Sunday saw Everton lose 1-0 to Manchester United in a match that commentator Alan Smith reflected on as a “game you will forget once you leave the car park.”
Throughout this season, the Toffees have lacked ruthlessness and have been incapable of seeing out fixtures. However, over the last couple of Premier League games, against Arsenal and Manchester United, to say Roberto Martinez’s side have been lacklustre would be an understatement. It seems like the players, and coaching staff, have written this campaign off, hoping that the FA Cup salvages a dire season. However, that is far from true for the supporters. Everton are headed for their worse league finish since the 2003-2004 season, and that has not gone unnoticed.
After being dominated by Arsenal two weeks ago, fans were expecting a vast improvement after the international break against United. For the first 25 minutes the Blues did just that, dominating the game and creating a number of decent chances. However, all of a sudden, the desire vanished from the side. Joel Robles put in his usual sterling performance and Romelu Lukaku chased balls down tirelessly all day, but the nine men in between the goalkeeper and striker were like ghosts. The Red Devils created nine goalscoring chances compared to the visitors’ four, and the home side’s midfielders amassed 382 touches in total in comparison with the lowly 267 that Everton accumulated. The statistics against Arsenal last month were, unfortunately, very similar.
The coaching staff and players may fail to realise it but there is still a lot to play for this campaign. Looking at the squad at the start of the season, any Evertonian would have believed you that a return to European football would have been a feasible target. To now languish in 12th place, headed for the worst league finish in over a decade, is embarrassing. Therefore, when a goal down in matches, like at Old Trafford, it is of paramount importance the team does everything it can to rescue at least a point, which the fans have not seen. If anything, with only eight fixtures left this campaign, gaining points is more important now than it has ever been.
Furthermore, the manager and players all have their own reasons to finish the campaign strongly. Martinez’s future at the club has come under fire frequently this year and if the league position is not improved, his role at Everton may well become untenable. New owner Farhad Moshiri could well decide that the club needs a fresh face at the helm to haul the team out of its slump if the Spaniard cannot do so by the end of the season. It is not only Martinez who has a point to prove. The majority of players in the side are from Europe and will be vying for a place to compete in this summer’s European Championships. There is just over a month until international managers are set to announce their final squads and if the Toffees’ stars carry on with their passive performances, their names may not be on those squad rosters.
Clearly the FA Cup is thrilling and the trip to Wembley will be the highlight of the past few seasons for Evertonians but, even with eight fixtures left, the Premier League is still of equal importance. Fans are getting angry, Martinez is being questioned and players still have it all to play for. Something must change before it’s too late.