Something different has been going on in the last three years in the Premier League. Many Evertonians have recognised that the old order was finding it increasingly difficult to assert its dominance and this led to many of us believing that we had a real chance to crash the top-four cartel this year. Hence frustration and anger as we have seen.
The received wisdom was that there were teams with loads of cash and they were inevitably going to stay out in front and we had somehow to sneak up on the rails into 4th or 5th whilst they were distracted by the Champions' League and managerial changes. You could argue that Leicester have done just that.
I think that we are witnessing a longer-term change driven by two factors.
The increased amount of cash generated by TV has already had an effect and the quality of many clubs' recruitment processes, in identifying unlikely, but relatively cheaper players from abroad, has done a great deal to level the playing field. It is also possible that teams have been setting their stalls out to be hard to beat, conscious as they are since the latest Sky deal was agreed that dropping out of the Premier League before next seasons riches' impact would be terminal for their top-tier ambitions.
Two years ago, at the end of the 2013-14 season, we finished fifth with 72 points. The four teams above finished on 86, 84, 82 and 79 points. That year, Leicester's 81 points would have got them fourth. This year, 72 points would have seen us finish second. In that season there were 1052 goals scored and 302 games were won. This season only 1026 goals were scored and 274 games were won. That season the 17th club amassed 33 points, this season it was 37. There were more draws.
On this evidence, I have been lazy and not done the analysis for previous years, with the extra cash, the average quality of the players that the Premier League attracts has risen and should rise further if they are following the money, although prices will be inflated anyway. I can't see any of the usual suspects being able to do a Real Madrid and attract a functioning team of Galacticos that will dominate.
What does all this mean for the Blues? Well, we ought to be able to recruit at the top end of the mid-range teams, the difference will be the tactical approach and understanding of the manager. Like it or not, all of the successful ones start with setting up a team that is difficult to beat. The better managers send out a team set up in that way but recruit players who can meet that need but who can also change the game on their own within the framework. The best managers are able to do all that and change the shape of the team on the pitch and through substitutions to secure points under pressure or to pursue draws from losing positions or wins from parity.