The improvements are clear; unfortunately, so are the problems and a quick comparison between 2011-12 and 2012-13 highlights these areas. Continual defensive problems and sub-par finishing temper the obvious improvements in passing and creativity.
Compared to last season, Everton are 11 points better off at this stage thanks to more goals, less failures to score and more wins. Defensively, clean sheets have dropped from seven to five and the defence has shipped more goals this season.
Whilst the defensive differences are minimal, it would be remiss to dismiss the error-strewn defending shown this season. Conceding the most headed goals this season, set pieces are a real concern and statistics show the drops in other areas. With nine matches left, having already conceded 35, Everton look set to surpass the 40 goals conceded in 11-12.
The tackle output remains similar but the success rate has dropped from 78.21% to 75.10%. Defensive errors (16) are already up on last season (13) with the minutes per error ratio increasing from one every 278 minutes to one every 172 minutes.
A possible reason for the drop in defensive performance is the sharp attacking play. Creatively stronger, Everton have benefitted from the permanent return of Steven Pienaar, the assuring presence of Darron Gibson and the introduction of Kevin Mirallas.
Boasting stronger passing and improved ball retention, the passing numbers underline the ever-improving football played at Goodison Park. As the modern game evolves, possession is taking on greater significance and Everton continue to improve in this aspect. Completing 396 passes per game in 11-12, Everton average 417 per game this season.
As well as the rising passing numbers, pass completion has also risen and now stands at 79% (77% in 11-12). Passing accuracy has improved across the board this season with defensive zone passing up from 87% to 90%, attacking zone rising from 68% to 70% and final third shifting from 67% to 69%.
Using the football more effectively, Everton look set to surpass the creativity statistics from last season. Despite attempting fewer crosses per match, crossing accuracy has shown marginal improvement (23% to 24%). Overall, the fewer crosses suggest a more studied approach in attack.
Creating 378 chances last season, Everton will surpass pass the 400 mark this season and the Blues are just 12 chances shy of the 11-12 figures. Resulting from the creative improvements, chance creation ration has risen from one every 9.54 minutes to one every 7.52 minutes.
One of the surest signs of progression is the increase in the clear-cut chance ratio. During 11-12, 12% of Everton’s 378 chances were clear-cut while clear-cut chances make up 15% of Everton’s 366 chances this season. Previously averaging a clear-cut chance every 80.2 minutes, that figure has improved to one every 49.2 minutes in this current campaign.
The passing and creativity statistics reflect well on Everton, but they also outline another problem within the squad – finishing chances. Despite stronger passing and added chances, Everton are not taking full advantage.
Averaging a goal every 60 minutes, up from 72 minutes last season, only seven teams across Europe average more shots per match and shooting accuracy has improved from 43% to 46%. However, in spite of the improvements, chance conversion is an underwhelming 13% and clear-cut chance conversion is down from 34% to 30%.
Defensive lapses and profligacy in front of goal are cancelling out the improvements made elsewhere. Allied to a lack of strength in depth and combined with tiring players, these exasperating problems are just some of the reasons keeping Everton on the edge of the European periphery.
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