Tim Howard: Statistical Analysis of Everton’s Keeper

Tim Howard: Statistical Analysis of Everton’s Keeper

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The Everton defence is under increasing scrutiny of late. Without a clean sheet in 13 games, 12 of those in the league, Everton have failed to keep the opposition out since the resounding 3-0 win at Swansea in September. For years, the hallmark of David Moyes’ side was the ability to grind out wins. During the 2004-05 campaign, when Everton finished fourth, the ability to keep clean sheets was one of the main reasons behind the high finish. In subsequent seasons, especially this one, Everton have become more attack minded. As a result, the defence is often left exposed. However, this season, goals are coming from individual errors not an overworked defence.

One of the players taking the brunt of the blame is goalkeeper Tim Howard. Unchallenged for his number one spot, errors have crept into Howard’s game this season and his drop in form is a growing concern. The American has been almost ever-present at Goodison Park, missing just four of Everton’s 245 league games since his transfer from Manchester United. Making 287 starts for the club, Howard has made more starts than any of the current squad. The table, shown below, shows Howard’s  goalkeeping statistics from 2008 through to last weekend’s draw at Stoke.

Tim Howard – Season Stats
 Stats Category / Year

2008 / 2009

2009 / 2010

2010 / 2011

2011 / 12

2012 / 2013

Games

38

38

38

38

17

Clean Sheets

17

11

9

12

2

Goals Conceded

37

49

45

40

21

Goals Conceded per Game

0.97

1.29

1.18

1.05

1.24

Saves

114

114

100

95

43

Minutes per Save

68.4

76

76

87.69

85

High Cross Catches

67

48

47

54

20

Missed Crosses

5

8

2

5

4

Punches

25

17

30

25

13

Defensive Errors

2

0

4

2

5

Minutes per Defensive Error

1,710

0

855

1710

306

Overall, it is hard to interpret Howard’s statistics due to a number of ever-changing factors. For example, the defenders ahead of Howard can change due to loss of form, injury or suspension. A weakened defence would provide more work for Howard and lead to skewed statistics. As his career has progressed, there has been little change in most aspects. Saves per season is continually around the 100 mark and missed crosses remain in single figures.

The most noticeable change relates to defensive errors. The 2009/10 season saw Howard at his best.Despite shipping 49 goals; the team’s highest number in the last five years, none of those goals were defensive errors by Howard. This season, Everton have conceded 21 goals at a rate of 1.24 per game; Everton’s worst concession rate since 2009/10. In just 17 matches, Howard has made five defensive errors. Having made just eight in the past four seasons, this represents a significant drop in form.

Last week’s draw at Stoke was a landmark game for the American shot stopper. Howard made his 200th consecutive Premier League appearance for Everton; currently the longest run of any Premier League player. Howard’s former national rival holds the record with Brad Friedel’s run ending after 310 appearances in eight years. While of personal significance, the Stoke game also showed Howard at his error prone worst. His bizarre attempted save allowed Kenwyne Jones to sneak a header into the corner of the net. Having viewed the replays, Howard appeared all too aware of his proximity to the post and more concerned about colliding with it.

A similar occurrence happened in the 2-2 draw at Fulham. Alert to the direction of Bryan Ruiz’s free kick, Howard failed to keep it out despite a save looking likely. On both occasions, Howard seemed afraid of colliding with the frame of the goal. This could stem from the defeat to West Brom back in November 2010. Howard was blameless in a dismal team performance but there is one abiding memory from that match. Chris Brunt scored a spectacular free kick and, in trying to keep it out, Howard collided with the post and hurt himself. After treatment, he was able to continue but that still be in the back of his mind.

Given the number of changeable factors, it is hard to be overly critical of Howard from a statistical point of view. Nevertheless, statistics do not always tell the full story. Discounting statistics, for now, it is clear that Tim Howard is not at his best. Looking back over the goals conceded this season, Howard could and probably should have prevented a substantial number. After a clean sheet in the season opener against Manchester United, Everton were cruising 3-0 at Aston Villa until a speculative drive from distance caught Howard out. At West Brom, others were also at fault, due to poor marking, but Howard’s reluctance to command his area was clear for the home side’s winning goal. The 2-2 draw with Newcastle followed with slow reactions and poor decision-making playing a part in Demba Ba’s goals.

A tough trip to Swansea was next and Howard kept his second clean sheet of the season. After that came Southampton and the visitors took an early lead with Howard misjudging a corner as Gaston Ramirez headed home. Howard was blameless in the draws at Wigan and QPR but manu argued that he ought to have kept out both Liverpool goals in the subsequent Merseyside derby. At Fulham, the opening goal, mentioned previously, saw more blame fall at Howard’s door. In the following weeks and matches, Howard appeared close to his reliable best.

Unfortunately, the errors resurfaced when Norwich drew at Goodison. Already behind the line, having failed to claim the initial cross, yet more questions were being asked of Howard’s form. Once again, Howard appeared to turn the corner. Positive results against Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham saw an improvement. Far more commanding, Howard dominated his area and the Everton defence looked far more comfortable ahead of him. However, the mistake at Stoke on Saturday opened old wounds and doubts continue to linger over Howard.

Constantly striving for consistency, the lack of genuine competition means there is no real pressure on Howard. Given the well-documented financial situation, Everton may not be able to strengthen the goalkeeping department in January. Therefore, as competition appears unlikely, the onus is on Howard to recapture his best form. Seeking a European place, possibly a Champions League one, David Moyes’ team cannot afford to an inconsistent goalkeeper as the search for a clean sheet continues.

All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.comSubscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.

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