Player: Leighton Baines, #3
Games Played: 37; Games Started: 37; Goals: 3; Assists: 13; Shots: 16; Shots on Goal: 11; Fouls Committed: 27; Fouls Suffered: 60; Yellow Cards: 4; Red Cards: 0
There were many dark moments in this past season. Everton failed to get anywhere near the expectations set for them at the start of the year. Many players failed in their roles and that cost the club many wins. One bright spot was from a player that has established himself as one of the best left-backs in the league, Leighton Baines.
The 2014-2015 season was Baines' eighth in Merseyside. Previously, he had spent five seasons as Wigan, a club that seems inextricably linked to Everton. He made 37 appearances this year before an ankle injury requiring surgery ended his campaign a few weeks early. Baines recently mentioned that he felt the need to have the surgery before the season ended in order to give him the best shot at being ready for the start of the 2015-2016 season. A successful surgery would yield something to be excited about - a fully healthy defender as the player admitted that his ankle had been bothering him for the better part of three years.
With that said, let us take a look at Leighton Baine's season.
What He Did Well
Despite being somewhat limited by injury, Baines still remained a solid defensive choice. Luke Garbutt was supposedly nipping at his heals for playing time during the season but could never overtake the thirty year old.
Regarding defensive statistics, Baines had another good year. He notched 54 interceptions, won 82% of his tackles and a respectable 57% of his duels. He was not as dominant when fighting for balls in the air, winning just 36% of his aerial duels. He protected possession and finished with a pass accuracy of 83.6%.
Baines also demonstrated that he was willing to do whatever the boss asked of him. In two matches, Roberto Martinez asked Baines to move up into midfield. Admittedly the role was a new one, forcing him to learn on the job. However the idea behind the move was to utilize his skills as a defender and push the ball forward. The move paid off when Baines set up a Kevin Mirallas goal in a losing effort at Newcastle in December.
What He Could Have Done Better
During his time at Goodison, Baines has become known as a defender who can get forward on plays and make things happen in the offensive half of the field. This is the first year where we did not see him pressing as expected. Though he was solid as a defender, that offensive spark that he is known to provide was not evident.
As with others on the squad, there are plausible explanations for the player's drop off in play. For Baines, two items that could easily be pointed to would be fatigue from last summer's World Cup and his prolonged ankle injury. Though it's likely the latter that caused more issues, it did not help that he had to do international duty as part of England's miserable run in Brazil.
As previously mentioned, he has admitted to not being 100% over the past three years. If the operation on his ankle went well, we can hope to see the old Baines back and racing up the left side of the pitch next season.
Aside from the above, it's hard to pick out too many issues with one of the best left-backs in the world. Sure he always could have played better, maybe done some things different but for the type of season that the Blues had; Leighton Baines was just fine.
Now it's your turn to tell us how you would grade the season for Leighton Baines. An "A" would represent a great season, a "C" for average and a grade of "F" would mean that he was terrible.
After voting, please share your comments below.