Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd has expressed his concern over the Bombers' finals tilt, stating a top-eight finish would be "too early" for the young side.
The Bombers have defied belief this season as they currently remain in the hunt for a finals finish with an 8-10 record as we head into the last month of the 2021 campaign.
Essendon have also seen great input from a number of debutants throughout the year, with Harry Jones, Archie Perkins and Nik Cox playing key roles under Rutten in their maiden season.
While the club looks to end its winless finals run, Lloyd believes Rutten's side 'aren't ready' to compete in September just yet.
"Sometimes you can make finals too early," Lloyd said on Footy Classified.
"I reckon it’d be too early for the Bombers if they made it this year.
"It’s been a good year, but they’re not ready for it."
"Sometimes you can make finals too early and I reckon it’d be too early for the Bombers if they made it this year. It’s been a good year, but they’re not ready for it.” - @matthewlloyd18#9FootyClassified | Watch @channel9 pic.twitter.com/7ff4NLJ5G7
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) July 26, 2021
Fellow club great Tim Watson shared a similar view on his former side's season, believing a finish outside of the top-eight isn't the be-all and end-all for the Bombers this year.
“It won’t be the end of the world (if they don’t make finals),” Watson said on SEN.
“If you’re building a great team, and that’s what they’re attempting to do, they’re certainly not a great team yet, but you’ve got to build it on a winning culture.
“If you get there, then that’s great because you’ve won enough games to get there and that’s great for you as a group of players and what you get out of that and what you’re building as a result of that is going to hold you in good stead going forward.
“But if you don’t, then it’s not the end of the world for this group.
They need to go back and be realistic and I think they are. I think they’ve handled it pretty well.”
The Bombers missed a critical chance to occupy eight place on the ladder following their costly loss to the Giants on Sunday, booting just one goal in the second half to fall 13-points short.
Essendon will look ahead to their final four matches in the season, where they will face the Swans, Bulldogs, Suns and then Magpies.