August 2012 arrived with a type of optimism not seen since August 2005, but despite a better league finish there is no doubt that there is more angst on Merseyside compared to seven years ago. A 6th place finish has been overshadowed by the departure of David Moyes, and the resulting chaos of a managerial search is sure to drown out most news for the next few weeks. But the tributes to Moyes and the search for his replacement are for later days, instead it is time to take a quick look back at the season that was and the season that could have been.
Looking at the basics, this was a great season for Everton in the Premier League. The Toffees finished 6th in the league with 63 points, two more points than when they qualified for Champions League football in 2004-2005. The League Cup was a disappointment with a loss to Leeds during an uninspiring performance, and we all know the thrashing by Wigan in the FA Cup was a low moment for the club.
Perhaps the best way to sum up the season is a sense of missed opportunities. While Wigan won the FA Cup, there is no doubt Everton should have at least made the semifinal, if not the final based on the draw Wigan had. The loss to the Latics was one where we were just embarrassed, and every player and coach bears the brunt of that blame.
In the league, Everton were in the hunt for Europe, and specifically the Champions League, until the very end. While many are quick to blame Moyes for bottling games, the truth is this squad is not deep enough to contend for a Top 4 spot consistently. We all long to see names like Ross Barkley and Shane Duffy in the lineup, but that is not enough. Another 3-4 players of EPL quality are needed if we want any real shot at Champions League football.
That said it was good to see Everton break their streak of starting poorly. A 1-0 win against Manchester United began a fantastic run of form through the first half of the season that saw the club sitting in 5th place halfway through the season. Most would have expected Everton to taper off in the second half, but they only earned 3 fewer points compared to the first 18 games.
The defense also got better. The first half of the season was marked by conceding late, and without a 2 goal lead every Evertonian knew that a draw was much more likely than a win. There was a point where Everton didn't have a clean sheet for over 15 games in a row, and that is not how Everton plays defense. The second half was much better, and there even were a few clean sheets to boot.
Despite trying to be rational, I'm still frustrated by this season. We had a great chance at silverware, as well as a shot at righting a wrong from 8 years ago. The real problem was the several matches we dropped points by seeming to be uninterested in playing. Draws will happen, excruciating losses will happen, but players not caring if they win or lose should never happen. Flip a few of those results around, especially against weaker teams, and this would have been a far different season.
As for our plans here at RBM, make sure you stick around for an offseason of analysis and insight. We will be reviewing every player's performance this season as well as counting down some different top 5 lists. Have something you want us to review or look at it? Give us a shout in the comments. Oh, and we will also be covering a certain managerial search that is guaranteed to shape the club's future for the next 5 years or so.