To say that last season was a disappointing one for Everton is a comic understatement. After the promise of the fifth place finish the season before and after coming so close to Champions League football, to finish in the bottom half was poor.
It was a season filled with individual errors and bad luck, injuries and some plain poor performances. Watching Roberto Martinez on the sidelines you felt a surge of sympathy rising at the same rate as the Spaniard’s stress levels. Rapidly.
The Europa League didn’t help last time, of course. Not being in Europe might help this time.
Every week Everton would step onto the pitch and every time the ball came close to the Everton back line you could sense the nerves. Antolin Alcaraz in particular was so far out of his depth that above the waterline you could just about make out his sullen yet panicked eyes as he frantically flapped his legs in a vain attempt to tread water. Tiredness might have been a problem initially. But when you make mistakes every week the fear of making another one takes over and errors become habitual.
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A summer break will do these players the power of good, and a few new signings are needed too. The Toffees are linked with Augsburg defender Ragnar Klavan and Hull full back Ahmed Elmohamady, and defenders are exactly what they need. Sylvain Distin has left the club – he was too old anyway – Alcaraz hasn’t been a reliable deputy for Jagielka – who has made mistakes himself – and although John Stones and Luke Garbutt are young and promising, Everton need something a little more tried and tested, especially if they’re looking for cover.
But the paper speculation is at least looking in the right direction, Everton don’t particularly need attackers as they have a fair few of good quality. The contract talks with Kevin Mirallas have stalled however, and now might be a good time to get rid and bring in a fresh replacement.
After the excitement and optimism of this time last year, Everton were stagnant by the end of last season having nothing to play for after defeat to Dynamo Kiev. So maybe freshening up the squad will give some impetus into the start of the campaign.
Signings are important to shore up the squad and to freshen it up too. Martinez has a certain type of player in mind for his specific style of play no doubt, but Everton’s need isn’t simply better quality – though they do need more quality in their squad depth. Everton’s need is also to allow the club to dream again and push for greater things.
Everton have been the nearly team in the Premier League for so long. They’ve been so close on so many occasions under David Moyes and Roberto Martinez that it’s almost hard to think that they might progress to the level required for Champions League football. Yet they’ve been so close and have some really very good players.
So aside from simply cutting out the mistakes and signing players to help the squad, perhaps getting rid of one or two and bringing in new faces might help. They’ve been linked with Dmitri Payet who could replace Mirallas if he is to leave. The Marseille man topped the Ligue 1 assist chart with 16 last season, six ahead of nearest challenger Javier Pastore, so he’d be a signing who would fit in well.
Things are maybe starting to look up now for Everton. The despair of the middle part of last season when they looked like they could get dragged into a relegation battle has lifted somewhat with the season’s end. It’s like they’ve come out of a bad break-up and can now look to get their life back on track.
It’s liberating and refreshing for the Merseyside club and they can look to bigger and better things, especially without the distraction of Europe.
It’s always best to look on the bright side, and that’s what Everton have to do now. Freshen up the squad and bring back optimism. That’s what’s going to cut out the mistakes, lower the manager’s stress levels and bring Everton back up to the top end of the table.