After a few weeks of apparent improvement, Everton Football Club has come crashing back down to Earth.
In the first two weeks of 2016, the Toffees picked up valuable league points against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur while winning cup matches against City and Dagenham and Redbridge, leading us to believe that perhaps Roberto Martinez's men were in the midst of the upswing we've been waiting all season to see.
Frustratingly, Sunday's loss felt like so many have this season. The Toffees sported a 60-40 possession advantage, completely dominating one half of the match. Yet, for the other half, Martinez's men looked utterly lifeless: impotent in attack, wasteful in possession, and typically poor in defense. Two preventable goals in the opening 45 minutes left Everton with a hill too big to climb.
It is important to remember though, contrary to what the world on Twitter may say, the sky is not falling on Merseyside. Everton was forced into two first half changes, which surely disrupted the team's rhythm. The players, and perhaps the manager as well, were possibly looking forward to what may be a season-defining cup match on Wednesday, which they have set themselves up for very nicely.
In the absence of anything new to say about a largely predictable Everton side, I'd like to turn the discussion over to the Royal Blue Mersey community as a whole, asking "What should Everton change?"
We surely can all agree that what we've seen from the Toffees for much of this year is unacceptable, but the exact solution to Everton's problems still seems up in the air.
Below I've listed multiple options the Toffees could pursue in an effort to turn around this lackluster campaign; check out the options then have your say in the vote and comments section below!
Make No Changes, Things Will Sort Themselves Out
I cannot imagine that too many people are thinking this right now, but a "wait and see" approach is not out of the question. The Toffees have a talented squad and highly-regarded manager -- could this season's issues just be down to injuries and bad luck?
Make Lineup Changes Using Players Currently in the Squad
This is, without a doubt, one of the deepest squads Everton has had in the Premier League era. David Moyes would have lost his mind with excitement if during his tenure he had players like Muhamed Besic, Tom Cleverley, Steven Pienaar, Leon Osman, and Aaron Lennon at his disposal off the bench.
Perhaps the solution to Everton's woes lies in these players. All of these players have had their bright spots this season, and could make a claim to more playing time. Could a bit of squad rotation help turn the season around?
Bring in New Players
Though the Toffees have a lot of talent this season, there's no doubt that the Premier League's growing middle class has gotten more talented in recent seasons as well. Clubs like Stoke City and West Ham United undoubtedly improved from last season to this season, something which we may not be able to say about Everton.
So, perhaps there simply isn't enough talent in this squad for Everton to realize its European ambitions. Could new additions before the January window closes be the answer for Martinez? More importantly, are the resources available to make such moves?
The 4-2-3-1 has been a staple of the Martinez regime, but it shouldn't be beyond questioning given the team's current performances. With the team's abundance of central midfielders, it is hard to see Martinez going away from a three-central-midfielder formation, but anything else could be subject to change.
Could a change in setup lead to a change in results?
Focus on Possession
Possession-style football has always been a hallmark of Roberto Martinez's sides, for better or worse. But, the Toffees have gotten away from that style of play at times this season, instead utilizing the counter attack for much of their offensive thrust.
Could a return to constant possession football be the catalyst for a return to the form of 2013-14?
Focus on the Counter Attack
Conversely, Everton could elect to forgo the style of play generally associated with Martinez and instead focus on the counter-attacking style of play which has served them so well in bursts this season. Of course, relying on the counter may mean relying on the defense to absorb pressure.
Can Everton consistently win without the ball for long stretches?
Fire Roberto Martinez
Many may believe that it is still far too early for firing Martinez to be a legitimate option, but with frustration nearing all-time highs around Goodison Park, it is impossible to pretend that the Spaniard's future isn't worth discussing. It is tough to say who Everton might look to if they let Martinez go, but clearly something is not working at the moment.
Are Everton's struggles this year on Roberto Martinez? If they are, has he run out of time to correct them?