One good season. One bad season. And one week to go until the third. But which direction are we going in?
The optimistic amongst us – and I firmly count myself as one of them – would love to believe that last season was just a blip. That the whole team had an off day (that lasted for 38 games), and we will surely play to our true potential this time around?
Or have we been found out? Was Roberto just the happy beneficiary of the legacy left by David Moyes, enhanced by some good loans/signings (McCarthy, Lukaku and Deulofeu) and a sprinkling of good fortune?
After another aimless, lacklustre performance against Villareal by what looks like our injury-dictated first eleven against Watford, the signs are not good. I was at the Leeds game yesterday and notwithstanding the fact we had a back four of youngsters, complemented by reserves and Barkley/McCarthy, we were equally dire and uninspired.
From what I have seen of our other pre-season games, there haven't been any signs of much-needed improvement or inspiration. Browning and to a lesser extent, McAleny, excepted. This, at a time when arguably we have a team with the greatest potential since we dominated English football in the mid-eighties.
We have a back four that, on paper, ought to be nigh on impregnable. Stones and Coleman are apparently coveted to the tune of a combined £45/50m. Baines could have added another £25m to that last year and Jagielka is acknowledged as one of the finest footballing centre halves there is today and an England regular.
In midfield we have another tipped by the media to go to a so-called 'bigger' club in McCarthy and everyone's bright hope for the future (even if hanging by a thread), Ross Barkley. Last year it would have taken £50m to prize him away we are told.
And up front we have what I consider to be a truly great trio of compatible talents, all blessed with pace and en eye for goal: Mirallas, Lukaku and Deulofeu.
A decent replacement for Howard and Cleveley stepping up to the plate would give us a pretty damn good first team. And plenty of strength in depth too, behind them.
But as I count down the days to the opening fixture, I am filled more with the dread of predictable anti-climax, than I am of a new beginning and a return to winning ways.
Last year the whole team suffered a collective lapse. Various people single out various individuals as having had a poor season, but in reality, not a single player distinguished himself. And I have absolutely no patience with the idea that playing In Europe destroyed our season. Quite the reverse in fact.
Our mini-European adventure was pure adrenalin on and off the field and surely will have boosted the players, not bedraggled them. We took on some very good teams and destroyed them in their own backyard.
The confidence that came from that must surely have been inspirational. The performance in Lille on our 'debut' and then the assured demolition of Wolfsburg and Young Boys, was fantastic and must have measurably lifted the players
This ridiculous theory that it makes players tired is just what we know it all to be: a feeble excuse.
Is staying in nice hotels and travelling back first class on a plane so debilitating? Especially when they still have three or four days to recover before the arduous task of playing football again. Poor dears.
So let's confine that theory to trash can. That wasn't the reason we failed last year.
But I'm damned if I know why we did!
So what do we do to redress the situation this time and not be overtaken by the likes of Swansea, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Southampton again? Never mind those loadsamoney gobsh*tes at Tottenham and, of course, the Gobsh*tes themselves.
Again, I'm short on answers, apart from one, simple suggestion: And that is, now that we have proved we can pass the ball almost incessantly between our back four and defensive midfield, let's find a way to include our front players in the master plan.
Give Barkley the opportunity to push on at pace with the ball.
Give Lukaku the service he craves by supplying him with passes to run on to.
Feed Deulofeu on the wing and encourage him to go for goal.
And whatever we do, for Christ's sake keep Mirallas. He is our one, true, matchwinner. If we sell him and end up Lennon, then we will have been well and truly mugged by Daniel Levy and have another journeyman on the payroll.
When we get the ball forward quickly, with RB, RL, GD and KM all in pursuit, we have the capacity to trouble any defence. It works when we try it. So if you're listening Roberto, why don't you try it more often?
This pass, pass, pass (repeat 37 times) across the field 10 yards away from the opposition area is NOT working. We can all see that. Why can't you?
Aside from that, three other fundamental things occur to me:
Osman should only be used as a substitute to change the game in the second half if we have a stalemate.
Naismith should only be used as a striker, and even then, only from the subs' bench. Great to see him 'making an effort', but we do not need him filling-in behind the full backs, or digging the ball out in front of the back four.
And last but not least - and I don't think I am alone on this one - stop this blind faith/come-what-may fixation with the Barry/McCarthy axis in front of the back four. It doesn't work. If it did, we'd be rock solid at the back as they would be doing a proven job.
But more importantly, it stifles our team's creativity, at a time when we desperately need a huge injection of more of it.
McCarthy has sufficient pace, awareness and vigour to do a Carsley, so let's have Barkley and Cleverley as the other two midfield players and be brave.
Again, we can all see it is not working, so why persist with it. Try a change Roberto and drop your favourite. Your future may depend on it...
Then the buck comes round to the players. It's up to them when that whistle blows on Saturday, so show some collective nous you lot and state your intentions from the kick-off.
We've been given a home game against one of the promoted sides. Make good use of it.
Then let's take the game to the Mancs, Chelsea and Arsenal again on their own turf. We went back into 'we are not worthy' mode last year. It was retrograde, embarrassing and defeatist.
And there lies the key. If we think defeat, we'll usually end up with it. So let's start making teams worry about us again and how they're going to cope with the likes of Coleman, Baines, Jagielka, Stones, McCarthy, Barkley, Cleverley, Deulofeu, Lukaku and Mirallas.
If we end up being more concerned about the likes of Jedinak, Adam, Wanyama, Mason and heaven forbid, Henderson, we'll get what we deserve.
We are EVERTON FC. Start playing like it and show that last season was the exception, not the new rule.