It’s been a long time since I’ve been at school (a very, very long time!) but Everton’s defeat at Swansea brought back memories of the end of July term at school.
The exams had finished, for us anyway and short of Ronald Koeman asking the players to bring in their favourite toys in to play with, the display resembled those long drawn out days leading up to the summer holidays, when no one wanted to be there and all thoughts on the summer holiday ahead.
Of course Swansea still had some very important exams ahead, and it showed. The sad thing about all this is that I believed, possibly naively, that 6th place was up for grabs. I was never one of those that believed we were suddenly champions league material but we are in a much healthier position than at this time last year. Breaking the top 4 was evidently a step too far. Being within touching distance of Arsenal for me, would have given an edge to the final game of the season and the chance to save ourselves 4 extra games with a start to our competitive season in mid July. Maybe Arsenal will win their remaining games and my argument would therefore become void but couldn’t we at least try?
When I heard that Everton hadn’t lost to a bottom three side away from home since 2012 the writing was on the wall, after all we’re Everton aren’t we? To pull off a display akin to the away defeat at Southampton back in November when I believed we had moved on is unforgivable.
The first hour against Chelsea apart, the players seem to have given up since the end of the Burnley game in mid April. Thats a potential 15 points, that although unlikely, could have put pressure on Arsenal and maybe Man Utd. It’s clear to me that two things are apparent. Firstly, we aren’t good enough for the top 6 currently. It may seem like i’m stating the bleeding obvious but with our decent league form over the first three months of 2017 continuing for another month would have made a top 6 finish possible, but they couldn’t. secondly, the players just don’t want it enough. What more incentive can someone want than to go straight into the group stages of the Europa League without the bother of resuming training very early and adding 4 competitive matches to your schedule? I believe many either know they won’t be there come July or don’t want to be there.
Many fans have called for the under 23’s to be given a chance at the highest level for the last few games. I disagreed at first with 6th place being worth fighting for but the first team have made sure that’s not going to happen so let’s give the youngsters a chance. While fans still pay to enter a football ground it’s only right that the players at least try.
It’s hard not to be negative after such a poor performance but it is worth remembering this time last year when we were all quite low. We do have the new ground to look forward to and the transfer window will be very telling and crucial. Ronald Koeman has said he will stick to his contract with Everton. Whether he does or not is out of our hands but if he does and he’s going to achieve anything in the next two years, he needs a very good transfer window this time. Our home record has been very good although we have accumulated less away points this season than last which, even though I knew our away form was poor I didn’t realise it was that bad.
So heres to some of the dead wood in the first team being allowed to leave while a more motivated, younger team emerges for the last two games of the season together with a positive, fruitful transfer window. All you can do is improve on what you have and we have improved on last season. You never know, with the prospect of a European tour ahead, more focus on the domestic cups and a better squad to look forward to, we are on the way up.