changes against the Serie A side made little difference as players who had been crying out for a chance put in an abject display in front of 17,431 fans, Everton’s second-lowest European crowd in their history.
“I’d like to think every single player is hurting the way I am at the moment and if they are not then they shouldn’t be here at this great club,” said Unsworth, who has now lost four and won just one of his six games in temporary charge, conceding 16 goals.
“The minimum requirement is 100 per cent effort. Only those players will know themselves when they look themselves in the mirror at night.
“The players who have been asking me for opportunities to play in the first team were given that.
“I asked the players to make it difficult for me to leave them out of the team on Sunday and the majority have probably made it very easy for me.
“The manner we capitulated just isn’t acceptable and the players know that.
“What you can’t do at this level is carry players. When your best player is an 18-year-old kid (Beni Baningime) who’s only had a couple of first-team appearances that tells you all you need to know.
“Players need to take responsibility – senior players, foreign players, young players.
“Everton fans will be disappointed with what they saw and so am I.”
A double from Bryan Cristante put the visitors, who also missed a penalty, in control early in the second half.
Summer signing Sandro Ramirez pulled one back with his first for the club but goals from substitutes Andreas Cornelius (two) and Robin Gosens in the last four minutes plus added time typified Everton’s haplessness.
Asked what damage had been done to his reputation, as a coach who guided the club’s under-23s to the Premier League 2 title last season, and the chances of getting the job on a full-time basis, Unsworth said: “It is an honour for me to be a manager and lead this great club but at the same time you need your players to come with you and give you everything they’ve got.
“Other people will make decisions about who is the manager but I take that responsibility.
“At the same time when the players cross the white line they have to take responsibility.
“I’ve learned a lot about numerous players and that’s good – but it doesn’t feel good.”