Everton's Jarrad Branthwaite after the thrashing by Spurs
Everton's Jarrad Branthwaite after the thrashing by Spurs Image Credit: Reuters

Everton’s 5-0 thrashing by Tottenham on Monday was a stark reminder that the team who have spent more years in England’s top flight than any other have no divine right to stay there and that they are now absolutely involved in a relegation battle.

The defeat leaves them one place and one point above the drop zone, and even though they have games in hand on those around them, on current form those are more likely to worsen their goal difference rather than earn precious points.

This is not the scenario owner Farhad Moshiri envisaged when he bought the club six years ago and certainly not what he expected in return for his investment of more than $722 million on players.

Everton just don’t do relegation — or certainly don’t in the living memory of most of their fans. Since joining the league as a founder member in 1888, they have spent only four seasons outside the top flight — 1930-31 and three in the early 1950s.

They have had a few near-misses, most famously via two last-day escapes in the 1990s, which were hard for the fans to take coming so soon after the most successful period in the club’s history when they won two league titles, the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup from 1984-87.

In 1994, needing to win their final game at home to Wimbledon to have a chance of staying up, they trailed 2-0, only to scramble a 3-2 win that, thanks to other results going their way, saved them.

Despite finishing sixth in 1996, two years later it was a similar story as, 1-0 up in their final game at home to Coventry, they missed a penalty and conceded a last-minute equaliser only again for their rivals to falter and allow them to survive on goal difference.

Even in those two dark seasons though they were in a better state after 25 games than they are now. They have lost 15 of them, managing a paltry 22 points — their worst-ever performance when adjusted for three points for a win. The 46 goals they’ve conceded is their worst since 1976/77.

On the road they are utterly abject, having lost nine and drawn two of their last 11 and failed to muster a single shot on target in two of their last three.

Their defending against Spurs would have shamed a pub team at times. It is impossible to believe that ailing centre back Michael Keane was once an England player while ageing full-back Seamus Coleman is now running like a hobbled donkey.

Mason Holgate appears terrified to play the ball anywhere but backwards and even England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had a howler.

They have a group of largely anonymous midfield scufflers where Anthony Gordon stood out merely for trying to show some initiative, while forwards Richarlison and injury-ravaged Dominic Calvert-Lewin are barely getting a touch, let alone a chance.

Everton have gone 27 years without a trophy since lifting the FA Cup in 1995, while the last of their nine league titles came in 1987, but any thoughts of a return to glory will need to be firmly put to one side over the next few weeks.

Their next two matches are at home against Wolves and Newcastle, where they really need to claim some points ahead of a stiff run against West Ham, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester City.

However, the two most important games could well be their visits to Burnley and Watford, two teams below them who are miles away in terms of top-flight pedigree but who know the tricks of a relegation dogfight that Everton need to learn fast.