I think it’s safe to say this was an off season for Everton. Potentially their involvement in the Europa League hampered their progression in the league, but to finish in the bottom half of the table shows just how disappointing the season was for the Merseyside club. Arguably their most notable moment of the season came with Phil Jagielka’s thunderbolt at Anfield to earn themselves a point in the Merseyside derby. Martinez, since replacing Moyes, has tried to bring his passing brand of football to Everton, and it seems like it’s the exact opposite to what the fans at Goodison Park want. It also has proved not to work this season.
The declining Tim Howard, an underperforming pair of Leighton Baines and Gareth Barry, and a £24million-gamble on Romelu Lukaku appear to have been the main reasons for Everton’s downfall this season. Even young prospect Ross Barkley had a relatively quiet season and the hype around him has suddenly settled.
It’ll be very interesting to see what Everton do this summer and how they get on next campaign. With an aging squad, there’s a number of players they need to shift but they do have some youth scattered in their ranks. A midfield trio of Besic, McCarthy and Barkley could serve them for years to come, and if they can get Lukaku to fire, they can drive up the table next season. With no European competition, it’ll now be seen whether it was that which held them back or whether they just had a very poor season.
Key Player - James McCarthy
In a poor season for Everton, James McCarthy was one of very few players who managed to play consistently well throughout the entirety of the campaign. Having sat a little bit deeper this season, McCarthy has contributed less going forward with just one goal and two assists, but I think if employed in the central midfield role and allowed to go forwards, McCarthy could become one of the better midfielders in the league.
Barry has been renowned in recent years as the man in the midfield to keep possession of the ball, but McCarthy blew him out of the water this season, with Barry only beating him in assists, with one more. McCarthy’s pass completion of 86% put him in the top 10 in the league. It’s hard to pick anyone as I said in a poor season for the Toffees, but McCarthy was the most consistent, and arguably the best of a poor bunch.
Most Improved Player - John Stones
With Barkley’s performances dipping this season, the other young English prospect in Everton’s ranks took more of the plaudits. Statistically he all but matched up with teammate Phil Jagielka, and learning from the England international could prove to be valuable experience for John Stones.
Comfortable on the ball, Stones looks like a real promise for the future, but with suitors this summer including Chelsea and Manchester City, it’ll be a real test of Everton’s ambition to see if they can keep hold of the centre-back. For Stones to continue his development like he has this season, I think he needs to keep playing regularly, and a partnership with Jagielka, right now, seems ideal for the youngster.
Fans’ View - Patrick Boyland (Editor of The Toffee Talk)
It was a deeply disappointing season for Everton. Most of us started the season full of optimism - confident that we’d build on last year’s impressive campaign - but a combination of injuries, poor managerial decisions and individual errors has meant that the club grossly underperformed.
Seasoned professionals likes Gareth Barry and Tim Howard struggled for form, while Ross Barkley’s ‘coming of age’ failed to materialise to such an extent that he probably went backwards, if anything. For me, only John Stones, Phil Jagielka and James McCarthy can realistically claim that they performed to anything like the standard they’re capable of.
Our European form before the Kyiv 2nd leg debacle offered some consolation, but you’d struggle to find an Everton fan who believes any real progress has been made this year. Really, an 11th-placed finish, behind the likes of Palace, Stoke and Swansea, isn’t anywhere near good enough for a club that is used to competing for European places.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this season has been a real learning curve for Roberto Martinez, and one that he must use as a formative experience if he’s to progress as a manager. It’s hard to escape the feeling that teams have realised how one dimensional we are at times and worked out a way to play against us.
It’s strange, as he’s honestly one of the most intelligent men I’ve heard speak about football, but this summer will be key for Martinez’s Everton career - he needs to rebuild an aging squad and convince the fans we’re actually going in the right direction. Next year will be the defining one of his tenure. Let’s just hope he knows how to right the wrongs of a largely negative 2014/15.