Everton Season Review 13/14: We're On Brink Of Being Huge
What’s going right?
Loads - great manager, great players, great football. This is probably the best Everton side the fans have seen for a generation. Although Moyes (God rest his soul) got Everton back on track, we were never pretty. Nor did the club ever look capable of being more than the ‘best-of-the-rest’. Roberto Martinez appears to have changed this. For the first time in a long, long while we can enter a season and realistically believe that there is nothing stopping Everton from challenging the top four.
The dependence upon loanees to spice up the squad has been a worry. Although bringing in a bit of quality to beef things up was a canny idea, it’s hard to establish a long-term plan when so many key players are not part of the permanent set up. The club also remains hamstrung by the financial inequality between the Champions League clubs and the rest. Although money is no guarantee of success, it’s hard to escape the feeling that with a little more investment, Everton could really challenge the big clubs.
Got the right manager?
Christ, yes. I was admittedly sceptical over Martinez’s appointment. And by ‘sceptical’ I mean s*** scared. Whatever doubts the fans had over his appointment, they dissipated pretty quickly when it became evident that here was a manager who could work magic with this club. It’s also become clear that Martinez ‘gets’ what Everton should be about. Grinding out results under the ‘Moyes Way’ was all well and good, but Everton have long been a team associated with good football (or ‘futbol’ as Bobby terms it), with memories of the School of Science and the great sides of the 1980s. The arrival of Martinez has heralded a return to this way of playing, and at times this season Everton have been irresistible.
Lukaku might get the goals, Barkley the attentionm and Coleman the plaudits, but I think the most integral player this season has been Gareth Barry. He’s the reason that Everton have been able to play with such freedom when going forward. Teams that attack in the way that Everton do, an approach that sees the full-backs pushing forward in unison, need a player like Barry to drop back and provide cover. It’s telling that our neighbours have lacked such a player this season (with neither Lucas or Gerrard sufficiently adept at being true defensive midfielders) and that has left their defence cruelly exposed on several occasions. He might not be a glamorous choice, but without Barry it would have been a very different season.
Who would you like to sell in the summer?
With a squad so thin, you’d imagine that there wouldn’t be too much fat to trim. But surprisingly there are a few names we can do without. As much as he’s impressed in the loan market, some of Martinez’s signings look unconvincing, specifically the hugely unimpressive Joel and the woeful Alcaraz, a centre-half so poor it’s almost as though he was previously part of a side that was relegated. Magaye Gueye and Vellios can also do one as well.
Who do you want to sign?
With the Europa League next season, it’s likely we’ll need a much bigger squad, so a few new faces will undoubtedly arrive. Within the first-team, it would be great if the club could keep Lukaku. Although he sometimes goes missing for periods, the Belgian has the potential to be a great player and one whom a future team could be built around. For the longer term, we could do with some replacements for the elder statesman of the team. Distin can’t have long left in him and ‘The Jag’ is getting on too.
Best chant so far?
"Steve Gerrard, Gerrard, he slipped on his f****** arse and gave it to Demba Ba, Steve Gerrard, Gerrard!"
Best opposition player/team you’ve seen?
Our decimation at the hands of Liverpool at Anfield was probably the most complete display of footballing domination that I’ve seen for a long, long time. It was a truly sickening experience. However, the most impressive side to play against us has to be Palace. On a very modest budget, Pulis has managed to create a team that are creative, threatening, and difficult to break down, which is the dream combination for any side. Although they effectively torpedoed our Champions League hopes, I’m glad such a good side will be playing in the top-flight next season.
Biggest w***** of the season?
Most managers are w**kers, crying like toddlers because the game isn’t fair. As if football has ever been some kind of socialist utopia. It’s an unedifying experience watching a grown man moaning about penalties that never were, and other decisions that haven’t gone their way. What’s the f**king point?
Funniest Moment of the season?
I like the fact that Lukaku often cracks a joke when he’s being interviewed. He laughs and then instantly becomes solemn, as if all life and joy has suddenly been sucked from his body. I also enjoyed the slow and painful death of the David Moyes-era at United, but by far the funniest moment was Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea. Considering what he’d uttered just a few weeks before, it was beautifully poetic.
Next season’s prediction?
A lot will depend upon how well we cope with the rigors of the Europa. Thursday night away games in the Ukraine are not the best way to prepare for a weekend head-to-head in the Premier League. Next season will also be a truer test of Martinez, as presumably more of his signings will start to feature in the side, gradually easing out the Moyes old guard. Let’s hope that he gets things right and we don’t end-up as Wigan Mark II.