Another season, Everton Football Club’s 139th in all, has come to an end with the Blues finishing in 7th place in the Premier League, and qualifying for next season’s Europa League.
The crew here at Royal Blue Mersey gathered their thoughts on the season that just ended, talking about the memorable moments and the forgettable fiascoes from the season.
Positives: Off the pitch, the club made positive forward steps and Farhad Moshiri has proven himself. On the pitch, the mistakes of the past have been rectified and the introduction of the youngsters has been great to see. European football back at Goodison is a major positive.
Negatives: The away form was poor and yet again we head into a summer transfer window with big questions over the future of one of our star players. Incomings such as Maarten Stekelenburg and Ashley Williams didn't work out. Losing Seamus Coleman was also a major disappointment.
Brian L -
This year was about as good as it could get after the Roberto Martinez era. Ronald Koeman has done well to return Everton to its usual perch in the Premier League. And more importantly he did it while playing an attacking style of soccer that can be built on to challenge for a Champions League place. He has also shown a good eye for investment with the players he brought in. While they may not be international stars or young guys who can grow, they address concerns in the squad and stabilize an aging team.
But for me I have to hold off on too much praise because we saw a similar scenario play out in Roberto Martinez's first year. A change in management resulted in some excellent results, but the following two seasons were rather dire. Now Koeman has to show he can take the next step and establish that consistency over multiple seasons that Roberto Martinez was never able to achieve.
Positives: Off the pitch, things are looking legitimately up for the first time in really long time. On the pitch, Koeman revived a team that hadn't looked good in 2 years and proved they were the "best of the rest", all while handing boatloads of minutes to kids.
Negatives: I'm still not sure what Koeman's plan or style is. Pragmatism is a welcome break from the Martínez years, but it's unclear what the team is progressing towards. Meanwhile, they continue to offer long-term contracts to aging players, and continue to have a large creative hole in the team. Overall, the squad-building has been sub par to say the least. Hopefully a second summer with the new manager in charge will help that.
Positive: Everton used this season to effectively reposition itself as an attractive club that talented players, both young and old, would want to come and play for. Their seventh place league finish and Europa League qualification were important in luring players this summer. But going forward, they also signed a big kit sponsorship, the team's next stadium is on the way and all three of Ronald Koeman, Steve Walsh and Farhad Moshiri feel like the right men to lead the club back to trophies. The biggest positive, however, is the emergence of Tom Davies. That boy is the real deal and will only turn 19 this summer.
Negative: The Cup performances left a lot to be desired. That was one of the few areas where Roberto Martinez continually excelled, but Koeman's team had early exits from every competition. But it may have been a blessing considering how thin the squad was all season. Of course, injuries didn't help the matter, but even with the inclusion of some youngsters, this team never seemed to have great options off the bench and we could see in the final month of the campaign that the players looked a bit lethargic and dropped points nearly every week.
Positives: Ronald has corrected many of the basics that had crumbled under Roberto Martinez's stewardship. The players are much fitter and more organised, especially defensively. The impressive home form also meant Goodison became something of a fortress again. The new signings have been solid if not spectacular, but that was to be expected given Koeman and Walsh only arrived last summer. Morgan Schneiderlin is the stand out, with the development of Tom Davies an added bonus. Off the pitch the new sponsorship deals and Bramley Moore purchase are signs that the club are finally heading in the right direction. Overall this was a significant step forward, though much of it was simply righting the wrongs of the previous regime.
Negative: Away form was poor - they should be taking more than just three points from games at Bournemouth, Burnley, Watford, Hull and Middlesbrough. Two limp home Cup exits were also disappointing, as was the timid end to the campaign once seventh place was secured. It's clear more than one summer is needed to revamp the squad and results this season exposed weaknesses in goal, the centre of defence and upfront, where they looked toothless whenever Romelu Lukaku was marked out of the game. I get the impression Koeman was unhappy with our 70% of his squad when he arrived, so it's going to take more than one season to change things around.
Positive: First and foremost, the team worked its way back to the place it deserves to be in the table -- best of the non-top six. That's not particularly glamorous, but it's a mark the team missed each of the last two seasons, and one that should be very attainable given the talent in the side. Obviously, that also clinched the Toffees Europa League play next season, which is another positive step forward for the club. The emergence of Tom Davies is a long-term gain of monumental proportions, and Romelu Lukaku cemented himself as a true Premier League superstar, which in the worst case will at least raise his price if he leaves over the summer. Potential Lukaku money, in addition to Moshiri's general investment in the club, means that Koeman will have plenty of money to spend on players over the summer.
Negatives: It's hard to see how exactly Everton cracks the top four, or even the top five, next season. Good summer moves for Everton and another summer of stagnation at Arsenal could see the Gunners slip behind the Toffees next season -- but I have no idea how Koeman's side catches either Manchester club, Chelsea, Liverpool, or Tottenham. The Europa League could theoretically create a path to the Champions League for Everton, but the Toffees don't have anywhere near enough depth to make a serious run without completely sabotaging their Premier League chances. The last few months of the season have made exceedingly clear exactly how little depth there is at key positions, which it'll be tough to fix over the summer, given all the first-team help needed as well.
Positive: I really liked the majority of the transfers that Steve Walsh and Ronald Koeman completed this season. Idrissa Gueye, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ashley Williams and Yannick Bolasie were generally solid moves that could help the team immediately. But, bringing in players like Ademola Lookman, Calvert-Lewin and promoting the likes of Tom Davies and Mason Holgate show that attention is being paid to the future as well. It's great to see Everton finally have money to spend, but it's even better to see them spend it wisely from the youth set-up all the way up to the senior squad.
Negatives: I struggle to see how Everton is going to excel in the league with Europa League competition coming up. We saw two years ago how the lack of quality depth sunk their league chances even as they performed well in Europe. The best teams in this league have players on the bench that could easily be starting for other clubs, I just wonder how Everton is going to attract players like that given their inconsistent finishes over the last few years. We've had very good starters recently, but if and when one of those players go down with injury, Everton's form typically plummets.
Positives: They are...who we thought they were. It was encouraging to see an Everton side perform, in the end, up to expectations and their talent level. Ronald Koeman brought a cohesiveness back to the side that was lacking under Roberto Martinez, and a ruthlessness, too. Koeman was quick to admit if he made a tactical mistake, often making substitutions at halftime, and even before that once or twice. The Dutchman was not hesitant to drop underperformers like Phil Jagielka, Joel Robles, and Ross Barkley, either.
The development of youngsters was a huge step forward into the future, as well, with Tom Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin in particular looking to be mainstays for years to come. In short, the train is back on the tracks at Goodison Park.
Negatives: Everton's Cup performances were absolutely putrid. That's really all there is to say about that, which leads into my next, related point: the club's depth after the starting eleven leaves much to be desired. They can't compete with the top six in terms of bench players, and there's not enough quality up and down the roster to make a serious push in a cup competition without completely kneecapping themselves in the league. If results are going to match ambition, that has to be fixed, and quickly.
This was about the best result Everton could have hoped for with a new manager in charge and the club going through a transition. For his part, Koeman did a good job clearing out a lot of the deadwood in the squad. The addition of Steve Walsh as Director of Football is also a very shrewd move, and looks to be paying off already as he’s been busy identifying targets to develop and the Blues picking up youngsters who can be part of the squad for years to come.
The poor away form is something that will need to be addressed in the off-season. The manager’s over-conservative away shape and the half-hearted attempts at pressing opponents have left the team neither here nor there. Everton will need to find and develop an identity, and stick to it for the most part to find success next season.