This has been a rough two months for Everton, after what appeared, for most of the season anyway, to be a club that was going places, specifically European places. Yet it most certainly will not be this way after the shock loss to Sheffield United on Sunday; by getting cut to size by the Blades, the Toffees have annihilated their own chances at any of the three possible European tournaments.
With just two matches left, on Merseyside against Wolves this week before Manchester City hosts the Toffees to finish off this Premier League season, it no longer seems possible to take enough points from our current position. To now do what could have been accomplished over the entire campaign, would take an effort level and commitment that the team hasn’t demonstrated over the past two months of the season; it will not happen, and even gaining another three points will be difficult with the form displayed on a rainy Sunday on Merseyside.
How did this all occur? How did it come to this? While I’ve detailed the issues across the entire season recently, the form that really began on March 13th has continued to haunt the Blues in the time since.
Two Months later, and the Dream is Done for this season’s Everton squad
I think that we can look at the most simple and obvious issue with the club this season in order to explain the untimely failures of the campaign, and sadly, Goodison Park and its lack of an ambience seems to have so much to do with it. Having dropped an astounding 18 points at home this season to teams below Everton on the table, the feeling that I personally get is that the team has somehow not found or created some idea or emotion that energizes or excites them without fans at the home stadium. While one can imagine the Blues believing themselves the underdogs away on another teams pitch, scrapping for their footballing lives, there has been nothing close to that sense of urgency when the team has played at home this campaign.
Since losing to Burnley in early-mid March the club has lost to Manchester City in the FA Cup, has drawn against Crystal Palace at home, Brighton & Hove Albion away, Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison, and Aston Villa at Villa Park. They have beaten only Arsenal and West Ham United, both 1-0 in London during that time, and have managed only a meager ten points in the ten Premier League contests since beating West Bromwich Albion away 1-0 on the fourth of March. While there are so many results to look at and potentially pinpoint, it is worth noting that simple victories in even the last three weeks alone could’ve still left the team in a really positive place; just six more points and the Blues would be but a point behind Liverpool in fifth position, just two behind Chelsea for fourth and in excellent striking distance of both higher quality European competitions.
Yet none of this is so either; the reality is exactly that with two matches left, against the best team in England and an underachieving Wolves squad on Merseyside with something to prove, the Blues are three points back of Tottenham for sixth on the table, with the Hammers in seventh, tied with Spurs and displaced only by goals differential. Only the Europa Conference League is even remotely possible today, and it is because of the lack of club depth, of options to come off of the bench, as well as practical experience in the sense of the entire team together and individually.
The depth can be solved over further transfer windows, and with it, the options available to Don Carlo will improve markedly in the process; the most aggravating issue for me personally therefore, has to be the amount of times this season that this club has played down to its opponents perceived abilities, as opposed to above them. It is what young, overconfident clubs do as they are learning how to play and win consistently, but it is absolutely infuriating nonetheless; that we should prepare for our opponents is not conditional as per their perceived abilities, but must be unconditional and focused.
In these matches that we have played poorly in we have shown a lack of discipline that does not express itself during many of the larger matches against more high profile opposition this year. Don Carlo and Big Duncan Ferguson will be going mad of course, and they will rightly go about fixing it across the rest of this season, as well as during the summer transfer season; yet as with all clubs, these failures will create in these humans a sense of experience, of determination, of epiphany and of longing. Should heartbreaks like this year be the fuel that lights a run of years ahead of us, then it is of course, a small price more to pay for what would bring such joy to so many people across the world; we will have to have faith in the process, in ownership, in Marcel Brands and the managing administration of Carlo Ancelotti in the meanwhile. There are certainly worse possible positions for a team to be in for the long term, but that is of little solace as this current season falls to bits after such promise.