It’s over. Another season, another 9 months of football is finally concluded. This Premier League season would go down as an interesting one, the development of the 3-at-the-back formations and arguably the best managers in history with the likes of Conte, Guardiola, Klopp and Pochettino all in the mix. For Everton, this was expected to be a transitional campaign, replacing and repairing the deadwood and the damage caused by the club’s former manager. Ronald Koeman was the man to come in after a successful spell at Southampton. The club also changed the structure of who’s in charge, employing Steve Walsh, the man who brought in Kante and Mahrez to Leicester, as the club’s Director of Football. So how did the team get on? What was our biggest strengths and what we need to improve on? Here’s the season review.
Positives of the Campaign
The entire ideology that Goodison Park was the “fortress” under David Moyes was completely obliterated by Roberto Martinez and last season showed. We may have scored the same amount of goals at home as Leicester did last season, but we conceded the same amount as relegated Norwich did (30). One of the big aims was to regain an immense home record and Koeman managed to do this.
Everton managed to add 20 more points to our home record this season. We dropped less points against poorer sides and only suffered two defeats at Goodison under Koeman (the Derby and champions Chelsea). It’s important to have a good home record, especially when going into European competition next season.
Only 16 goals were conceded at Goodison Park, which only Tottenham and Manchester United have less. After a diabolical campaign under Martinez, it was good to see Everton’s home record improve significantly.
Signings of Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin have been crucial to contain a good defence (for the level our defence is). In total, Koeman’s team have conceded 11 less goals overall.
Our defensive errors have been halved and we’ve won many, many more aerial duels compared to last season. Since January, Schneiderlin has made a gigantic impact in the Everton team. He’s missed out on 4 games since he signed with the Blues, drawing one of them and losing the other 3. Idrissa Gueye won more tackles than anybody else this campaign (103) and is one of our best readers of the game, having made 75 interceptions. We’d have an amazing chance of competing in the Europa League, if we have a good window also, if Schneiderlin and Gueye stayed fit for the rest of the campaign.
Death of the 4231
Over the last two seasons, the team that has broken down the 4231 the best has gone onto lift the Premier League title. Leicester decimated teams in a 442, whilst Conte’s 343 has pushed Chelsea to a new level above every other team in England. For a big part of the season, the Everton team was so drilled into a 4231, Koeman was forced to play the team in this formation. Until around January, apart from the odd couple of games, this was our main formation.
This was all before Koeman put the team in a 352. Mirallas and Lukaku upfront with Coleman and Baines as wing backs. Everton play best in this formation, beating every team they faced in January and going unbeaten in 3 months.
The injury Seamus Coleman suffered completely changed the system, and since then Everton have been in a 433. Mason Holgate took his place at right-back. The 433 is ok, but it’s left Lukaku completely isolated at times. Either way, the death of the 4321 is a massive sigh of relief, our creativity improves whilst our defence is more solidified.
Negatives of the Season
For those that follow us on Twitter have seen me often complain about the lack of creativity to Lukaku and the zero connection between him and Ross Barkley. Over the past 4 seasons they’ve played together, Barkley has assisted Lukaku only 6 times. Gerard Deulofeu had the same amount over a 3 months’ spell at the start of the 15/16 season and loaning him out has proven to be costly. The fact that Barkley has more touches of the ball on average than any other Everton player, just shows how poor it is that he’s only assisted Lukaku 3 times, Bolasie has had more (4) and he’s missed most the season.
Here is Everton’s expected passing rating. It shows just how many chances we are creating from nowhere (in terms of our build-up also). The fact Baines and Coleman are the only two that attempt harder passes which payoff is abysmal. Everton are in desperate need for a playmaker in the team.
Here is Everton’s chance creation map from the wing (open play only). Only 9 goals have come from this, considering 72% of our attacking play is from the wing, this is a very poor amount of goals. It also shows to Kevin Mirallas that cutting in from the left to blast it 40 miles into the Park End doesn’t do anybody any favours.
Everton’s home record has been brilliant and a massive improvement, but our away record is baffling bad. Overall, Everton scored 12 goals from open play away from home… Twelve. It’s a shocking amount, especially if we want to get far in Europa League with the away goals rule in place. To score just 12 open play goals is a massive disappointment, especially with Romelu Lukaku in the side.
In total, just 30% of our points accumulated are away from home. The competition around us often has very similar percentages (Manchester United, 49% – 51%, Arsenal, 60% – 40%), for Everton to improve we must pick up many more points away from home.
Not only that but our creative play also goes down when playing away, not a single Everton player has made more than 2 key passes per game away from home – the highest being Yannick Bolasie at 1.9. We need a consistent creator in the side if we want to progress.
Exposed through the middle
Our midfield is very solid but our backline is completely breakable. With an ageing centre-back partnership of Ashley Williams (32) and Phil Jagielka (34), they’ve been exposed on so many different occasions, but the amount of times through the middle is abysmal. Here is the amount of chances created against Everton from the ball being in the middle of the park. Eight chances have turned into goals from opportunities created from the middle of the box.
Just watch Chelsea’s third goal at Goodison, Fabregas, Costa and Willian all running past about 5/6 of our players. When Fabregas makes his run into the box, Jagielka doesn’t even take any notice, he was too busy watching what Costa was doing with the ball. His time is up in an Everton shirt in my honest opinion, and Williams isn’t any better either.
Players of the Season
It’s easy to put down someone who’s scored 25 goals for your club in one season, but this is by far Lukaku’s best campaign in a blue shirt. He does receive a lot of backlash from Everton supporters, and with some of the players around him it may be slightly harsh, but it’s an absolute miracle that he’s scored this amount of goals from a team that barely creates anything. He’s gone down as Everton’s best Premier League striker and regardless if he goes or not, he’s been a good servant staying at the club after two 11thn place finishes.
What a bargain. Gueye has been unbelievable all season and his stats are off the charts. Most tackles in the squad (4.1 per game), most interceptions in the squad (2.5 per game), 2nd highest passes made per game (57 per game, Schneiderlin with the most) and has amazingly overtaken Barry with the most bookings of the season at 11. Without him we would’ve conceded so many more goals.
To be 18-years-old and to already have 18 Premier League starts is very impressive. Tom’s had a couple of games when he hasn’t been up to the level he’s shown, but ever since he pocketed the entire Man City attack and scored arguably one of the greatest first goals Goodison has seen in recent memory, it would be criminal not to give him a mention. He’s got a lot of development ahead, but with Koeman’s coaching he could be one of the most crucial players in the Everton squad in the next few years.
Who needs to go?
With European Football ahead, depth is very much needed at Everton, so chances are it’s not going to be a sell-to-buy transfer window (although it is Everton). Selling Ross Barkley has been a hot topic in recent weeks, and to be honest, I’m not really arsed if he stays or goes. The problem is he’s the only person in that midfield who can run the ball forward, but at the same time he isn’t a creator. Like Deulofeu, he has ability, but Koeman doesn’t believe in him. Martinez put so much hype on his shoulders that it’s weighed him down to a level he can’t recover from at Everton. Now is the best time to sell him, and I wouldn’t be opposed to the potential transfer.
For the rest of the squad, there is still a lot of deadwood that can be cleared out; James McCarthy will sell for a good price, Arouna Kone is just Arouna Kone and you can even argue Kevin Mirallas would leave for a decent amount of money, although a new contract has already been signed. It’s a gigantic summer ahead.
How did Koeman do?
Last summer I wrote a two-parter on Koeman’s philosophy and what can be done to the squad. Although this season he has had a couple of games when he’s got it wrong, but considering the massive job he had to do to repair the team, to reach the target with the team is a good start. Koeman’s philosophy is well intact now but him and Walsh need to bring in a good number of signings for his team to really work.
We all knew that this season was going to be a transitional one, a good majority of fans predicted a seventh placed finish and we achieved that quite comfortably. A decent cup-run would’ve been great but that would go down as a huge disappointment, being knocked out earlier in both the League Cup and FA Cup. Silverware needs to come in and right now most of that team are all bottlers (*cough* Anfield *cough*).
On the plus side, Everton are making steps forward. This season won’t go down as a great one on the pitch, but it’s an improvement and I do believe the club is willing to make gigantic leaps forward behind the scenes. Developments of the new ground, a big summer ahead, many youth players coming through. We do have a lot to look forward to.
Stats via, SoccerStats, Squawka, WhoScored and @footballfactman,
Up the Toffees.