Editor's Note: This was actually written after the FA cup loss to Reading, but I never got around to posting it up. I think most of it is still relevant, though the doomsday attitude among fans has died down quite a bit. I've tweaked it a little so some of the minor past problems are not highlighted.
Everton have had the luxury of having top half finishes as well as European aspiration the last couple of years. By the end of most seasons, there usually is already a certain amount of expectation built for the next season. For the first time in a while, we don't have that expectation. This seems to have confused quite a lot of the fan population and many have gone the route of extremist thinking.
I'll analyze the major aspects of a club, and what we're doing right and wrong (mainly wrong). From there, we can conclude what we should be looking forward to (good and bad) next season and maybe even beyond.
Part I - Management and Coaching
It seems that everyone has gone back to bashing Kenwright and Moyes after the FA cup loss to Reading (Note: that's not happening nearly as much now). I think we should have all realized by now that our team is in schizophrenic mode. Yes, Kenwright and Moyes both deserve blame, but to blame this season's misfortunes only to them is borderline asinine.
Kenwright, for quite a while, has been building this club for this type of failure. But I don't blame him for not having money. I blame him for not being transparent. I blame him for trying to make it seem like everything in the club is and always has been OK. The truth is he just isn't upfront enough. The information he always gives to the public is never complete and always confusing (and many times contradictory). Nothing is ever straightforward with Kenwright and that is the reason I want him out.
Moyes seems to get an unfair share of criticism. One bad season and already people are ready to axe him. It is true that he hasn't won anything for a club. But to be fair, not one manager (maybe Arsene Wenger) would be able to accomplish what Moyes has with as little resources as he has been given. Do we really think we can get a better candidate for the job? If you do, you are probably in fairy tale land, because it's just not happening. We have to give him a chance with money before we can discount him. I agree that he has made some bad decisions this year. He has stuck with some players who were out of form. He has shown adamant loyalty to the 4-5-1 even when our defense was in shambles and we couldn't buy a goal (Note: He has changed this a bit now). There is an obvious problem with the manager, if the club beat top clubs, but can't seem to cash in points against relegation-battling clubs. But it's only been one bad season folks, let's calm down. Since Moyes has come to this club, only the big four have gotten more wins.
Part II - The Squad
I personally blame most of the club's misery to the roller coaster form of most of our players and the lack of depth of our squad. The only players that have been consistently great for the club have been Leighton Baines and Tim Cahill (at least before the Asia Cup). Every other player has been extremely inconsistent. The worst part is that players start playing badly just when their colleagues pick up form. I don't really need to explain the lack of depth. After the January transfer window, our squad has been ridiculously thin, especially with injuries. Blame needs to be allocated to the manager and management for the thin squad though. They sold some and sent others off on loan, but failed to bring anyone else in. Not a single person understood this logic, and now we barely have enough players to start a match.
This summer, the club needs to make some very big decisions to decide the future of this club. A Champions League squad can be built from the core of players we have now. We couldn't have had Champions League aspirations before this season if this wasn't true. The fact is, we have a very small squad and we need a couple of pieces, but since we don't have any money to spend, we may have to sell to get those pieces.
As of now, the players that are worth the most would be Maruone Fellaini, Jack Rodwell, and Leighton Baines. Selling any one of these players would be enough to bring in at least a couple of players in. A lot of fans get angry when we talk about selling players in order to buy. I understand this anger, but I try to look at it in another light. As some have discussed in Tom's last article (Note: Wow, this was a long time ago), go read Soccernomics. It's a great book, but it also made me realize some important things about players. You can't get attached to all the players. Most don't get attached enough that they want to stay at a club. Why should we get attached? Another important fact they went through was that, clubs that succeeded always bought young players that were promising at cheap prices and always sold players at their peak value. There are obviously exceptions (like players that worth more than their price, homegrown Everton supporting players, or when your very close to capturing some type of championship). This doesn't mean a club should sell to buy and I'm not supporting the management in their ideologies either. I'm just stating that it is good business to buy low and sell high. Fellaini, Rodwell (maybe), and Baines all come under this category.
So whatever the arguments are to keep or sell these players, we should keep in mind that sometimes you just have to let go of some players because it's just good business.
So it comes down to what do we need as a club? What we really need is depth at this point and a quality striker. It seems like James Vaughan and Yakubu are both destined to leave the club this summer. That leaves us with Jermaine Beckford, Luois Saha, and Victor Anichebe. I can't trust Anichebe to become an impact player so that leaves us with two serviceable strikers. I have come to change my mind of these two strikers over this season but both of these strikers (especially Saha) tend to get injured a lot. We have depth in the midfield (Arteta, Rodwell, Neville, Cahill, Fellaini, Coleman, Osman, and Bilyaletdinov), but it's currently getting stretched due to injuries to the back four. The only player we really need are wingers (backing up Seamus Coleman and starting in front of Bily). The back four are great when they are healthy, but we definitely need some depth ever since Yobo went MIA.
The point is it really shouldn't cost too much money for the club to upgrade. We have most of the pieces in place already. A little depth and a striker (doesn't need to be a big name signing) and we may be back to Europe. Or at least I hope so.
Note: Another article on the state of the players will come soon.
Part III - The Fans
The fans have been great. I am not saying this just because I am one, but because it really is true. Everton have one of the greatest fan bases in the world, if not the greatest (Wait...how dare I, we ARE the greatest fanbase in the world). The fans stick with the club through thick and thin. There has obviously been a huge disappointment this year and a lot of the fans have been going to panic mode. But this is normal in a fan base that is as large an as passionate as Everton's.
Part IV - The Club
Everton are not in trouble of administration, but I wouldn't call them a well-run business. They are staying alive, just barely, and are making a lot of wrong moves that could move us into bankruptcy/administration. If the club was barely above ground when Everton were finishing high in the table while playing in Europe and making deep FA cup runs, then I don't know what will happen if we start becoming mediocre or, god forbid, fighting relegation every year. We just won't last as a business.
As I stated earlier, I am not happy with management or their transparency. As most fans are, I am waiting for someone to swoop in and buy the club. I am not dreaming, though. I know that we're not going to get a billionaire owner. We are just not marketable enough. But all I want is an owner that is more upfront, makes better business decision (obviously), and can help move this club forward to the next stage. Just a little expendable cash with the current squad we have and Moyes can help us move into the top tier.
We have to remember that, after an awful year and much panic, we are still in the top half of the Premier League and, miraculously, within distance of a European spot (though it's not going to happen). This means that we truly could have a special squad soon. The question is whether the right moves are made, and whether chances are willing to be taken. We'll learn more this summer, but as an Everton supporter I can only do what I have always been doing - Hope for the best, but expect the worst.