After all the escapades of Saturday’s merseyside derby at Goodison park.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton sit top of the table with four wins from five, one point ahead of Aston Villa. After dismantling Tottenham, Palace, West Brom and Brighton and drawing with Liverpool in the opening two months of the season fans on the blue half of Merseyside have aspirations for a first trophy-laiden season since 1995. The Premier league’s top scorers thus far have been in fine form winning all of their games across all competitions to start the season. But just why have Everton started the season so well and what has changed under the Italian’s stewardship? Here’s 5 reasons that could be the answer.
Goals, Goals, Goals
Last season Everton finished nearly bang in the middle of the pack for goals scored. The Toffees scored 44 goals in 38 games which is an average of just 1.1 a game. Not amazing but not a disaster as it ranked 11th across all 20 teams. Despite being outscored by West Ham and Southampton last season that rate has skyrocketed this season to 3 per game with Dominic Calvert Lewin scoring 6 of the team’s 12 goals this season.
The first thing we can interpret from this data is that Everton have started the season a lot more clinical than they were last season. With 12.3 shots a game last year Everton averaged more shots than Wolves (12.1), Arsenal (10.7) and Tottenham (11.7) but scored alarmingly less goals, 17 compared to the later.
This season the Shots per game (SPG) average has only increased to 13.3 across the four game sample size but the average of goals per game has trebled, showing a much better efficiency in front of goal. Albeit Everton the small sample size and the fact that Everton haven’t played some of the league’s heavier hitters to date, the statistics put them on projection to push 100 goals for the season challenging the likes of Manchester City’s numbers. The most alarming stat may be that the Toffe’s shot to goal ratio has risen from 0.27 to 0.9!
Switch of play
Last season Everton were one of the most dominant right sided attacking teams. 40% of all their attacking play came down the right flank, a number only bettered by three teams. Their attacking play down the left was valued at 37%, the second worse in the league.
This year that number has completely flipped. The left side of their attack is now attributed to 42% whilst they right has fallen to 32%. What appeared to be a fairly even split between the two channels in 19/20 has suddenly become a lot more favourable to the side of Lucas Digne and Richarlison and conveniently James Rodriguez also plays on the left hand side of the midfield three. Only Andrew Robertson has put in more crosses than Digne so far this year and only three more players have actually touched the ball more so far than the frenchman.
One of the more subtle changes that may have gone under the radar is the growth and maturity of Richarlison. Questions have continually been asked since the Brazilian’s £50 Million switch from Watford in 2018, a price tag it’s fair to say that may have engulfed him thus far.
The 23 year old has been consistently in the top 10 most dispossessed players in the last three seasons. Losing the ball 244 times in 109 games for Everton and Watford, an average of 2.2 times a game. That number however fell last year from 90 dispossessions to 74 and currently is on pace to fall again. The Brazilian is averaging just 2 dispossessions a game now which could see this figure fall somewhere in the range of 65-70, near enough league average and well clear of the players who repeatedly dominate this negative statistic like Zaha, Sterling and Jordan Ayew.
Richarlison is currently not ranked in the top ten for the first time in his Premier League career and is showing flashes of higher efficiency and maturity in his offensive output. His 3 goals contributions across the 4 games could also see him smash his personal best of 16 g/a contributions in 2019/20.
There is almost a direct correlation in the league between the amount of possession you have and the amount of goals you score. Everton finished 11th in goals scored last season and coincidentally 11th in average possession. This year both have rocketed up.
Everton now have an average match possession of 54.5 up from 49% last season. In Layman’s terms they’ve essentially gone from having less of the ball to more of it. The Toffees have played the fourth most passes as a whole this season whilst the centre back pairing of Yerry Mina and Michael Keane both rank in the top 8 in terms of individual statistics.
This is a positive indicator as 8 of the top ten players with the most passes last season were defenders and all but one of those 8 finished the season in the top 6 with their club, dominating the ball at the back has become an efficient indicator for the Premier League’s bigger teams.
Last season Michael Keane played the most passes in the Everton team but he only ranked 59th across the whole Premier league. The blues only had a further 3 players in the top 100 whilst Liverpool had 8.
Off the ball struggles
In the summer Carlo Ancelotti completely rebuilt the nucleus of Merseyside’s midfield, bringing in Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez to man the centre of the park. These additions could actually be the main reason for Everton’s revival thus far.
Gylfi Sigurdsson was the most productive tackler in the middle of the Blues midfield, tallying up 50 tackles in 35 games, he was only bettered by Richarlison and Lucas Digne. Everton were giving the ball away at an above average rate and winning it back at a below average rate, the staplement of a below average team.
This year however Allan, Richarlison and Lucas digne are all in the top 15 players for most tackles shortley followed by Doucoure and Andre Gomes who are in the top 50. The tackles Per game number has actually risen from the fourth worst in the league to second best.
Opponent shot per game numbers have decreased from 11 a game to just 8 and on top of that the interceptions per game numbers have risen from 10 a game to 15, which at current is the best in the league. Ancelloti clearly visualised the off the ball issues in the side and at present has turned them into one of the best sides not only on the ball but also off it.