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Everton's Defense Is Lazy

Alex Livesey

It has been a few weeks, but now that we are a few games into the season we can get a better picture of how Everton is performing. Obviously the big question this year is what has happened to the defense. Last year it was fantastic, this year it is decidedly not fantastic. The Chelsea and Crystal Palace matches are just two of the more depressing examples.

But the real question on everyone's mind is what has caused the dropoff? While we've had the general accusations of certain defenders being played out of position or just being too old, it is possible there is a systemic problem. That the defense as a whole is doing something wrong rather than a specific player or two. It is also possible that bad luck has plagued Everton and that as the season goes on the defensive statistics will revert  to the league average.

Offense Defense League
Z1 Target Rate 0 100 72.73
Z1 SOG Conversion 0 100 81.25
Z2 Target Rate 100 0 42.86
Z2 SOG Conversion 100 0 58.33
Z3 Target Rate 45 50 37.99
Z3 SOG Conversion 66.67 50 45.4
Z4 Target Rate 30.77 63.64 32.31
Z4 SOG Conversion 50 57.14 33.78
Z5 Target Rate 0 0 50
Z5 SOG Conversion 0 0 25
Z6 Target Rate 37.5 7.69 24.93
Z6 SOG Conversion 33.33 100 18.18
Z7 Target Rate 9.52 0 21.75
Z7 SOG Conversion Rate 0 0 6.94
Z8 Target Rate 0 0 40
Z8 SOG Conversion Rate 0 0 0
Total Target Rate 31.37 32.65 31.76
Total Conversion Rate 56.25 56.25 34.47

The chart above shows how Everton's offense and defense have done in each of the 8 shooting zones. On the right I have included the league totals for each zone as well. These totals have come from charting every shot in league play for the current season.

Personally I throw out the values in Zone 1, 2, and 8 for this exercise. Zone 1 and 2 are going to be high by default and while the defense has conceded all shots taken in Zone 1, they haven't allowed any in Zone 2. Zone 8 is always odd because of such a small sample size and its location on the flank. Any shots from the zone often end up being goals because of odd deflections, the wind, or general keeper screwups.

The numbers that really bother me are zones 3 and 4. In zone 3 the Everton defense is allowing a high number of shots. Half of all shots are on target and half of those are going in. This seems to tell me that the defense is having a problem marking in the middle of the box.

As for zone 4, that is just ugly. Getting close to doubling the league average for shots on target and goals scored from SOG is ridiculous. Part of that is luck, but part of that is lax defending in the box. The numbers don't seem to indicate that Everton is allowing a ridiculous amount of shots compared to other teams.

Zone 6 doesn't concern me yet. Everton has only allowed 1 shot on goal out of 13 in the zone and that goal was scored. It may have been a free kick which would explain it.

Ultimately the problem for Everton seems to be marking in the box. For whatever reason too many players are free to not only shoot the ball, but put shots on target. That's always going to hurt, and Everton has been punished by teams being efficient well beyond the league average. Some of that variance should reduce as the sample size increases, but there is definitely some defensive work to be done by Everton.