Michael Keane says Everton will work to “come back stronger" next season after ending their campaign with a 3-1 defeat at West Ham United.
The Blues travelled to the London Stadium on Sunday protecting a five-match unbeaten run and having lost only once in their previous eight fixtures.
Centre-back Keane, who had been instrumental to Everton recording four shutouts and conceding only six goals in that eight-game period, was particularly frustrated his side could not sign off on a high for the 3,000-strong contingent of Evertonians who backed the side in the capital.
The Toffees appeared to have set up a grandstand finish against the Hammers when Oumar Niasse finished smartly with 16 minutes to play, after Manuel Lanzini and Marko Arnautovic struck either side of half-time to open up a two-goal lead for the home team.
It was Argentine Lanzini who would have the decisive say, however, the skilful attacker curling in his second goal of the game to condemn Everton to their first defeat in four away matches.
“We wanted to finish the season on a high and keep our undefeated run going,” said Keane. “But West Ham were the better team on the day. We had some chances and could have got a result but I did not think we deserved anything to be honest.
“I thought West Ham caused us problems in the holes, getting in between the lines. The lads were motivated for the game – every game is massive at this club.
“We had great fans travelling to watch us, so we wanted to put on a good performance for them. We are disappointed and know we can play a lot better but we have to look at how we can improve over the summer and come back stronger next year.”
Keane started 28 Premier League matches in his debut Everton campaign following a move from Burnley last summer.
The 25-year-old, capped four times by England, established a strong relationship with captain Phil Jagielka in the middle of the Blues’ back-four after the turn of the year, helping the Blues rise up the Premier League table and finish the season in eighth position.
Keane's overriding emotion, however, was one of determination to ensure the team improves on this term’s performance when the 2018/19 campaign kicks off in August.
“I would not say happy we are happy, because the expectation at the start of the season was to be better than we have been,” added Keane.
“We got ourselves away from trouble after it looked at one point like we were in a fight. That was pleasing but I do not think we can be happy with how the season has gone as a whole and where we finished.
“We have to build something stronger as a team for next season. We have to put in the work in pre-season and I am confident we will come back stronger next year, individually and as a team.
“But it is alright saying that, we know we have to go and work and prove it for next year."