In the Premier League, Everton now boast the joint second worst attack, with no player finding the net more than three times this season. With just the 26 goals scored, it is no surprise that this precarious characteristic has generated far more attention than most other elements of the Toffees’ game.
However, on the flip-side of their attacking deficiencies, and what has kept the Toffees afloat and competitive for large parts of this campaign has been a stubborn, uncompromising defence. After 26 games last season David Moyes’ side had shipped 36 goals. With the same amount of matches concluded this campaign, only a stingy 27 have been conceded, a record bettered by just the two Manchester clubs and Liverpool. The Toffees are also the best tacklers in the league (79%), have allowed the fewest shots on goal (88) and conceded the fewest amount of goals from crosses this season (4).
A major reason for this upturn in form has been the progression of Marouane Fellaini. The back four have indeed been cohesive and robust, but the Belgian’s form anchoring the midfield has generally been the decisive factor in grinding out results. The way he has marshalled defenders and frantically pestered opposing attackers has almost caused his on-field persona to resemble that of an overly fussy parent, intent on leading his charges over the line.
Here is a look at where exactly he has progressed on from last season, analysing several key facets of a defensive midfielder’s game.
First thing’s first, his statistics were good last year. The fact he only managed half a season will have undoubtedly affected the Toffees who are always a far more resilient outfit with Fellaini on board. However, there are a few areas where he has clearly taken his game to a new level this season.
First up, tackling. As mentioned, Everton are now the best tacklers in the Premier League. Nobody beats their 79% team tally and they are clearly lead here by their influential Belgian. He is easily the side’s top ball winner and, over time, has dramatically honed his tackling skills which are right up there with the best in the league. He is now making 87% count over the respectable 71% he managed last season, a truly impressive transposition.