Everton 2016 Review: The end of one era, the beginning of another

Everton have a long history - 138 years to be exact - and 2016 has seen one chapter of their history draw to a close and another open.

The opening months of the calendar year were dogged by defensive frailties and woeful home form, before Roberto Martinez was sacked in May. His successor, Ronald Koeman saw his honeymoon period quickly end after breezing through the doors at Goodison Park in his opening few games.

It hasn't all been doom and gloom as two cup semi-finals provided supporters with a reason to cheer, while new investment and a new manager sees the Toffees enter 2017 with hope for the future.

From future Barcelona boss to Goodison footnote

After a year of frustration and disappointment in 2015, things went from bad to worse for the Blues after the turn of the year, especially at home. A solitary win throughout January, February and March at Goodison Park was enough for some supporters to vent their frustration, "Martinez out" banners became more plentiful as the months wore on. A banner saying "Time to go Roberto" was flown over Goodison during their 2-1 win over Bournemouth in April, while some supporters remained inside the ground for more than an hour after the final whistle to protest.

Promising runs to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and Capital One Cup ended in disappointment against both Manchester clubs and eventual winners both times. Despite taking a 2-1 lead into the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final and scoring the opening goal at the Etihad, Manchester City came back to beat Everton 4-3 on aggregate to knock the Blues out of the League Cup.

The feeling amongst many was that the FA Cup could have been a saving grace for Martinez as the reality was it would be unlikely that Everton would win a major trophy for the first time since 1995 and Martinez lose his job. However, their FA Cup dreams were crushed by an injury-time winner from Anthony Martial for Manchester United in the semi-final.

The FA Cup heartbreak and a run of one win in 10, including the joint-worst Merseyside derby defeat since 1982, was the final straw for the Toffees hierarchy. In a stark shift in fortunes, Martinez went from being touted as a "future Barcelona boss" to a Goodison footnote after his three-year stint in the managerial hotseat was brought to an end before the final weekend of the 2015/16 season.

Biggest statements have come off the pitch

Change was always going to follow after Farhad Moshiri acquired an initial 49.9% stake in the club in February after a decade long search for new investment. Moshiri's fortunes will provide Everton with the finances to buy big and keep the best talent at the club, while a resolution to the Blues' stadium saga is also on the agenda.

Moshiri immediately identified Koeman as the man to return Everton to European contention and lead the Merseyside club into a golden era following the sacking of Martinez. And, in luring Koeman from Southampton, Everton could not have made a more forceful statement and it was a sign of the club's intent and ambition.

Another sign of intent was appointing Leicester City's joint assistant manager and head of recruitment Steve Walsh as Everton's first director of football in a reshaped management structure. Walsh was instrumental in the signing of Idrissa Gueye from Aston Villa in the summer. Gueye may not have been the marquee signing that many Evertonians had hoped for, but his £7.1million transfer fee already looks to be a bargain as the Senegalese midfielder has been one of Everton's best players this season.

Maarten Stekelenburg has become Everton's number one goalkeeper - at least for the time being - after joining from Fulham, while the Toffees used their greater financial clout to sign Swansea City captain Ashley Williams for £12million and Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie for £25million.

John Stones may have left the club to join Manchester City for £47.5million, but keeping Romelu Lukaku at Goodison Park for at least another season was another huge statement. Goalkeeper Tim Howard brought his 10-year stay at the club to an end, while other notable exits included Leon Osman, Tony Hibbert and Steven Pienaar.

A bright start but very little to cheer about since

Ronald Koeman swept into Goodison Park with a wave of optimism after making a brilliant start to life at Everton. The Dutchman won four of his first five games in charge, and drew the other one at home to Tottenham on the opening day of the season.

Their best start since 1938 put the Blues second in the table after five games, just two points behind Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. However, there has not been much to cheer about since. In the next 13 games Everton have recorded just three wins, and lost six of the other 10, including a 5-0 mauling at Chelsea.

The Chelsea defeat was hugely disappointing, but defeats at Southampton and Watford saw the Toffees lack any sort of urgency or desire. One of Everton's best results of 2016 followed the Watford defeat as the Toffees produced an inspired and spirited comeback to beat Arsenal 2-1 at Goodison Park in December.

The Merseyside derby followed and the Blues suffered heartbreak as they lost to an injury-time goal in a 1-0 defeat under the Goodison lights. Everton provided their fans with some festive cheer with a 2-0 victory over Premier League champions Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Boxing Day.

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