Defeat in the Merseyside derby proved the final straw as Everton dismissed manager Marco Silva on Thursday.
The Portuguese had been under intense pressure since a home defeat by Norwich on November 23 and that was followed by losses against Leicester and, on Tuesday, a 5-2 hammering by Liverpool.
Reports on Thursday morning emerged that the patience of majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri and the board had finally run out and the axe came down shortly after 7pm.
A statement from Everton read: “Everton Football Club can confirm that manager Marco Silva has left the club.
“Majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, chairman Bill Kenwright and the board of directors would like to thank Marco for his service over the last 18 months and wish him well for the future.
“Duncan Ferguson has taken temporary charge of the first team and will manage the side for the game against Chelsea on Saturday.
“The club aims to confirm a new permanent manager as swiftly as possible.”
Silva leaves with Everton in the relegation zone and with matches against Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal to come before Christmas.
Former manager David Moyes, potentially in association with ex-player Tim Cahill, appears to be the front-runner for a permanent return to the club he left for Manchester United in 2013 but his name is not universally popular with fans.
Recently-departed former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta, who is on Manchester City’s coaching staff, have also been cited as potential candidates.
Having finished last season – Silva’s first with the club – with a run of 17 points from a possible 24 and a summer spend of almost £120million, there was an expectation the team would kick on from their eighth-placed finish and challenge the established top six.
That did not materialise and, while Silva has been unlucky with injuries, losing summer signing Jean-Philippe Gbamin after just two matches and then seeing midfielder Andre Gomes’ season ended by a dislocated ankle fracture, his team selections have been muddled and confusing.
In early December, he still did not know his best XI and scoring just 16 goals in 15 league matches points to an underlying problem that has not been addressed in the last three transfer windows, although much of the blame for failure in recruitment lies at the door of director of football Marcel Brands.
The £27m summer acquisition of 19-year-old Moise Kean from Juventus was supposed to be a solution to their problems up front but the forward has made just two league starts and has yet to score in 13 matches in all competitions.
At the back they have also been shaky as, having failed to replace last season’s best defender Kurt Zouma – on loan from Chelsea – Silva has tinkered with different partnerships and formations and as a result they have kept just two clean sheets in the league.
There is also a frailty within a team lacking leaders – the Toffees did not win any of the 27 Premier League matches under Silva in which they went behind.
Of Everton’s six wins this season, half have come in the Carabao Cup, and they have a quarter-final against Leicester later this month.
However, even the lure of potentially challenging for a first trophy since 1995 was not enough to save Silva, with the club’s Premier League future coming under increasing threat.
The Toffees have spent just four seasons outside of the top flight in their 132-year history and have been an ever-present since 1954.
Asked about his future after the defeat by Liverpool, Silva said: “I am not the right person to talk to you about the situation. I cannot answer to you.
“Since I joined the club and until the last day I am here I will always be 100
per cent professional, giving my best every single day.
“I understand why the questions are coming. If we are winning all the games, you are not asking them. But it is not for me to take those situations.”
Everton are searching for their fourth permanent manager since Roberto Martinez was sacked in May 2016, with Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce shown the door prior to Silva.
The Toffees had wanted to appoint then Watford boss Silva prior to plumping for Allardyce in November 2017 but were angrily rebuffed by the Hornets only for them to sack Silva two months later.
Allardyce’s departure in May 2018 saw Everton finally get their man but it turned out to be far from a perfect match.