It’s been a very disappointing and frustrating season for the blue half of Merseyside, culminating in the dismissal of Roberto Martinez last week. The Everton squad is arguably the strongest it has been for over a decade and yet the Toffees finished 11th, their joint-lowest final league position since 2006.
So, what have we learnt from Everton’s dismal season?
1. The Everton board are toughening up.
Bill Kenwright has been the father figure at Everton for as long as I can remember, and although his friendly and compassionate approach epitomises Everton’s philosophy, it is not necessarily the best for business. The fact that it took so long to sack Roberto Martinez is evidence of this. In fact, I am confident in saying that if it wasn’t for the arrival of Farhad Moshiri earlier this season the Spaniard would still be at the helm.
Moshiri has the chance to make Everton great again. He seems to be a lot more ruthless and ambitious than Kenwright. He will not accept mediocre and the Everton board has been needing an injection of fresh blood for a long time. The Iranian has spoken of giving “whatever I have” to the club and with a personal wealth estimated to be £1.3 billion, that is very exciting indeed.
The Toffees need a big managerial name to replace Martinez. Next season is critical for the side – if an improvement is not made then a relegation dogfight could well become reality, and therefore no more risks can be taken. The new manager must be proven, experienced and strict. Under just Bill Kenwright I would hold no hope of such an acquisition but Moshiri, although still a relative unknown, makes me believe that Everton can move forward quickly.
2. Romelu Lukaku is even better than first thought.
It was always clear that Romelu Lukaku was something special. A player so young (at 23), yet so strong and so confident is something rare. To say service to the Belgian has been lacklustre at times this term would be an understatement. There have been flashes of brilliance from midfielders such as Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley, but not consistently enough.
However, Lukaku has not been phased by this, carving out his own chances and netting a phenomenal 25 times in all competitions. His solo goal against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final is something that will remain with me for a very long time and sums up his importance this year. I cannot begin to think how disastrous this season could have been without the striker’s impetus.
However, with such a talent comes the challenge of keeping him at the club. There were rumours of his departure last summer after the 2014-15 campaign was deemed a failure, and now after an even more turbulent season, the rumours are becoming more frequent every day. Again, Moshiri can make a statement and refuse to sell the player but that could result in Lukaku’s heart being in the wrong place next year. Perhaps it is best to cash in now and invest the money gained on improving the side as a whole? It’s a difficult decision for the Everton board and there is no simple answer.
3. The Everton defence needs David Moyes’ discipline back.
Although Everton’s attacking play has advanced both in both style and ruthlessness under Martinez, the defence has become far less consistent. In David Moyes’ last two seasons at Goodison, the side conceded 80 goals in the Premier League compared to the 105 since the start of the 2014-15 season with Martinez. This has been the principal reason for the club’s downfall. I have pointed out on multiple blogs this year that, despite conceding late goals on numerous occasions this season, Martinez failed to target and solve this problem and it happened time and time again. The discipline that the back four used to show is now completely gone and that is not good enough.
In my opinion it is not the players themselves, but the coaching. Leighton Baines has been outstanding for years, John Stones is an undoubtedly gifted youngster, Ramiro Funes Mori has been a revelation this year and Seamus Coleman is a fans’ favourite for obvious reasons. On paper, that is a defence good enough to rival the top Premier League clubs. However, that has not been shown in performances and results. Whoever does take charge of the Toffees needs to reintroduce a consistency and discipline that was typical of Toffees’ defences of the past.