578 Everton appearances between them, 150 games starting together. Everton have produced two of the finest full-backs in the Premier League era and both spending most their careers in the Royal Blue shirt. Coleman has just overtaken Alan Ball and Sandy Brown’s number of appearances for Everton in all competitions, whilst Baines is only 6 matches off from making it to 400 games. It’s relieving to see them both back in our defence after many, many months of shaky/inexperienced players taking their place instead. Their returns have seemed to boost the team over the last couple of games, and with Man City and a Merseyside Derby coming up, we needed a good run in to face the country’s top sides this season. But just how influential are they on this Everton team?
Makings of Modern Full-Backs
Traditionally, both full-backs stayed in defence throughout the entire 90 minutes, but now we see them as being a crucial link from being in your own third to the other teams. Off-the-ball runs are essential to how teams break down their opposition, no other role do this quite as often as full-backs in terms of being involved in build-up/attacking play.
Full-backs can be the most creative players on the pitch if you enable them to be in the right formation and system. This is what made Moyes’ team so dangerous at times, especially with Baines and Pienaar. Under Martinez, we saw much more ability from Coleman, both him and Baines identical in terms of positioning on the field and were often overlapping the two wingers. Since then, we’ve really lacked a plan from a manager, however, both Baines and Coleman have remained crucial components in the Everton team and we really do rely on what they do.
Just how important are they both?
Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman have directly contributed to 63 of Everton’s goals (in terms of goals and assists), which is 24% of all goals The Toffees have scored in this time. Considering the domination of Romelu Lukaku and the involvement of Barkley, to have such a high percentage is quite something when you reflect on Everton’s attacking ability.
Overall in the 150 games, they’ve played with each-other, Everton average 1.6 points per game (not always as full-backs). Without them, this rate falls too 1.4 points per game. This isn’t a massive decrease over-time, but in the last 3 seasons, there’s a much bigger ratio.
Together, it’s 1.7 points per game, without its 1.2 points per game.
This provides a big difference between European form and bottom half football. Maybe this isn’t indicated massively this season as they’ve only played twice together this campaign, but without them, you can clearly see a lack of productivity from the wings. As well as that, the team is incredibly unbalanced, having Martina at left-back is arguably one of the club’s biggest ever downgrades.
Both Baines and Coleman deliver both offensively and defensively, and without the two we are affected very badly, scoring just 1.1 goals and conceding 1.2 goals per game. In comparison, we score 1.7 goals and concede just 0.9 goals with them in the team!
So, what do they do?
Let’s take the Stoke game as an example. Both players had the exact same amount of touches (69) during the 90 minutes. Baines’ passes were short, mostly aiming towards the middle of the pitch where Gueye and Rooney were operating. Baines created two chances and made 51% of his touches on the ball in the opposition half. Coleman’s passes were longer, aiming to feed Walcott on the wing. The Irish full-back completed 3 take-ons during the match as well; a ball-carrier is something that we’ve lacked all season.
Both players had the exact same amount of touches (69) during the 90 minutes. Baines’ passes were short, mostly aiming towards the middle of the pitch where Gueye and Rooney were operating. Baines created two chances and made 51% of his touches on the ball in the opposition half. Coleman’s passes were longer, aiming to feed Walcott on the wing. The Irish full-back completed 3 take-ons during the match as well; a ball-carrier is something that we’ve lacked all season. Coleman and Baines’ average positions are identical, both sitting on the half-way line when we have possession.
This was seen throughout the game, when the ball is in the middle of the field, both flanks are an option for the man in possession to go too. With them, two moving up the field this creates an overlap opportunity and a 2v1 on the opposition full-back unless the opposition winger moves back deeper (which eases the pressure on whoever has the ball).
When Baines has the ball, 9 times out of 10, he passes and follows his run. For a team that struggles with being so central, he gives Everton actual width to work with which enables spaces being created. He has several options in this picture, passing it back to Gueye being his safest route and going straight to Tosun arguably the most dangerous with two defenders around him.
Baines does a 1-2 with Bolasie and finds Calvert-Lewin with a great pass between two defenders. Not only does this take out two defenders from the game but creates space behind the defence. Instead of going for goal from his position, Calvert-Lewin should’ve squared the ball back to Tosun for his hat-trick, but the move is a very good one.
Coleman, on the other hand, looks for the channel ball, either finding Walcott or Tosun in the final third. Here you see Coleman pointing towards where he wants Tosun to run.
When the channel pass is completed, Coleman often runs as centrally as possible so instead of being an option on the wing, he’s an option directly at the goal. Coleman’s crossing ability isn’t noteworthy, but in the box, he is a huge threat where he can shoot or produce the final ball.
Both players have written themselves in Everton history and have a huge case for being the best in the Premiership over the last 10/15 years in their respected positions. With them on the side, we are much more dangerous, even after both have only just recovered from long-term injuries. Despite this, Baines turns 34 this year and Coleman is almost 30-bound. Both have been incredibly missed over the last few months, but replacing them is a whole different level. Kenny has potential at right-back, but Baines’s schedule must be reduced a lot if we are to see the very best of him again.
Big thanks to @Matt_Cheetham for stats.
Up the Toffees.