Defining the "worst" of anything is a highly subjective process, as the word "worst" can mean many different things to different people. Personally, I would say that olives are one of the worst foods I've ever eaten, The Bucket List is one of the worst movies I've ever seen, and Nickelback is one of the worst bands I've ever heard. And yet, I'm sure there are plenty of people who would defend all three of those things. Well, except perhaps Nickelback, but you get the idea.
So with that, I decided to take on the depressing task of picking the five worst matches of Everton's recently completed season. Let's start this exercise off with...
5. Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Everton (January 11)
I'll admit, I doubt that this match would make most Everton fans' lists, as the result was a very predictable 2-0 defeat to an in-form Spurs side, not to mention the fact that expectations are always low when Everton travels to White Hart Lane. However, this game is a perfect example of why picking the worst matches of the year is going to depend on personal perspective.
I watched this particular match with a good friend who is a Tottenham supporter. Despite our friendship, we've always been competitive with each other, whether it's our Premier League teams, playing FIFA, or playing actual football. After spending most of the year talking up our respective sides, and then having to wait an additional five months after the first round was postponed, the letdown was pretty brutal as my buddy's Spurs utterly dominated my beloved Blues. Of course, I would have my revenge two months later.
4. Everton 0-1 Queens Park Rangers (August 20)
Speaking of letdowns, it's hard to imagine a more disappointing start to the season than Everton's dreadful showing on opening day at home to newly promoted QPR (and that's saying something, considering some of the other opening day results in recent years).
Don't forget, QPR had yet to complete the majority of their summer business and looked vulnerable heading into the new season. In fact, they had been whipped 4-0 at home by eventual relegation fodder Bolton the previous weekend, and their fans were restless. Conversely, the extra week of waiting following the London riots had done nothing to dispel the anticipation among Evertonians, but all of that excitement had crumbled into hopelessness after Tommy Smith delivered a stern reality check to the Blues. At least Ross Barkley looked promising.
3. Everton 0-1 Stoke City (December 4)
Yes, Everton would go on to lose at Arsenal again the following week, but this game still feels like the low point of the year. I'd also contend that this match perfectly encapsulated all of the problems Everton experienced in the season's first half: the negative style of play, the ineffectiveness at home, and above all else the lack of finishing.
Making this match even harder to watch was some atrocious refereeing, as the Stoke defenders quickly realized they could get away with defending more suitable for a rugby pitch. Too bad that excuse wasn't enough to explain away the absolutely toothless strike force. I really fear what this season would have become had it not been for Nikica Jelavic.
2. Liverpool 3-0 Everton (March 13)
Ah, yes. The infamous "Six Changes" game. Many, many words have already been written on the subject of David Moyes's team selection for the Anfield derby on this very website (here, here, and even here). Knowing that the vital FA Cup fixture versus Sunderland loomed just four days away, I'm still not entirely sold one way or the other on whether Moyes made the right call in resting so many regulars. However, what cannot be denied is the despair and embarrassment every Evertonian felt after the most miserable derby performance in recent memory.
And now, writing this recap just reminded me that Gerrard scored a hat trick in this game. And now I want to go throw up.
1. Everton 1-2 Liverpool (FA Cup Semifinal: April 14)
The wound this match left is still all too fresh, so I don't think most of you require a full blow-by-blow account of what transpired at Wembley last month. What really made this game so maddening wasn't that it was at Wembley, or that it was against Liverpool, or that it was shaping up to be David Moyes's best shot yet at a trophy (okay, it was all of those things). But what really made this match so ridiculously depressing was that it felt like such a lost opportunity. I'll never be convinced that that Liverpool team was superior to that Everton team, and the table would seem to back me up. We should have won that game. Damn it, we should have won that game.
So, what do you think? How would you rank the five most depressing defeats of the 2011-2012 season? There were several other contenders in addition to the ones I've mentioned... the 2-0 loss at Goodison to Liverpool (which, in all honesty, probably should have shown up somewhere on my list, but I really didn't feel like writing about yet another derby defeat)... the 2-1 loss to Chelsea in the League Cup (a good effort from the Blues, but a gut-wrenching defeat nonetheless)... the 2-1 loss to Bolton (but how could a game in which Tim Freaking Howard scored be lumped in with the year's worst?)... and probably a few more I'm forgetting. But don't worry, part two of this series will be far more enjoyable.
Feel free to tell us your personal bottom five matches in the comments, or participate in the poll. I think most everyone would agree which two matches were the season's worst, so to make it interesting I'll pose the question this way: