Over the last ten years, you could throw a hat over the phrases used to describe David Moyes’ Everton. Synonyms from the same hymn sheet, most words signify hard work and togetherness. Over praising the manager and undermining the players, pundits often ignore the finer strings in the Everton bow. When referring to Everton, people use the underdog and weight punching lines all too readily.
For several years, the Everton midfield comprised of Mikel Arteta, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman. With those players leading the way, there was always a degree of culture to Everton’s football. Now, others are slowly starting to realise this. Despite impressing for months, parts of the footballing world only noticed Marouane Fellaini after he dominated Manchester United.
After their best start in eight years, the media are finally unanimous in their praise of Everton. Having strengthened the attacking aspects of the side, Everton are producing impressive attacking football. While the impressive start is a refreshing change, Everton planted the seeds of change around ten months ago.
Since 5th December 2011, only Bolton and Arsenal have left Goodison Park victorious with Everton unbeaten in the other 18 home games. Overall, David Moyes’ men have tasted defeat in just seven of their last 38 games in all competitions.
The upturn in fortunes began with the January signings and their impact warrants a tip of the hat. Since returning, Steven Pienaar has featured in 20 matches. With 46 chances created, eight assists and five goals, his impact is telling. In 2012, no Premier League player can better Pienaar’s assist tally. Nikica Jelavic has 10 goals in his last 11 outings whilst Darron Gibson is yet to taste league defeat in a blue shirt.
Moving forward to this season, Everton are making a mockery of their slow starters tag. On their best start in eight years, a win at Wigan would equal Everton’s best Premier League start with the statistics showing the major improvements in all areas. Winning four of their first six league games, Everton will travel to Wigan looking to make it five with David Moyes unbeaten in six meetings against Roberto Martinez.
Last season, over the course of three games, Everton went more than 190 minutes without a shot on target. Fast forward ten months and Everton are certainly putting that right. With 124 shots, no team in Europe’s Top 5 leagues has attempted more shots this season. Edging out Real Madrid by six shots, Everton also lead the shots per game category.
By comparison, after six games in 2011 / 2012, Everton had attempted 89 shots; down 35 on this year’s total. Currently on 124 shots after six games, it took nine matches for Everton to reach that figure last season. With a stronger midfield and better attacking setup, Everton are displaying a more efficient style due to the improved football.
The current creativity statistics are testament to Everton’s fluent and progressive style. Leighton Baines now leads the way in the Premier League with the most chances (28) and the best minutes: chance ratio (19.29). Despite his defensive duties, Baines is ahead of the Premier League’s and some of the world’s finest players. The statistics also reinforce Baines’ defensive capabilities with the left back yet to lose a tackle this season.
Continuing last season’s impressive form, Pienaar features in eleventh place with 14 chances created. Coupled with his two assists and Baines’ attacking prowess, it is obvious why countless rate and fear the left side of Everton’s team.
Featuring in a more advanced role this season, Marouane Fellaini makes it into the Top 15. Having grown accustomed to a central midfield role, he is re-establishing himself in the role vacated by Tim Cahill. With a return of 12 chances, one assist and three goals, he is definitely staking his claim.
Forward Nikica Jelavic also features in the Top 40 of the creative players list. Creating nine chances, the Croatian is proving there is more to his game than goals. With Leon Osman narrowly outside the Top 50 and others hitting form, Everton players may fill more creative places in the near future.
One of the main reasons for Everton’s surge in form is the passing improvements. Attempting 396 passes per game in 2011 / 2012, that figure now stands at 422 per game. With more passes attempted, there is a tendency for accuracy to drop. However, Everton have gone the other way with passing accuracy up 6% to an admirable 83%.
Attempted crosses remains at an average of 23 per match but the accuracy is improving. Last season brought a crossing success rate of 24% whilst the current accuracy stands at 32%. Because of the sharper build up play, Everton are able to cross from better positions and with greater accuracy.
Despite the various passing improvements, the changes in long ball percentages are minimal. However, with Fellaini in the side, the option for varying the play is a resourceful one. Despite having Fellaini as an out ball, it is pleasing to see Everton maintain their emphasis on passing and ball retention.
Showing improvements in key areas, this Everton side favours attack over defence and adventure over caution. As David Moyes searches for his best centre back pairing, the emphasis of Everton’s play is turning to attack with clean sheets debatable.
Producing the most shots in Europe and holding the league’s most creative players, Everton are on the up. With only the Manchester sides picking up more points since January, Everton have built up an impressive head of steam.
However, as the squad remains wafer thin, one or two injuries threaten to derail Everton’s momentum. Although, if David Moyes’ men can ride their luck on the injury front, this side has the potential to gate-crash one of the European places. Replicating the form that secured fourth place in 2005, Everton are dark horses to repeat that feat in 2013.
Write about Everton for ESPN and EPL Index. Evertonian with a keen interest in the tactical and statistical. Twitter: @lukeofarrell
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