Before today, David Moyes’s reunions with the club where he spent 11 reputation-building years had been exercises in routine and, often, comprehensive defeat. Beaten home and away as manager of Manchester United four seasons ago, the Scot had the same treatment meted out to him as manager of Sunderland last season and he was handed his heaviest defeat against Everton last November when the Blues romped to a 4-0 win under David Unsworth.
Add to that the fact that in the Premier League era, West Ham are Everton’s favourite opponents, throw in an essentially meaningless end-of-season game and you had the ingredients for an occasion where even Sam Allardyce could throw caution to the wind and go for it a bit. Stop laughing at the back.
The much-maligned manager did finally experiment with two strikers, although their lack of experience playing together, West Ham’s first-half dominance and Everton’s crippling lack of creativity meant that they weren’t able to link up like a genuine strike partnership at any stage. In any case, Allardcye largely nullified any nod towards attacking adventure by deploying three centre-halves and two holding midfielders and if the intent was to release Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman to conduct raids down the flanks, it didn’t work.
The result was a performance that mostly made the Hammers, who began the day in 15th place, look a significantly better team than their record and recently averted crisis suggests they are and, eventually, resulted in a defeat that may have seemed harsh when comparing chances created but which was wholly deserved on the balance of play.
Indeed, in the first period in particular, all the “joined up” football was coming from the home team, with the visitors largely reliant on direct balls forward and attempted penetrating passes from deep. West Ham were next to bottom when Allardyce came on board at Goodison and while has spent the last few months moaning that his team can’t play with style because of the players at his disposal, Moyes has seemingly got on with the job of getting his side playing some pretty decent football.
With the Hammers moving the ball around crisply in midfield and Mario Lanzini and Marco Arnautovic buzzing around purposefully in forward areas, Everton’s three central defenders betrayed their unfamiliarity with the formation and were opened up after 10 minutes by a neat interchange.
Arnautovic had seconds earlier seen his first shot in anger blocked well by Michael Keane but after the Hammers retrieved the ball, he played Mark Noble in close to goal with a one-two pass. The midfielder’s side-foot shot searching for the corner was stopped brilliantly and one-handed, however, by Jordan Pickford.
After Joao Mario had flashed a shot an inch wide of the post in the 26th minute, Moyes’s side almost shot themselves in the foot just past the half-hour mark. Angelo Ogbonna mis-controlled badly an up-and-under clearance by Phil Jagielka allowing Oumar Niasse to rob him of the ball and drive into the penalty area towards Adrian. The Senegalese striker elected to go shoot towards his near post and the goalkeeper made the save with his out-stretched leg.
It was a miss that the Blues would rue seven minutes later when Lanzini capitalised on embarrassing defending to give West Ham the lead. An innocuous-looking pass from Cheikhou Kouyaté deceived Keane as it eluded the toe of Arnautovic and Lanzini, who had started the move near the halfway line continued his run between two blue shirts to pick up the loose ball and slot home.
Allardyce responded at half time by withdrawing Ramiro Funes Mori, who had done nothing to suggest he has been hard done-by by being excluded from the starting XI since he regained his fitness, and introducing Davy Klaassen into a midfield that now boasted four central midfielders and no width.
It resulted in more possession for Everton but precious little service to the strikers or threats to the Hammers’ goal apart from a tame effort from Klaassen from around 20 yards out that Adrian claimed easily. Instead of taking one of the midfielders off and going for a more attacking formation, however, Allardyce stuck to type hooked Cenk Tosun when it came time to throw Theo Walcott on, much to the Turk’s visible disgust.
His fury was probably matched by most Blues fans; as a decision it made no sense under the circumstances. As the goals that were raining in on the other side of London at Wembley in one of those wild final-day goal-fests that happen every now and then ably demonstrated, what on earth was there to lose in just going all out for goals?
Two minutes later, it was 2-0 from a goal largely out of nothing. Picking up a pass in a benign area outside the Everton box, Arnautovic simply rolled Keane who was too tight and too slow to recover and smashed a shot practically through Pickford’s gloves from 25 yards. The replays aren’t kind to the young goalkeeper who appeared to crouch expecting the ball to dip towards the ground before it lifted slightly at the end and flew past him.
Niasse gave Everton hope 11 minutes later, however. Having seen a strong shot of his own beaten onto the post and out by Adrian after he’d collected an excellent flighted ball down the channel by Klaassen, the striker was on hand with some deft control and an emphatic finish to make it 2-1 from the ensuing corner.
Morgan Schneiderlin looped a header back into the six-yard box where a Aaron Cresswell got a head to it but Niasse quickly flicked it back towards goal, swivelled and rapped it in almost on the goal line with 16 minutes to.
The hosts restored their two-goal advantage and effectively sealed the game eight minutes later, however, shortly after Jagielka had done enough to put Pablo Zabaleta off in front of goal so that he swiped the ball wide rather than make it 3-1.
Lanzini was the marksman again, profiting from the yard or two’s space afforded him by Coleman at the corner of the area and curling a shot towards the top right corner. Pickford went for it with his opposite hand and got fingers to it but could only guide it onto the post and in.
Everton had a late flurry where they threatened to make a game of it again when Walcott found himself in but was denied by Adrian and the ‘keeper was quick to react to Niasse’s follow-up and bat it away to safety as well.
So an awful season, forgettable in almost every way except for the stain it will have left on the Blues’ Premier League era, one already blemished by two scrapes with relegation, is finally out the way.
The threat of the drop, to the extent that it existed with 24 matches left in the campaign, was largely extinguished fairly soon after Allardyce arrived. (It’s hard to believe there were 12 teams worse than Everton, the paucity of quality in the top flight rendering a finish as high as eighth flattering in the extreme.) The interim has been a frustrating succession of dull performances, moribund football, lifeless defeats to the teams that finished above, and a near constant yearning for 2017-18 to be over.
Now that it is, the club’s hieraerchy can hopefully start making the key decisions – starting with the removal of the manager – that will ensure that next season is nothing like what has just transpired. As a fanbase, patience is being replaced by apathy but it’s by no means irretrievable. Another big summer awaits if those in the corridors of power are ready to take the bull by the horns and steer it in the right direction.
Everton closed out a season to forget with a deserved 3-1 defeat to their former boss and West Ham at the London Stadium.
Two goals from Mario Lanzini and a thumping finish from Marco Arnautovic handed David Moyes his first win over the Blues while Sam Allardyce, barracked off and on by both sets of fans during the game, might have overseen his last match as Everton manager.
With Wayne Rooney injured and Allardyce seeking to match the Hammers' formation, he opted for a five-man back line and two up front with Ramiro Funes Mori and Oumar Niasse returning to the lineup.
Tom Davies was preferred to Davy Klaassen in central midfield but the Dutchman would play the second 45 minutes after Allardyce reshuffled his team after going a goal down.
The Hammers had started the game in confident fashion, playing much the better football and they almost went ahead when Jordan Pickford made an excellent save to dent Mark Noble.
Joao Mario then missed by barely an inch with a low shot before Niasse was presented with a gift to try and open the scoring just after the half-hour mark. Seizing on an error by Angelo Ogbonna, he found himself with just the goalkeeper to beat but he was foiled by Adrian.
Niasse tested Adrian with another effort from further out as Everton periodically threatened but the home side got their reward for largely controlling the contest six minutes before the interval.
A loose ball skidded through Everton's back line and Lanzini latched onto it, driving into the box to slide his shot past Pickford into the corner of the goal.
Little changed after the break despite the introduction of Klaassen and then Theo Walcott for a visibly angry Cenk Tosun and West Ham doubled their lead in the 63rd minute.
Arnautovic rolled Michael Keane to open up space for a dipping shot that rocketed past Pickford from 20-plus yards.
Niasse came close to pulling a goal back in the 73rd minute when he rifled a shot from the angle that Adrian pushed into the post but the Senegalese striker's hard work and opportunism paid off a minute later.
He pulled a Phil Jagielka header down with his back to goal and turned smartly to smack the ball home from close range.
But any hope of a comeback by the Blues was put to bed when Lanzini curled a shot into the top corner via Pickford's glove to make it 3-1 with eight minutes to go.
Walcott had the ball in the net but had been correctly flagged offside while Adrian made a double save in the closing stages to deny the winger with his legs before batting away Niasse's follow-up shot.
Leicester City's defeat at Tottenham in a wild encounter at Wembley that finished 5-4 ensured that, despite losing, Everton finished in eighth place, five points behind Burnley and a massive 51 off champions Manchester City.
Everton bring the curtain down on a sorry 2017-18 season with a trip to the London Stadium to face West Ham United on Sunday.
With European qualification long since removed as an option and fears of relegation also in the rear view mirror, the Blues will be playing for eighth place and the extra couple of million pounds that will earn the club over a finish one place lower.
A win for Leicester City and anything less than three points for Sam Allardyce's team would see the Foxes leapfrog them but there is also the question of pride at stake and the need to provide Everton's long-suffering but committed travelling support something to cheer.
The Blues have won just three matches away from home all season in the Premier League, a symptom and consequence of the malaise that gripped the club after all the optimism of last summer.
All three of those victories have come under Allardyce but there has been precious little joy under the former England boss and speculation over his long-term position continues unabated, with The Mirror running a story today on their back page that the 63-year-old is facing the sack. It could very well be that this visit to East London marks Allardyce's last match in charge of Everton, with further change on the horizon once the campaign is out the way.
It might also have seen a second swan song from Wayne Rooney as he considers a move to Major League Soccer and DC United but he has been been ruled out with the minor knee injury that precluded his involvement against Southampton last weekend.
If he does indeed up sticks for America, his last involvement in a Royal Blue jersey will have been the 63 minutes he played at Huddersfield a fortnight ago in what was, at least, a rare occasion when Everton were full value for their away victory.
Theo Walcott, who also sat out the 1-1 draw with the Saints, has a chance of overcoming a thigh complaint and playing but he will be a late assessment. If he is also ruled out, it leaves Allardyce with the same pool of players from which to choose as last time, with the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Mason Holgate also still out.
There are likely to be changes to the starting XI, however, given Allardyce's criticism of those players whom he tasked with stepping into the breach last week but failed, in his opinion, to deliver.
By implication, it means that Yannick Bolasie and Nikola Vlasic could find themselves back on the bench and they could be joined by Tom Davies, despite his stoppage time goal that denied Southampton three points.
Given Rooney's absence, that could present Davy Klaassen with his first Premier League start since October and a belated opportunity to demonstrate that he has a future at Goodison Park regardless of who is in the dugout next season.
Interestingly, this final day clash is a meeting between two managers who are taking on their former clubs but without the certainty that they will remain in their current posts past this season.
Despite having fulfilled his own remit of keeping the Hammers in the Premier League, a feat that was confirmed beyond doubt with their win over Leicester last weekend, David Moyes has no guarantee that he will be kept on.
He could, however, put a glossy picture on his achievements at the London Stadium if he can put one over Everton for the first time since he left Goodison five years ago. If results go his way, the Hammers could finish in 10th place with a win on Sunday.
West Ham ground out a goalless draw with Manchester United on Thursday evening and given that Everton are notoriously limited when it comes to creating chances and putting shots on target, there is a danger that this could end up similarly bereft of entertainment. Last-day encounters, when the pressure is off and summer beckons, have been known to throw up surprises, however, so you never know!
If you need a hotel room for the game against West Ham, check affordable hotels in East London recommended by TravelMag.com.
Other hotels close to the stadium are the Holiday Inn London Stratford or The Premier Inn Stratford, both available from £100 per night.
TravelMag also shows the best ways to purchase tickets on this article. Plenty of affordable seats are still available for the last game of the season, albeit in the home sections as Everton routinely sell out their away allocation.
Kick-off 3pm, Sunday 13 May, 2018
Referee: Graham Scott
Last Time: West Ham United 0-0 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Jagielka, Keane, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Klaassen, Bolasie, Walcott, Tosun