It has certainly been an interesting season for the Blues, unfortunately ending in the disappointment of a midtable finish. However, the Toffees are looking at the bigger picture starting with the appointment of coaching legend Carlo Ancelotti as Everton manager in December.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant the final quarter of the season has been a strange phenomenon with eerily empty stadiums the setting for the games amongst other rule changes. In his programme notes for the final home game of the campaign, Ancelotti noted the contributions of what can sometimes be a bear-pit for opposing teams at Goodison Park, while also remembering those we have lost in that time.
We are 11 matches unbeaten here and it is a positive sign we have continued this run in an empty stadium.
The noise and intense feeling you create drives us at Goodison – it can be decisive in key moments – and I am pleased the players managed to continue in a good way without this help.
We want to get better in every aspect and our work on improving the squad and preparing for next season will begin as soon as we are finished today.
The cover of this programme is devoted to the Evertonians we have lost since you were last at Goodison with us nearly five months ago.
I send my condolences to all the families and friends affected.
We are brought together by our love for football and passion for Everton and I will cherish the day when you are by our side again.
With European qualification on the line when football resumed, Everton proceeded to bottle any chance they had of finishing in the top seven following some uninspired performances as Ancelotti struggled to overcome some glaring weaknesses in the squad, especially in the midfield area.
However, the manager noted that he has observed some signs and characteristics of what he wants to take forward into next season, just seven weeks away.
Motivation is never an issue if you are professional and serious about your work.
Today we can continue our strong form at Goodison and finish the season with two victories.
Our organisation and structure have been good in this period.
I can see my team’s defensive identity beginning to take shape.
We have made it hard for teams to create chances against us even when our football has been below our best.
We have conceded seven goals in eight matches since the restart and had three clean sheets.
Three of those goals were in one match, at Wolves.
I was clear on my feelings after that game.
It showed what happens when you lose your important characteristics.
But my players reacted from that match how I wanted.
First, they were concentrated in training.
I could see the result and performance against Wolves hurt them and they wanted to show their real face in the rest of the season.
The Italian manager reserved some praise from that effort for a couple of players in his squad.
We didn’t play with high quality in the first half at Sheffield United on Monday.
But you can accept this if you are competing and trying for the victory.
Our opponents had the incentive of going for European qualification but we showed we wanted to win for Everton.
There was pride in our work.
I could see we wanted to fight and be aggressive and protect our goal.
In the second half, we showed more of our ability.
Richarlison headed a fantastic goal and, with more care, we could have scored more on the counter-attack.
Sheffield United pushed for their equaliser with crosses and long balls and some good build-up play but Jordan Pickford did not have to make one save.
It was a big defensive effort from all the players – our main striker, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, won some important headers when he came back to help.
But our centre-backs were really solid.
I said straight away when I came I was impressed by Michael Keane.
He is showing he can be a leader in our defensive line.
Jarrad Branthwaite is surprising me with his composure, he has a lot of skills but also the character and personality to be with us.
It is normal for a young player to lose focus if he makes a mistake but Jarrad stays in control.
He is a confident boy and has the attitude to learn and improve.
The Club’s scouts deserve credit for finding him in League Two – and the people at Carlisle United did a really fantastic job developing this player and person.
Today’s visitors will be Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, who are in deep trouble in the relegation zone and will need to win while hoping for both Watford FC and Aston Villa to lose to stay up, and Ancelotti knows the Cherries will be motivated.
We welcome Eddie Howe and the staff and players of Bournemouth.
I know about Eddie’s work with his club.
To go from the bottom of the fourth division to the Premier League – it is an incredible story.
Bournemouth have been a bit unlucky this season, I think.
They have a clear idea of how they want to play and we know it will be tough to take the points.