It really doesn’t matter what time Everton play or what day, if they’re playing against a lower-half side especially at an empty Goodison Park, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that we’ve dropped points.
Sunday’s debacle, against the worst team in the division, therefore really comes as no surprise to anyone. While Sheffield United has had a forgettable campaign, they deserved the win after putting in their best performance of the year. But this column isn’t about praising the opposition; it’s about looking at one of the most bloated rosters, from a financial and talent perspective, in the league.
On paper, Everton is a team that should, at the very least, qualify for the Europa League, the continent’s second-most-prestigious competition. They have a serial winner manning the touchline, a couple of the division’s top goal-scoring threats and a squad of expensive transfers. But when they step onto the pitch, you might as well shred that paper three times over because it doesn’t mean a thing for a hapless team that will end the season floundering in mid-table, yet again. There is just no teamwork or cohesion in this side, even after almost a full season together.
Jekyll and Hyde
I know I have spent a fair few of my thoughts on Everton’s home and away form, so bear with me. First, let’s look at the stats: the Blues are 5–4–9 (yes that’s nine Goodison losses!) at home and 11–4–3 on the road. Those are two jarring records. It’s like looking in the mirror at a funhouse, except the grotesque reflection you see is a manifestation of the team’s home form.
Should the Merseyside outfit lose at home to Wolverhampton on Wednesday, they will earn the ignominious distinction of having the worst home season in club history. Since 1878. A tenth home defeat would be the most the team has surrendered, besting the 1912/13, 1947/48, 1950/51 and 1993/94 seasons by one loss. Interestingly enough, as Pete pointed out in the 5 Stats column, should the Toffees win away at Manchester City on the final matchday of the season — as unlikely as that is — they would finish the year with the club’s best away record in 143 years.
To diagnose what has gone wrong at Goodison this season would take up more space than I have in this column, so I’ll try and leave you with some general thoughts of a tumultuous 2020/21. There was plenty to celebrate early on; Everton was top of the table with wins against Spurs, West Brom, Crystal Palace and Brighton. They were scoring with ease in the EFL Cup, and the sun shone generously on Merseyside. Then came the cold of late fall.
One win in seven matches followed, then a run of two victories turned to more losses. The point is, it has been an unforgettable season, and there are still two fixtures left. Everton has become too predictable and easy to play against. Teams sit back and break on the counter; the Blues aren’t good when they hold more possession. Injuries haven’t helped, either, and mental fragility has been something no manager since Roberto Martinez, early in his tenure, has been able to figure out.
What can be considered most disappointing however and it’s something that goes back a few seasons now is that how this team has no spine when the going gets tough. It’s almost a given at this point that when the stakes are at their highest, Everton are going to almost without a doubt ‘bottle it’, ‘choke’, ‘deer in the headlights’ call it whatever you would like. It’s become such a common phenomenon that Blues wear #EvertonThat almost as a badge of honor. What’s ore embarrassing than that?