A top-half finish for a sixth successive season and after the customary poor start, that is not a bad result, says Luke O’Farrell.
The lingering disappointment is that ill-fated trip to Wembley. Posing more questions than answers, a side in control proceeded to capitulate after half time.
Another farcical August transfer window ensured that Everton were under prepared and out of sorts. The sale of Arteta; knowing there was no time to replace him, continues to baffle. January was a vast improvement with players moved on and replaced with quality.
Player of the Season – John Heitinga
Many tipped John Heitinga for a summer exit; what a difference a season makes. At the heart of the defence, Heitinga has been the model of consistency and composure. One of the few to shackle Robin Van Persie, Heitinga’s ability in possession has improved Everton’s football.
Over the course of the season, Heitinga has built up a great relationship with the fans. Staying to thank the fans after each game, the centre back is very much a cult hero. Playing at his peak and leading by example, some view Heitinga as potential captaincy material.
Honourable mentions go to Leighton Baines (2nd) and Marouane Fellaini (3rd). Despite being a defender, Baines has created the most chances of any Everton player this season. Fellaini has flourished this season, whether in midfield or in a more advanced role. These two are indispensable as they continue to prove their worth to Everton.
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Who is your 2011-12 Player of the Season?
- John Heitinga (38%, 451 Votes)
- Marouane Fellaini (23%, 266 Votes)
- Leighton Baines (16%, 189 Votes)
- Nikica Jelavic (9%, 104 Votes)
- Steven Pienaar (6%, 75 Votes)
- Sylvain Distin (5%, 55 Votes)
- Tony Hibbert (3%, 37 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,176
Young Player of the Season – Apostolos Vellios
The young Greek forward has transformed into the invisible man of late with very little game time. However, that does not detract from his pre-Christmas impact. Vellios chipped in with crucial strikes against Wigan and Bolton whilst also netting at Stamford Bridge.
Good technically and with age and aerial prowess on his side, the future is bright for Apostolos Vellios. Let us hope that future is at Everton and he can fulfil his potential next season.
The Andy van der Meyde Award – Royston Drenthe
Drenthe has proven to be the player with the biggest potential and the smallest brain. With his pace, ability and shooting, he had started to show his talent. Drenthe offered the baffling and the brilliant, the maddening and the magical. He was the one player who could do produce that game changing moment.
Unfortunately, he squandered all that in the build up to the semi final. Turn up late once; you will probably get a fine and a stern word. Turn up late twice; you might as well pack your bags. Royston, it has been eventful but you have only yourself to blame.
However, with discipline problems littering his career, this comes as no real surprise. Sadly, Drenthe loses a club that appreciated him and Everton lose a free agent who added quality to the squad.
Goal of the Season – Leighton Baines (v Swansea, 24/3/2012)
After another trademark run, Baines’ run ended outside the penalty area. From the moment he won the free kick, it had Baines’ name on it. The England international beat Vorm with pace and bend as the ball nestled in the top-right corner. With the best-left foot since Andy Hinchcliffe, expect the spectacular goals to continue.
Most Improved Player – Tony Hibbert
Tony Hibbert is Everton’s Marmite. Fans seem to love him or hate him; there is no middle ground.
His tough tackling and commitment endears him to many, whilst his passing and tendency to panic frustrates others.
This season, Hibbert has produced the most consistent form of his career. The tackling remains tough but the passing and crossing have improved. This was clear in the recent draw at Old Trafford with Hibbert claiming two assists. Hibbert is entering the twilight of his career but he has finally made that right back spot his own.
Best Match – Manchester United 4 – 4 Everton (22/4/2012)
For the first time, in recent memory, the defensive shackles were off at Old Trafford. Everton played without fear and got their reward. Alex Ferguson blamed the Everton goals on bad defending. With over 20 passes in two of the goals, it is churlish to blame the defending; credit where it’s due.
The backs-to-the-wall philosophy and damage limitation mentality were gone. Everton attacked from the first whistle to the last. The Everton express derailed during the second half as some slick football gave United the edge. However, the sense of inevitable defeat had gone and Everton rallied to gain a deserved point.
Worst Match – Everton 0 – 1 QPR (20/8/2011)
This award had many pre-Christmas contenders. There was Bolton at home, although that did feature a Tim Howard goal. There was Stoke, with Everton failing to have a shot on target. However, the award goes to the opening day defeat to QPR.
This game was horrible for so many reasons. Only one man knows why Everton started with a midfield of Rodwell – Osman – Heitinga – Barkley. The team was abject throughout and Everton deservedly lost.
Ross Barkley’s emergence was the sole highlight as a 17-year-old showed the senior pros how to play football.
Best post-January impact – David Moyes
David Moyes takes this award after his January dealings. Very few wanted to gamble on Nikica Jelavic, with the SPL no longer regarded as a top league. Jelavic has scored 10 in 14 games.
Manchester United preferred a 37-year-old, with no match fitness, to Darron Gibson. Gibson has lost one game in 14 since signing.
The icing on the cake was the return of Steven Pienaar. Playing as if he never left, the South African has been a revelation. No Everton player can better his seven league assists. Even more impressive as Pienaar has done it in 13 games.
Moment of the Season – 14th April 2012 at 12:54pm
In terms of games, it was poor; in terms of second halves, it was abysmal. However, just before 1pm, it was truly brilliant as Nikica Jelavic deposited the ball into Brad Jones’ net. One-half of Wembley erupted like a blue volcano.
For the next 38 minutes, the blue horde began planning their return for the final. However, Sylvain Distin’s under-hit pass let Suarez in and Everton crumbled. The rest, as they say, is history. Everton passed up a glorious opportunity on the biggest stage and there has been an overriding sense of ‘what if’ since.
Once again, a poor start has cost Everton. The problem is the constant stumble out of the blocks in August. A look at Everton’s form, from 1st February onwards, highlights their strong finish to seasons.
• 2006 – 2007: 4th
• 2007 – 2008: 5th
• 2008 – 2009: 6th
• 2009 – 2010: 3rd
• 2010 – 2011: 3rd
• 2011 – 2012 (ongoing): 5th
The harsh reality is Everton have to fund transfers by selling first. The problem is that is to stand still, never mind progress or push on. If Everton are to progress, the club needs investment and new ownership. Otherwise, Everton will continue to bang their collective head on the proverbial glass ceiling.
In 1997, Jack Nicholson won an Oscar playing Melvin Udall; a bitter, pessimistic writer in James Brooks’ “As Good as It Gets”.
As Mr Udall leaves his psychiatrist’s office, he turns to the waiting room of depressed patients and says, “What if this is as good as it gets?” Unfortunately, that remains the overwhelming worry for Evertonians.