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Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines Look to Bounce Back After Mediocre Season

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Everton's full-back play had been a strength of the team since Seamus Coleman's breakout season in 2010-11 -- but after rough seasons for the team's top players at the position, what's next?

Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Right Back

Current Players

Player Age Nationality Key Stats
Seamus Coleman 27 Ireland 1 goal, 3 assists last season -- his lowest combined total since 2011-12
Tyias Browning 22 England 5 Premier League appearances last season, including three starts

Key Additions and Departures

Long-time Evertonian Tony Hibbert won't be back this season. The right-back's contract expired at the end of last season, and management elected not to renew him.

Returning Players

Seamus Coleman: The Irish defender had perhaps his most disappointing season with the club last season, as he struggled to make a consistent impact. He scored only one goal, his lowest total in the last three seasons, despite averaging a full shot per match (his highest such total since 2010-11).

After making significant defensive strides in the past two seasons, Coleman was average at best in his own half last season too. He was dribbled past more frequently in 2015-16 than any season in his career. Obviously, the team's defensive struggles go far beyond just Coleman, but he was certainly culpable on goals more frequently last season than we've become accustomed to.

Coleman didn't let a rough club season deter him at Euro 2016, where he started all four of Ireland's matches, captaining the side against Italy and France.

At 27, the Irishman should still have plenty of good years left in the tank, and there was little last season to suggest Coleman shouldn't be able to turn things around, as long as the players around him also turn things around.

Tyias Browning: Browning was injured for much of last season, and only played five Premier League matches. The young Englishman can play both center-back and right-back, but with a significant lack of depth on the right, we will more likely see him out wide.

Browning has speed and strength, but injuries have kept him out of the lineup too frequently for any more in-depth assessments. Ideally, the Toffees won't have to rely on Browning for much this season, but the reality is that he is all that remains in terms of right-back depth, unless Ronald Koeman wants to use John Stones at the position (if he doesn't depart).

Left Back

Current Players

Player Age Nationality Key Stats
Leighton Baines 31 England 25 goals and 44 assists in Everton career
Bryan Oviedo 26 Costa Rica 2.9 tackles and 2.4 clearances per match last season
Luke Garbutt 23 England 25 appearances and 1 goal on loan with Fulham last season
Brendan Galloway 20 England 15 appearances last season


Key Additions and Departures

Luke Garbutt returns to Goodison Park after spending last season on loan with Fulham in the Championship. Garbutt has 12 appearances with the Toffees and made 25 appearances for Fulham last season. Past managers seemed to value the Englishman highly, but the left back position is crowded and Koeman's opinion of the player is still unclear.

Current Players

Leighton Baines: Most of Everton's players had disappointing seasons in 2015-16, but few had a rougher time than Baines. He entered the season perceived as one of the team's top playmakers and in position to compete for a starting spot in England's Euro 2016 team.

Then, he missed a chunk of the season through injury, found himself benched in favor of Bryan Oviedo even when healthy, and finally returned to an Everton defense that was regularly leaking goals. His set piece prowess went missing for much of the season, and the 31-year-old no longer takes the team's penalties.

All that being said, there were definitely moments where the old Baines shined through, with his obvious creative skills coming through. Can he bring those moments more regularly, and can the team cover his lack of pace defensively?

Bryan Oviedo: The Costa Rican got a regular run of matches during the winter, ahead of Baines, but his attacking ability still clearly lags behind the Englishman's. Oviedo has decent pace and a high work rate, making him a solid backup option, but he's yet to prove that he should be starting regularly.

Brendan Galloway: Galloway was one of the early season's pleasant surprises, getting a good run of matches in while Baines and Oviedo were out with injury. The 20-year-old's best position may still be center back, which is evident from his limited attacking ability. But, without a doubt, he has a bright future and impressive defensive abilities for such a young player.

Tactics

In the final years of the David Moyes regime, perhaps no Premier League team relied on its full backs for attacking prowess more than Everton. This happened mostly by choice, as Baines and Coleman were playing exceptional attacking football at the time, and Baines had formed an excellent relationship with Steven Pienaar down the left wing.

Under Roberto Martinez, it was often the case that the full backs were looked to for offense, but frequently because the Spaniard was forcing central players to play in wide positions, leaving players like Coleman and Baines as the only players on the pitch capable of creating width.

With Kevin Mirallas, Gerard Deulofeu, and Aaron Lennon available as wingers, there is no good reason why we shouldn't see two wingers at all times under Koeman, and that will likely reduce the amount that Baines and Coleman have to get forward. Given the team's defensive struggles last season, not to mention the individual struggles of these two players, that's probably a good thing.

Summary

When utilized properly, Everton may have one of the best full back tandems in the Premier League with Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman. Both have had significant success on both ends of the field in their careers in England, but are coming off difficult seasons.

If the Toffees are to improve their fortunes this season, Ronald Koeman must figure out ways to capitalize on the attacking strengths of these players when possible, while not leaving his team exposed defensively. The signing of Idrissa Gueye to play the center of midfield may help to provide cover for these players, but performance improvement on the part of Baines and Coleman is even more important.