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The Everton manager provided an explanation for his decision to suspend a player for two months.

With the season over, it’s time to assess Everton’s 2015-16. Here’s a look back at a woeful campaign under Roberto Martinez.

Season in a sentence

The fact that Everton has had the fewest home points in its history is the icing on the cake for yet another season of failure for a manager and players who failed to take any lessons from the equally miserable campaign that came before it.

Highlight

Choosing a highlight from this season is no easy feat, with two domestic cup runs falling at the semifinal stage and only a handful of league games rising above the malaise. However, two such matches saw Southampton and Stoke dispatched in emphatic fashion on their own grounds.

A trip to Southampton gave Everton a significant dose of false hope after a dull draw with Watford on opening day set the tone for most of the home games to come. Everton won 3-0, marking one of the few times the right balance appeared at both ends of the pitch.

Gareth Barry set the tone for his season with a dominant performance, while Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku shone as they did through much of the first half of the season, both scoring and linking up superbly.

A February trip to Stoke also ended 3-0 and could so easily have been six or seven. With this convincing victory, Lukaku scored his 20th goal of the year and Aaron Lennon scored for the third straight game, moving Everton to within six points of fifth place.

These matches and home cup wins against Manchester City and Chelsea in the League and FA Cups offered a fleeting glimpse of the different path this campaign could have taken.

Low point

With only two teams dropping more points from winning positions amid the worst home record in Everton history, it is somewhat appropriate that the low point of this season saw the Blues surrender a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at home to West Ham. This game also demonstrated the perplexing strategies, confusing substitutions, and defensive lapses that have come to characterize Martinez’s later seasons.

Game management became the go-to phrase as Everton slid down the table, but while it often formed the centre of pre and postmatch discussions, there was rarely any sign of it. This match stands out as the primary example of Martinez misjudging the situation in front of him.

Needing to protect the two-goal lead as his tiring players cried out for reinforcements to overcome the dismissal of Kevin Mirallas, the eventual change saw new signing Oumar Niasse replace Lennon. Not only did Martinez stretch credibility with his decision to introduce a striker for a midfielder, he replaced the best player on the day with one boasting practically zero experience at this level.

An already fragile Everton capitulated and conceded three in the last 12 minutes to spark a run of six defeats in 10 games, winning only once. Of the eight home defeats, the loss to West Ham encapsulated the season and seemed to be the point many supporters lost any remaining faith in Martinez.

Star man

Setting a new Premier League record for most starts in the competition along the way, Gareth Barry rightly finished the season as Everton’s Player of the Season and Player’s Player of the Season.

Lennon, Gerard Deulofeu and Barkley all enjoyed productive seasons over a period of time but none managed to stay the distance, while top scorer Lukaku’s claims for best player ended with a 10-game goal drought to finish the season. Barry remained a model of consistency as the rest ultimately faltered.

Underappreciated in some quarters, particularly outside of the clubs graced in his illustrious career, there was no danger of Barry going unnoticed in this campaign. It often seemed as though the former Manchester City player was doing the job of two or three in central midfield.

His importance to the team became evident when a two-match suspension coincided with dismal performances and defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United in the league, while injury denied the 35-year-old a semifinal appearance against the latter at Wembley.

Returning to fitness in time to deliver another midfield masterclass in the final day win against Norwich, Barry topped the Everton charts on passing and tackling and ranked second on interceptions. Despite missing five matches through injury and suspension, Barry ends 2015-16 as the only Everton player to attempt over 2,000 passes, more than 250 ahead of his nearest teammate.

What’s next?

Attention turns to replacing Martinez and his backroom staff. While it is paramount the club select the right candidate and do not rush into a decision, the new manager will need as much time as possible to assess the squad and begin a sizeable rebuilding process. With goalkeeper Tim Howard departing, players out of contract and others unsure of their future, a high turnover of personnel is both likely and necessary for a squad turning stale across the last two seasons.

The final day win over Norwich did at least highlight the potential within this squad, namely the promising youngsters that injected overdue purpose and infectious energy into the team.

Building on the youthful potential and trimming away the fraying edges, the club requires a leader with a winning mentality, able to shake the place up and change the outlook of a group that too often looks weak and falls short when it matters.

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