A year ago today Everton were sixth in the Premier League, eight places and 20 points better off than they are now – what happened?
Toffees manager Roberto Martinez is certainly looking far less comfortable than he was 12 months back and now finds himself 8/1 to be the next boss to lose his job.
News.bwin.com ponder their sophomore slump under the Spaniard through the prism of the home league games against Chelsea that seem, more than any others, to illustrate the stark contrast between the two vintages.
The first thing to note is that the personnel are more or less the same, with only two players failing to start both matches, while the entire back five is unchanged.
If one side looks stronger than the other man-for-man then it’s arguably the 2014/15 edition, with Romelu Lukaku an improvement on Nikica Jelavic.
However, a comparison of the XI’s behind such drastically-differing performances also puts to bed certain theories around Everton’s poor form this term.
Steven Pienaar’s absence means that his combination with Leighton Baines, much mourned in it’s absence this term, wasn’t present in the 2013/14 victory.
Neither was James McCarthy, whose hiatus from the side had seemed, for much of it’s duration, to the key issue with the Toffees’ formerly successful modus operandi.
Instead the fact that Leon Osman has started just seven of their 39 games this term, suddenly now has a greater significance.
Another conclusion that it’s impossible not to draw as a result of such similar line-ups across the two fixtures is that some players simply aren’t operating at the same level as they were last season.
While Tim Howard has made some notable howlers in 2014/15, the equally ageing Sylvain Distin and Gareth Barry are probably most guilty of failing to replicate last term’s efforts.
Here some apportioning of blame to the unavoidably-loveable Martinez may have to be done, given he seems to have a fair amount of control of transfer targets.
It was surely the former-Wigan boss that called for the budget-bludgeoning splurge that bought Lukaku to the club on a permanent basis, given he was indulged in signing no fewer than four Latics stars last term.
Replacing their eldest statesmen was a far more pressing issue than shelling out over the odds for the Belgian in a most un-Evertonian fashion.
What has come to be regarded as Evertonian fashion goes hand in glove with David Moyes’ tenure at Goodison Park and it’s an ideology that encapsulates a style of play as well as transfer parsimony.
Here too the match stats implicate Martinez in Everton’s downturn.
In 2013/14 when his side continued their fine record against the Blues their Moyesian DNA was still in evidence.
Chelsea were allowed the majority of the ball, with Everton concentrating on being tough to break down and exploiting their visitors on the counter attack.
Fast forward a season and their domination of possession (a tactical tweak attributed to Martinez) against the league leaders meant little as they were torn apart on the break – they even managed less shots on target.