Seamus Coleman has earned plenty of deserved praise from Everton supporters this season. Although inconsistent in the pre-Christmas months, stellar performances became the norm in the latter half of the campaign. Now, after an assist-capped man-of-the-match display at Wembley, supporters of other clubs can understand the hype.
One or two moments of naivety aside, the Ireland international has excelled since employment in his favoured position. Signed from Sligo Rovers for the paltry fee of £60,000 in January 2009, it was easy to forgive supporters expecting another Scott Spencer or Joao Silva.
On his debut in October 2009, away to Benfica in the Europa League, Coleman found himself thrown in the proverbial deep end. Out of position at left back in a defence crippled by injury, the youngster could do little to prevent the 5-0 demolition dished out by the home side.
Nevertheless, just two months later, refusing to dwell on the Benfica battering, Coleman turned in a man-of-the-match display against Tottenham and set the tone for his birth as an attacking full back.
Unfortunately, after a productive loan at Blackpool and a stint in midfield, injuries and a loss of form derailed progress in 2011-12. Fortuitously, thanks to injuries to those vying for the right back spot, Coleman earned a chance and grasped it with both hands. Featuring exclusively at right back, the Donegal-born defender has cemented his place as first choice at Everton.
Improvements in the defensive side of his game are clear; compare the far post error at Fulham in November to the far post clearance against Manchester City in March. Developing an assurance in possession to accompany the improving defensive aspects, Coleman continues to make a mockery of his transfer fee. In terms of value for money, it is hard to argue against Coleman as the best signing under David Moyes.
Constantly at ease in attack, doubts lingered defensively; doubts comprehensively quashed during this current campaign. Only five Everton players attempted more tackles than Coleman – 62 – and each of the five played considerably more matches. Furthermore, of the players to attempt more than 30 tackles, nobody posted a better tackling accuracy – 84%.
Coleman edged out each of his fellow defenders in the tackling stakes: Sylvain Distin (80%), Leighton Baines (79%), Phil Jagielka (68%), and John Heitinga (63%). The full back also had the edge in the minutes-per-tackle-won category, winning a tackle every 41.6 minutes: Baines (46.85), Distin (69.2), Jagielka (73.37) and Heitinga (133.5).
Posting 80% passing accuracy from 758 passes, Coleman sneaked above the team average – 79%. Testament to the ever-improving attacking qualities, evident in the marauding forward runs, 67% of his passes came in the opposing half with 32% in the final third.
Attempting 97 crosses, third in the Everton standings behind Baines (353) and Kevin Mirallas (120), Coleman recorded the best crossing accuracy from open play – 25%. Creatively, Coleman tied with Leon Osman, Darron Gibson and Nikica Jelavic. The quartet, each creating 27 goalscoring opportunities, finished the season tied for fifth place with Marouane Fellaini (40), Mirallas (43), Steven Pienaar (82) and Baines (116) ahead of them.
Creating a chance every 80.1 minutes, Coleman compares favourably to those noted for their attacking play – Leon Osman created a chance every 117.9 minutes last season. Registering five assists, level with Fellaini and Baines, only Pienaar (6) recorded more in a blue shirt. Further enhancing their attacking credentials, the assist figures for Baines and Coleman were the best of any Premier League defenders in 2012-13.
Early signs suggest the formation of a right-sided partnership alongside Mirallas, as the duo look to create a formidable pairing akin to the left-side of Baines and Pienaar. Boasting an abundance of pace and ability, this burgeoning enterprise should continue to trouble Premier League defences in 2013-14.
Firmly established, impressing on international and domestic fronts, the former Sligo Rovers player is now one of the first names on the team sheet. Less than four years after the Lisbon baptism of fire, Coleman has developed into one of the most important players within the Everton squad.
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