As a new year dawns upon us, the previous year burns the final embers.
2017 was a mixed bag for Everton on a whole. It saw the Blues hover above the relegation zone, the club sacked Ronald Koeman after a disastrous start to the new campaign despite a decent first year in charge on Merseyside
The club installed David Unsworth as interim boss but that, sadly for the romanticists amongst us, did not pan out how everyone would have wanted.
Sam Allardyce was brought in to steady the ship and he has done just that. With the year drawing to a close, the Blues went eight games unbeaten but failed to make it nine and close out the year unbeaten as they fell to a defeat away at AFC Bournemouth.
In 2017, the Blues played a total of 40 Premier League games, winning 17, losing 12 and drawing 11.
They’ve travelled in the Europa League - ultimately being dumped out in the Group Stages and have failed to progress much further than a game or two in both the League Cup and the FA Cup.
At the beginning of 2017, the first week of the new year, then boss Koeman saw his team dumped out of the FA Cup by Leicester City. His team had been knocked out of the League Cup by Norwich City a few weeks earlier.
This campaign, the Blues beat Sunderland in the third round of the Carabao Cup before Unsworth took interim charge and was beaten by Chelsea in the following round.
Allardyce is now in charge and will be preparing for a trip to Anfield to take on Liverpool in the FA Cup third round at the turn of 2018. The 63-year-old boss will first have to deal with the visit of Manchester United to Goodison Park on New Year’s Day.
Best player - Idrissa Gana Gueye
When the spending mood, and or, method at Goodison Park changed for the better, the smaller and more astute signings, for now, went out the window.
Turn back the clock to the summer of 2016 and Ronald Koeman signed Idrissa Gana Gueye from Aston Villa for a minimal fee of £7.5 million. He has gone on to be one of the most effective midfielders in royal blue for some time.
Fast forward to the beginning of this campaign and the Senegalese international looked as if he’d lost a step or two. The same energy as last season was lacking but the effort was not. Performances weren’t the same.
Spin time forward just a little bit closer to the present day and the same player who rocked up at Goodison Park in 2016 looks like he’s on his way back. His tackling is nipping and annoying for opponents. He’s even chipping in on the scoresheet.
He has comfortably been the best player - week in, week out - to don a Royal Blue shirt in 2017.
Most disappointing player - Kevin Mirallas
The Belgian’s time at Goodison Park is nigh on expired - for some, he has been living on borrowed time for far too long and the start of the next calendar year could very well signal the end.
His mercurial spark is long gone. The player that could beat two markers before striking an accurately placed effort into the bottom corner has become very predictable by cutting inside and shooting when a pass is on or the pass would be the better option.
There were also the rumours of him walking out on training and generally not seeming as if he was up for the fight when the Blues’ season looked in the dumps.
His place in the squad has been lost to the hard-working Aaron Lennon and not many more fans want to see Mirallas chosen over the potential of Ademola Lookman or Nikola Vlasic. The returning Yannick Bolasie will also make it hard for the Belgian to win a spot in a matchday squad.
The brief time under David Moyes, where he shined very brightly, will be remembered by many - whenever he departs Merseyside. The memorable goals against Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur will still be used on highlight videos for the next few years.
But the past year, and truth be told the past few years, Mirallas has consistently become the most disappointing player in the squad.
Moment of the year - Everton 4-0 Manchester City
If a 3-0 win over Arsenal was the peak of Roberto Martinez’s time at Goodison, a 4-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City was quite easily Ronald Koeman’s.
Earlier in the season, the Blues travelled to the Etihad and rode their luck, including two missed City penalties, all the way to a 1-1 draw. Yet it wouldn’t be the same story when Guardiola’s side rocked up to the confines of Goodison Park.
Goals from Romelu Lukaku, Mirallas, Tom Davies and Ademola Lookman settled the points for Everton as they extended their run of unbeaten home games to fourteen in the Premier League.
It was Davies’ goal that’ll be remembered the most.
The 18-year-old picked the ball up in his own half and drove fearlessly at the City midfield alone. Davies pulled off a ridiculous ball chop between his feet to continue his run as he beat two City defenders.
He laid a pass off to Lukaku before receiving a return ball from Ross Barkley. The midfielder lifted the ball over a beaten Claudio Bravo to score a goal that he may never better in his career.
The victory was Koeman’s masterpiece as Everton boss. He had put one of his oldest footballing friends to the sword, and how.
Worst moment of the year - Southampton 4-1 defeat
The lowest point of Everton’s 2017 was unequivocally the 4-1 defeat away at St Mary’s at the end of November. David Unsworth’s side were utterly dire as they handed the Saints their first win in four games and the Blues’ inability to win away from home continued to rack up the months.
It came off the back of a 5-1 defeat at home to Atalanta in the Europa League in which the Blues looked like they were only there to make up the numbers.
Against Southampton, it was the exact same story. Goals from Charlie Austin, Steven Davis and Dusan Tadic lifted Mauricio Pellegrino’s side to tenth spot in the Premier League table.
After the defeat, Unsworth’s side sat two points above the drop zone. It was the catalyst for change on Merseyside - the loss put an increased amount of pressure on the Everton board and owners in their search for a new boss.
What to expect in 2018 - Stability and reset
2018 is likely to offer more of the same for Everton as to what they’ve had since Allardyce took over. It’ll be stable without too much need to be adventurous.
To close out 2017 with a total of three shots on target, with one goal, in three games - with two of those games coming against teams who are 20th and 13th in the table - is unlikely to cut it with the Goodison faithful.
The Blues can, however, start the new year off right with a result against Manchester United at Goodison Park on New Year’s Day.
A New Year, a new Everton and all that.
There is also set to be some sort of a reset in terms of the squad from Allardyce. Members of Koeman’s summer spending spree as set to be discarded and replaced by players that interest the new boss.
Besiktas forward Cenk Tosun is expected to be the first new player through the door with a handful of others to follow as Allardyce starts to cultivate his own squad.
Just how long he’ll get to work with that squad is uncertain. Despite signing an 18-month contract, there are expectations from some Everton fans that once the season ends, he will be replaced by a man who hold the position on a more long-term basis, swapping stability for the potential of moving up the table and challenging again.
But that’s what Koeman offered and it’s also what Martinez offered and they were relieved of their duties before the end of their contracts.