Relief and disappointment. Those are probably the two words that best describe Everton's season. There is relief that Roberto Martinez turned out to be the perfect man for the job, and disappointment at how the season ended. Yes, Everton is going to Europe for the first time in 4 years, but the tantalizing prospect of Champions League football has left everyone with a bit of regret.
But despite that disappointment, this was a fantastic season. Think of the uncertainty as Everton entered July. Rumors about Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines were everywhere while the only reinforcements the club had came from a just-relegated Wigan. Not exactly the best way to inspire confidence.
Instead of collapsing Everton performed brilliantly. A new style of play coupled with an actual striker meant Everton had a realistic chance of Champions League football. Not only was there hope in the eyes of the supporters, but there was a real sense of optimism in the players, something that hasn't always been obvious.
This year we saw the rise of John Stones and the emergence of Ross Barkley. In Stones it looks like Everton has a center back of the future. While some of his performances were expected from a teenager, far more of them were not. They were the mark of an experienced central defender, one of the hardest positions to step into on the pitch.
As for Barkley, it seems like we have said everything we could say about him. Yes, he is still learning the game and has a tendency to go missing in more physical fixtures, but he is capable of moments of genius. Just look at Newcastle and Manchester City. Those goals take a center amount of ability that Everton has been lacking since at least Mikel Arteta, possibly even longer.
Besides the youngsters, there were also some fantastic moments. The arrival of Roberto Martinez has given rise to a sense of belief we just didn't see with David Moyes. That belief manifested itself in some fantastic results. Everyone will remember doing the double over Manchester United, especially the inspired performance at home that was the final fixture for Moyes at United.
But those might not have been the best games against the big clubs. Instead that is probably reserved for an absolute thrashing of Arsenal. Everton has always been able to get points off the big clubs in the past, but when was the last time the club thoroughly beat such a big club? That was a statement victory, something the Toffees will need more of going forward.
That said there is still room to work on things. The Merseyside Derby was not kind to Everton, and it will be interesting to see what tactics Roberto Martinez cooks up. There are also questions about transfers as well as how Everton will fare with a European adventure during the season.
In the coming weeks we are going to take an in-depth look at Everton's season. We have reviews of every player planned, as well as a look at some of the best and worst moments of the season. With the World Cup approaching we also have a bit to talk about there as well. Make sure you keep visiting Royal Blue Mersey all summer for everything Everton.