–Marouane Fellaini won more tackles, ground duels, aerial duels and made more passes than anyone else at the club.
–Marouane Fellaini was also second in the league with 84 tackles, and won the ball 190 times in midfield, by far the most in the top flight.
By May, Everton’s midfield was far more fixed than at any other time during the season. Steven Pienaar would play left, Leon Osman right (although both would interchange), then Darron Gibson would feature in the middle with Marouane Fellaini and one of Phil Neville or Tim Cahill. This stability was undoubtedly a factor in Everton’s sudden sprint towards the Premier League finish line. Here are the numbers for midfielders with ten starts.
12 – Steven Pienaar attempted 4 more though-balls than anyone at the club, despite only playing 14 games.
1%/5% – From last season Everton improved their passing from 76% to 77%, and their tackling from 73% to 78%.
88 – Only Grant Holt conceded more fouls (89) than Marouane Fellaini in the Premier League this season.
29% – Seamus Coleman passed the highest proportion of passes backwards out of any midfielder or defender at Everton.
It is impossible to sieve through these results without highlighting Fellaini’s impressive year. The Belgian was inspirational, starting the campaign as a deep-lying ball-winner, having a phase as an archetypal box-to-box midfielder, before finishing in imposing form, playing just off Nikica Jelavic.
His success as a second striker raised a debate among Evertonians about what his best role is. It may simply be the case that he is such an important factor; he makes an impact wherever he plays, and is missed wherever he does not. Personally, his ball winning numbers sway my verdict. He is the Premier League’s best ball winner. He won possession 190 times in midfield, 26 times more than his nearest challenger (Alex Song, on 164). Only Fulham’s Moussa Dembele (with 86) won more tackles and none of this season’s top ten tacklers (in terms of quantity) could match Fellaini’s success rate of 85% – incidentally, just nine players attempted more tackles than his 99, and all of those nine players lost far more tackles than him. In short, these remarkable numbers convince me he is more effective when played deeper.
As good as Fellaini was at the start of the season, when he was paired with Gibson he seemed to find a new gear. The Irishman’s exceptional ball retention skills, and calm, uncomplicated technique – magnified by the rare amount of times he was dispossessed or lost possession – allowed Fellaini to play his natural, more frantic game of harassing ball carriers all across the pitch.
Elsewhere, Leon Osman produced another fine term. Creatively he was the Toffees’ second most consistent avenue of production, and was one of the tidiest passers. The amount of times he loses the ball will always peeve a selection of supporters, but he was one of Everton’s better contributors. Returning to Goodison Park, Steven Pienaar’s 14-game loan spell was his most productive form at the club. He recorded a joint-best goals tally of four (in the league), and incredibly led the team in assists. His creative nous, vision and intricate passing ability drastically augmented the Toffees’ game. His inclusion significantly upgraded and sped up the passing game, making his side far more able to pass through a side, instead of overly relying on Baines’ crossing.
Whilst the four players covered enjoyed strong seasons, the remaining five had a more arduous time. Tim Cahill had his least effective season at Everton, with a poor return of just two goals. He still gave his all, regardless of form, playing in many differing roles and actually ended the season playing in as deep a berth as he has occupied under David Moyes. Uncharacteristically, he was even the Toffees’ deepest lying midfielder for a few games. Phil Neville also struggled for consistency in his first season where he was not guaranteed automatic selection. Towards the end of the year, when playing in midfield, he did contribute some solid passing performances, producing an accuracy of above 90%.
For Rodwell, Coleman and Drenthe, it has generally been a year to forget. Drenthe actually had a very fine season on the pitch, but his off-field antics exasperated Moyes one too many times, and he won’t be back. Coleman possibly suffered a little from second season syndrome, unable to catch his opponent quite as unaware as the year before. For Rodwell, it was a tale of more injury woes, after such an encouraging start had culminated with a first England cap in November.
–Only Papiss Cisse (with 11) has scored more league goals than Nikica Jelavic since he scored his first goal for Everton.
Up front, Everton’s fortunes could not have contrasted more before and after the end of the January transfer window. Before, Saha, Stracqualursi and Cahill all battled away with limited success, until Nikica Jelavic arrived and couldn’t stop scoring. Apostolos Vellios and Victor Anichebe also played (and added seven league goals between them), but neither was on the pitch enough to call for meaningful analysis alongside this quartet.
4 – Victor Anichebe scored more goals as a substitute than anyone else in the league. It was also his best scoring season at Everton.
33% – Apostolos Vellios’ chance conversion rate (3 goals from 9 shots) was the best at the club. He also hit the target with 6 of his 9 shots.
43 – Denis Stracqualursi was caught offside every 43 minutes he was on the field.
50 – Louis Saha scored 8 goals in his final 50 league games for Everton. Jelavic came in and scored 8 in his first 10 league games.
Clearly the signing of Jelavic was one of the buys of the season, and is already up with the craftiest punts in Moyes’ transfer history. His rapacious, clinical streak in front of goal is something Everton have long been craving, and his unerring movement and intelligent link-up play makes his all-round game as good as Evertonians have had up front for several years.
Elsewhere, it was a case of bad, and simply awful. Saha plugged away, but had to try to revitalise his flagging game somewhere else, as it was not working in Everton colours. Stracqualursi could never be accused of not giving every ounce of energy to the cause, but he is not a player of Premier League calibre. Supporters will also be intrigued to see if a fitter Anichebe can come back and keep up his return to scoring form, and many will hope to see more of Vellios next year too.
Next Page: Overall Squad Comparison – Analysis of the squad as a whole looking at stats for the Top 3 in each category. (Top right/Bottom right for link)