One year ago the talk was all about how Everton was at a crossroads of sort. A fantastic run in from the previous season coupled with a few key additions laid the groundwork for a realistic conversation about getting to the Champions League, and maybe winning a trophy for the first time since 1995. With David Moyes entering a contract year, it was expected to be a do or die year to determine his fate.
Fast forward to now and what was feared has come to pass, but in a different way than anyone expected. Moyes has departed to Manchester United, and he has been replaced by Roberto Martinez. The task demanded by the faithful has not changed. After almost 20 years without a trophy, silverware is expected. A standard has been set over the past decade of top 7 finishes and getting close but not quite there to a trophy. For Martinez to succeed he will need to at least maintain that consistency while bringing home some hardware, and he may even need to do better in the league. Anything else will be seen as stagnation, and with so many clubs getting a sugar daddy, Everton could be left in the dust.
Now though it seems like a squad that has been carefully crafted is in danger of being sliced apart. Both Baines and Fellaini are linked with big clubs, and Everton's financial situation means fears of them both leaving are realistic.
There is also uncertainty on the managerial front. Many were not upset with the departure of Moyes and welcome Martinez's arrival at Goodison. But just as it is with every new player, the success of the new manager is not guaranteed. Soccer clubs are the classic case where the club, manager, and players must all mesh together to become a successful club. The manager who can show up at any club and immediately get results is extremely rare, and growing pains should be expected. Remember that even Jose Mourinho has done poorly when he switched clubs. Martinez must be given the time to get things sorted, otherwise Everton will descend into the bowels of relegation.
Martinez's first task will be to win over the dressing room. For the most part Moyes was well-liked at Finch Farm, and it will be no small task to win the players over. He has already begun to do it, but it will be a long process, just like any relationship.
The next challenge is to fill out the squad depth. When healthy, Everton has a starting XI that can compete with any in the league. The problem is depth and a real striker. If Martinez can add some quality depth with the additional 20 million in TV money Everton is expected to receive, we could see some real progress this year.
Ultimately though it is about the players, even if Martinez does everything right, sometimes the players just don't show up to play. Evertonians have seen it before, and if this squad puts in the effort for a full 38 game season, it could be a special year. So sit back and enjoy the preseason. This is when we get to be optimistic and enjoy what we have. Come August the grueling EPL schedule begins and the only thing we can be sure of is chaos and anarchy. Oh, and Jelavic missing a sitter.