2018: A year that leaves more questions than answers and yet a learning curve to move forward.
This year has had highs, lows, questions and answers. Everton Football Club started the year lacking of any direction, identity and vision to look forward. We end it in a much more appealing place than how we started it but it still leaves questions to be had about the future. Everton started the year with a bunch of apathetic, disillusioned fans, the state of play in that regard today is that the fans are much more heartened with the trajectory the club is on but still want improvements in what has been a mixed year for the club. Here’s how it unfolded…
It was January 1st 2018 and Goodison Park welcomed the new year in. Manchester United were in town and the club was somewhat buoyed by the instant impact Sam Allardyce had made on the club, despite the poor style of Football produced to achieve the results. The dire 0-2 defeat was a sign of things to come under Sam Allardyce. Wretched football. Little creativity and a chronic lack of pace. It was this that forced Allardyce to dip into the transfer market. Theo Walcott was bought from Arsenal. Short term thinking at it’s finest. Cenk Tosun.
The wretched Football reared it’s ugly head again. Capitulation at Spurs in a game where Allardyce pondered that Everton have to be ‘a bit more boring’ alienated Everton fans from our illustrious past. In truth, Sam Allardyce was never going to make it as Everton manager for that sole reason. A poor draw to West Brom followed and by this point it was over a month since Everton won a game and relegation was hotly discussed once more.
But then Seamus came back in of the more positive moments of the season. Everton were excellent on deadline day to be fair to Allardyce but even that was overshadowed by the bewildering decision to loan out Ademola Lookman to Germany after adamantly declaring that the England U21 International was staying At Goodison.
Arsenal next. Arsenal 5-1 Everton. Embarrassing. Everton were 4-0 down at half time in that game with Allardyce playing five defenders, three midfielders and Oumar Niasse. But that was all okay once Allardyce reasoned that performance on the fact that he had just ‘studied Swansea.’ Swansea went on to get relegated and that is the kind of company Allardyce had us in.
From then on, it is hard to remember the games in much detail, wretched football became the norm for a club that’s club motto is nothing but the best is good enough. Everton finished the season beating the likes of Newcastle, Brighton, Palace, Huddersfield and Stoke. Performances were not there. Snap shots of what to come next season were. Points on the board football. Fans discontent became louder and louder. There was a Merseyside Derby in there too. Everton drew 0-0 to a fatigue, otherwise preoccupied Liverpool but it was fine, because Sam Allardyce gave a very interesting analogy following the game that ‘if Everton’s two games in the league with Liverpool was a Champions League tie, Everton would progress.’
So we are at the end of the season now and Everton have their last home game against Mark Hughes’ Southampton. You’d think that there was all the motivation needed there to win and relegate Mark Hughes, we all want to. Nothing was there. Everton equalised late on to secure a draw. No one stayed for the lap of appreciation, nor did Sam Allardyce, citing media duties as an excuse, has not stopped anyone before has it? After a 3-1 defeat to West Ham at the London Stadium, Everton sacked Sam Allardyce. Since then Everton have appointed Marco Silva and Allardyce has been doing the rounds in the media questioning Everton’s decision to part ways with him. It just all adds insult to injury. Sam Allardyce should have never ever become the manager of Everton. His tenure at Everton can be likened to a match made in hell. Allardyce never truly got on board with Everton fans and Everton fans never truly got on board with Allardyce. He was an Everton misfit, and the story of Sam Allardyce will be remembered as the most grimacing period of Everton history.
As mentioned, Farhad had seen enough. As well as Allardyce, Director of Football Steve Walsh, CEO Robert Elstone along with a plethora of backroom staff left their positions. Revolution was the order of the day as Marco Silva was appointed manager, Marcel Brands took Steve Walsh’s place and Denise Barrett Baxendale replaced Robert Elstone. The changes marked a turning point in a club stuck in the mire with apathetic fans and an imbalanced team, despite the positive moves of the pitch with Bramley Moore.
After the World Cup, where Jordan Pickford and soon to be new signing Yerry Mina had good tournaments, and Everton returned to report the pre season. Results and performances were not great. Heavy losses propped up by a twenty two goal victory against ATV Irdning, competed pre season with a flurry of new signings to lift mood.
After the summer of love, the Premier League was back. Buoyed by a lack of Sam Allardyce and a plethora of new signings, Everton went to Wolves to begin the season. It was a game in hindsight we should have comfortably won to ease to current pressure that Wolves are putting on the European places. A questionable sending off and a man of the match performance from Richarlison were the key talking points of the game.
The first home game of the Silva era arrived. Against a Mark Hughes side in consecutive Premier League home games is never good, but Everton went one better than in May and put Southampton in their place. In one of his only bright sparks of the season for Walcott, the England international added the first goal, with Richarlison adding another.
A victory would not come for over a month after this however, draws with Bournemouth and Huddersfield, coupled with defeats to West Ham and Arsenal gave Everton and Marco Silva a reality check of where we were really at.
But by beating Fulham and Leicester, optimism was higher and you could begin to see what Marco Silva wanted to do with this team. Sigurdsson, a man sidelined to the left hand side and anywhere apart from his natural position in the middle, has been the embodiment of the Everton revival. Scoring eight and assisting a further three, Sigurdsson has come into fine form this season under Silva. As too Micheal Keane, who finally has started to show his form shown at Burnley.
The form rolled on, wins against Brighton, Cardiff, Palace as well as a draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge brings us to the Merseyside Derby. As you begin to think there is no other possible way or Everton, ‘Evertoning’ it against Liverpool, Jordan Pickford finds a way. They win, and we are all livid once more. In truth, apart from the annihilation of Burnley, the form has not been the same since that moment. December has been something of a nightmare month and has brought a vast amount of criticism by some towards Marco Silva. Criticism whilst unfair, is inevitable is unfair when you consider the agenda some have had to Silva since his arrival in England never mind Everton.
A year of progression when you consider where the club was sat at the start of the year but also a year that still provides more questions than answers when considering 2019 and the years ahead. From the depths of despair under Allardyce to the positivity and optimism under Silva and Brands. Whilst 2018 has been bleak and full of lows, it also gives the club a basis to move forward as the Marco Silva tenure continues into 2019. Happy New Year to all Everton fans!