After a thoroughly underwhelming season, Everton have finally managed to string together a consistent run of form. Four wins in a five game unbeaten run has led The Toffees from looking apprehensively over their shoulders to now having a real chance of breaking into the top half.
At the start of the season, would Everton fans have taken a season where they ventured well in Europe and finished in the top ten? Can Everton’s final ten games of the season paper over the cracks of a worrying campaign?
Roberto Martinez’s first season on Merseyside could have scarcely gone better for the former Wigan manager; he inherited the resoluteness of David Moyes’ Everton and added a swagger and a verve that had been missing from Goodison Park for a huge chunk of time. The Spaniard led his charges to the brink of the Champions League and hopes were high that they could replicate the same sort of form this time around.
The permanent signings of Lukaku and Barry, as well as the young, effervescent Ross Barkley with a season’s experience meant for a tantalisingly exciting Everton campaign.
However, whether it is a case of second season syndrome or something worse, Everton have struggled to even get close to the side that graced the division last year. Where last year they were incisive, this time they have been laboured. Where last campaign their cavalier approach wowed fans and neutrals alike, their caution this term has been a disappointing look into Everton’s past.
Of course, the added games of their campaign in the Europa league has clearly taken its toll on Martinez’s men; the extra games have meant, as much as they would like to, they have struggled to play with the levels of intensity they exhibited so often last year.
However, as the season has progressed and their European adventure came to an end, they finally seem to be playing in a style that is more reminiscent of last year. With their recent run of form, they have gathered a level of confidence they have not possessed all season. Their run of fixtures from now to the end of the season, Manchester United aside, is a favourable one and they will be confident of picking up even more points to ensure they finish this season as one of the form sides in the country.
This campaign has undoubtedly been a disappointment, but with another pre-season for the manager to mould his current players and continue bringing in more personnel to compliment his style it can only reap positive benefits for The Toffees.
The increased minutes that Everton have played have clearly had a negative impact on his side but it is a credit to both his managerial abilities and the character of his team that they are finishing so strongly.
This end to the season may be papering over the cracks of a poor season at Goodison Park, but it also may give a truer representation of where Everton are. The future is still bright for the blue half of Merseyside and this end of season run may prove to be the catalyst for future successes.