Are lessons always learned by clubs that play with fire?

by   |   01/06/2022  0 Comments  [Jump to last]

Even Martin Odegaard waltzing through an Everton defence, that didn’t look like they were on the beach as much as snorkeling at a nearby reef, was not enough to dampen the party atmosphere found in the away end at the Emirates Stadium on the final day of the season. Indeed, survival had been achieved 72 hours before and it was now time for the fans to let their hair down as the warm spring sun shone on them in North London.

The final whistle would sound a few minutes after the Norwegian had made it 5-1 and Frank Lampard could be seen laughing with Mikel Arteta as they shook hands to bring the curtain down on the season. What was there to worry about? After all, the summer beckoned and the good times would return next season. There’s no doubting that this is the overall objective for the powers that be at Goodison Park but is it that simple in reality? In a word, the answer would have to be no.

What Everton needs to do to avoid another season of the blues

Furthermore, it is quite an emphatic no as far as the Blues go given the size of the rebuild that lies in wait. The catch is that before this can take place, the futures of Richarlison and Newcastle target Dominic Calvert-Lewin need addressing, which, naturally, has the potential to further destabilise the makeup of a side that, yes, admittedly, needs dismantling. The point is that given how many moving parts there are to manage, it becomes all the more demanding to get on top of the mistakes that saw the Toffees come unstuck for most of the last nine months. This, of course, is Everton's current reality but if we were to take the microscope off the to-do list at Goodison Park, what does history tell us about clubs that have had near misses with regard to relegation? Do they seize the day by making sure they’re never in this position again or do they return to the folly of old that saw them caught up in a relegation scrap to begin with?

Like most conundrums in life and football, the answer isn’t in black and white with as many examples of clubs that are determined to right the ship as there are others who keep taking on water whilst simultaneously desperately hoping to make land.

For instance, at the conclusion of the 2019/2020 season, West Ham finished in 16th position and only narrowly avoided relegation. Two seasons on from that traumatic end to the season and the Hammers have recorded a sixth and then seventh-placed finish respectively, and by doing so, secured European football in back-to-back seasons following a relegation scare just 24 months prior. On the other hand, you then have Burnley who ended the 2020/2021 season in 17th place only to drop down one position to 18th the following season which resulted in the Turf Moor club finally going down. In short, their inaction had finally caught up with them.

Trouble still lurks on the horizon

Essentially, this illustrates that with the right level of commitment, a club can leave the wrong side of the table in its rearview mirrors but a failure to course correct will end in the inevitable happening. In some ways, avoiding relegation as Everton have done is more a stay of execution than it is a silver bullet to the well-established problems at the club. Put another way, the humiliation on the final day of the season at the Emirates Stadium was not just courtesy of an end of campaign knees-up but rather another reminder of what everyone knows; this situation won’t fix itself with the club still a lot closer to relegation than they are to winning the league. Tellingly, the latest football odds for the outright winner of 2022/2023 Premier League season tell a similar story with Lampard’s men, as of the 23rd of May, at 250/1 to be crowned kings of England.

No one needs reminding that the EA Sports Premier League is an unforgiving place to be if you arrive unprepared on the first day of the season which is, ultimately why, the summer rebuild has to start now. With that being the case, it goes without saying that the players and staff are all due a break after what would have been an understandably taxing last few months, but the work in the boardroom must commence immediately in order to prevent the club from ever playing with fire again.

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