Trying to get my head around Everton's 2015-2016 season, it is hard to separate the passion that ended the year with a realistic eye at what Everton accomplished. Despite what some may say, there were a few accomplishments, certainly some ugliness, but we shouldn't forget the good just because the league went poorly.
Many may forget, but heading into the Christmas period Everton was actually in a pretty good position. The club was sitting in 9th through 16 matches. But back then a win made a huge difference, 3 points could easily jump Everton into a Europa League place. Everton was poised to take advantage of a schedule that saw them play Leicester City, Newcastle, and Stoke City. Sadly the club only earned 3 points from those 3 fixtures. It was the beginning of the end for Roberto Martinez, though it would take another 5 months to play out.
As for the good, well Everton did make the semi-finals of two cup competitions. But even then there is a sense of what the club could have done instead of what they did. The League Cup was frankly shambolic. A combination of poor reffing and poor defense saw Everton spirit away a first leg lead to Manchester City.
The FA Cup was better, but not by much. Everton's disheartening loss to Manchester United at Wembley sealed Roberto Martinez's fate, but even in this defeat there was a sense the club should have done more on the day. Both goals were unfortunate and Everton still seemed the better side.
But outside of those semifinal appearances, the second half of the season wasn't pretty. For every moment of happiness the club brought, there were 3-4 moments of agony. An excellent offense could not save Everton this year, the defense was too bad. If the table was sorted by goals scored, Everton would be in a tie for 7th and at worst 9th. But based on goals allowed Everton would be 14th or 15th, we finished 11th.
And ultimately that may be the biggest takeaway from the season. Everton can possess the ball as much as they want. The club can make cute passes out of the back, move the ball forward, and then unleash Romelu Lukaku to score brilliant goals. But if the team can not defend properly it does not matter. Roberto Martinez could not figure out the defense. His first season players still reverted to some of David Moyes' teachings. Those principles allowed Everton to finish 5th. But the past two years saw too much of a focus on possession and playing nice soccer. Results should have been the priority instead, sometimes hoofing it up top is the best way to score and win. Look at Leicester City, they didn't exactly light the world on fire with Barcelona-style soccer. But they did win the league.
Overall though it is hard to see this season as anything but a regression. There is no European competition and not trophy. Several years ago the question at Everton was always about how to challenge for the Champions League and now it is about how to get back to Europe at all. That general feeling shows that there wasn't much of a success this year. The good news is we get a new manager to try and right the ship and return Everton to glory, plus he gets some money to do it.