Everton’s 2016/17 season can be summed up in one phrase, signs of recovery. After two unacceptable seasons, Roberto Martinez was replaced as Everton manager by Ronald Koeman in June and the Dutchman has quickly set about in making his changes.
With Martinez out of the door and majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri slowly easing into his new role as a top boss in the Premier League, the Blues set about changing their top-down organisation as a club.
Alongside Koeman’s appointment came the installation of Steve Walsh as Director Of Football. The former Leicester City scout had been heralded as the mastermind behind the Foxes' miraculous Premier League title winning season and high hopes are expected at Goodison Park.
Koeman was set the same remit as the previous incumbent, target the European Football positions in the league table and also add in a lengthy cup run, particularly in the FA Cup.
Impeccable home form
When Everton defeated Watford 1-0 in their final home game of the season, it took their points tally at Goodison Park to a Club Premier League record of 43.
The Blues secured 13 wins, four draws and just two defeats inside the friendly confines of Goodison Park, including a record unbeaten run of eight games to begin 2017, their best run for 27 years.
Everton’s home form was good enough for the fourth best in the Premier League, with their 42 goals scored putting them only behind Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur for the most goals scored at home.
The 16 goals they conceded at Goodison was only beaten by Manchester United and Spurs who conceded 12 and nine respectively.
Koeman’s side only suffered defeats to Chelsea and Liverpool at home but were never really outperformed and beaten until the defeat to Antonio Conte’s side at the end of April.
Ultimately it was the home form that helped propel Everton to a season of recovery under Koeman as they regained their spot in the top seven of the Premier League, good enough for a Europa League qualification berth.
Troubles on the road
The Blues were only able to muster four away wins all season and didn’t win away from Goodison Park at all after a January win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Despite this, they still put in a number of vintage performances away from home early on in the season.
Compared their impeccable home form, Koeman’s side could only pick up 18 points from 19 games, scoring only 20 goals whilst conceding a total of 28. Whilst some games can be picked out and analysed as unlucky defeats or draws, Everton quite simply looked to play basic football away from the confines of Goodison Park.
Whether or not this was a tactical decision that will be built on in the future remains to be seen but the Blues were set up defensively more often than not compared to their style at home where there was a balance between attack and defence.
Defeats at Bournemouth, Swansea City, Southampton and West Ham showcased an inability within the team to get shots on target and demonstrated Koeman’s sides over-reliance on Romelu Lukaku as he found himself more often than not, isolated up front.
Highlights of the Season
Arguably Everton’s biggest highlight of the season was the 4-0 win over Manchester City in January. The performance and result showcased that on their day, Koeman’s side can mix it with the best teams in the Premier League but that they’d need to showcase more often to reach their end goal of Champions League football.
Goals from Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas, Tom Davies and Ademola Lookman provided Everton’s most complete performance of the 2016/17 campaign and a platform upon which Koeman and his staff can point towards being what they expect from their Everton team.
Towards the end of December and beginning of January, the turnaround was in motion for the Toffees but they still had issues. Another highlight from that time period would be the late home win over Arsenal.
With Everton seemingly in free fall, Arsenal rocked up at Goodison Park with plenty of home fans expecting yet another defeat. What followed in the late 2-1 win, showcased with Koeman’s side are capable of.
Despite going behind early to a deflected Alexis Sanchez free-kick, Everton rallied back and equalised just before half-time through a Seamus Coleman header. Ashley Williams then headed home from a Ross Barkley corner with minutes to go in the second half as Everton held on for a 2-1 win.
End of Season Awards
Player of the season: Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku was voted Everton Player of The Season in the Club’s official awards and there was simply no other choice. Some fans may criticise his work rate at times but it is impossible to deny his ability in front of goal.
Whilst Lukaku tailed off in the run in to end the season, ultimately costing him the Premier League Golden Boot award, he still managed to notch 25 goals in the league whilst getting a singular goal in the FA Cup, bringing his total to 26 in all competitions for the season.
His future at Goodison Park may be uncertain but giving Everton one final season may be the wise move for the Belgian forward.
Young Player of the season: Tom Davies
Tom Davies burst into the mainstream with his performance and goal in the win over Manchester City but he announced himself to Everton fans last season with his performance against Norwich City.
Many fans clamoured for the introduction of Davies to the Everton starting eleven and since being given his chance, he hasn’t looked back. He displays a midfield dynamism that the Blues have lacked for many years and should be an Everton mainstay for years to come.
Signing of the season: Idrissa Gueye
Idrissa Gana Gueye was unquestionably Everton’s signing of the season. The Blues signed the Senegalese international from Aston Villa for less than £7 million pounds and he has stats that match those of Chelsea midfielder and PFA Player of the Year, N’Golo Kante.
Whilst Gueye was unable to match his early season form in the later portion of the season, he displayed an understanding with Tom Davies and Morgan Schneiderlin that should set up the Everton midfield for the foreseeable future.
Improvements to be made
For next season to be better than the standard Koeman and his side have set with the season just past, Everton have three key areas that they must improve upon.
The main focus should be looking at a way to fix the frankly dreadful away form in the Premier League. The Blues were only able to muster four away wins all season and didn’t win away from Goodison Park at all after January.
When Koeman and Walsh look at the areas to buy players in next season, their focus should be goalkeepers. Joel Robles stepped in and performed well when Maarten Stekelenburg suffered an injury but neither keeper is realistically going to be Everton’s future between the sticks.
Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford will be linked and the Blues are likely to make a move for the 23-year-old.
Finally, Koeman has to find a way to balance his sides European commitments with the demands of the Premier League whilst also being expected to perform better than this season in domestic cup competitions.