A campaign that began with genuine hopes of progress is instead ending with Everton manager Sam Allardyce lauding the mediocre, describing a 1-1 draw at Swansea on Saturday as a "great point."
This pitiful embrace of mediocrity is turning a storied club into an irrelevance. There is no scenario in which settling for a point against the team fourth from bottom in the league is acceptable. Yet here was Allardyce going one step further and actively protecting a point, introducing centre-back Ramiro Funes Mori in place of winger Yannick Bolasie.
Four more games until the end of the season is four too many for Allardyce. This failed experiment has Everton regressing further each match. Prolonging this farce has no obvious benefits and only risks widening the disconnect between supporters and their club.
While the general decision to substitute an attacking player for a central defender rightly attracted derision from the away support, it was at least positive to see Funes Mori make his first appearance since March 2017 after overcoming a succession of injuries. A player returning from injury as the only worthwhile positive is also a sign of how far Everton have fallen to this point.
Everton fittingly needed an own goal to break the deadlock on a day when they rarely looked like scoring themselves, but it was all downhill thereafter. In one of the least successful defensive ploys of the season, Everton decided to leave the opposition's top scorer unmarked inside the penalty area to fire home the equaliser.
The terrible irony of Allardyce setting up so defensively is that Everton still cannot defend. Two of the three teams currently in the relegation zone have conceded fewer goals this season. Everton have not kept a clean sheet away from home since December, a run of seven successive matches. Allardyce is failing at the only thing he values: ultra-defensive football.
Manager rating out of 10
2 -- Two minutes after Everton hit the Swansea woodwork, Allardyce brought on an extra defender for an attacking player and switched to a five-man defence. A perfect snapshot of his miserable tenure.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 7 -- Too many aimless clearances in the opening minutes before his performance settled down and normal service resumed. One of the few undoubted positives this season.
DF Seamus Coleman, 7 -- Poor clearance for the equaliser and missed a glorious chance when rattling the crossbar from a few yards out, but the Everton right-back pushed forward whenever possible and offered an attacking threat absent elsewhere.
DF Phil Jagielka, 7 -- The 35-year-old is 11 seasons into his Everton career and still the most reliable central defender at the club, which says a lot about his consistency but even more about the recruitment in the meantime.
DF Michael Keane, 5 -- A horrendous back-pass under zero pressure defined a nervy first-half display. Keane improved gradually after the interval but lost too many aerial contests against a diminutive home attack.
DF Leighton Baines, 5 -- Baines made an excellent block in the first half -- though he knew little about it -- and pushed forward well without much reward. On the back foot more in the second and not always convincing in the process.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 7 -- There are still occasions when his languid style can easily appear like a lack of effort, but the French midfielder continued recent improvement with an efficient midfield performance.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 5 -- On his return to the starting XI, the tireless midfielder at times played higher up the pitch and did not look at all comfortable in doing so, wasting a clear opportunity inside the penalty area.
MF Theo Walcott, 5 -- A continuation of recent weeks as fleeting promise illuminated long spells of nothingness. Everton focusing 45 percent of their attacks down the left flank did not help his cause.
MF Wayne Rooney, 5 -- Difficult to tell what his instructions were as Rooney flirted with several positions in the centre of the pitch but left no lasting impact in any of them.
MF Yannick Bolasie, 5 -- Allardyce asking for patience as Bolasie works his way back from injury is at odds with the decision to start him every match since his return. A spell as a substitute would seem beneficial as the winger continues to struggle.
FW Cenk Tosun, 6 -- Fluffed a late headed chance but kept Everton alive with two goal-line clearances in defence and showed his creative qualities when setting up chances for Coleman and Walcott.
MF Beni Baningime, 5 -- A willing worker but not the substitute Everton needed.
DF Ramiro Funes Mori, N/R -- First appearance of the season after injury.
MF Nikola Vlasic, N/R -- His first outing since January amounted to eight minutes.