As we continue our season review here at Royal Blue Mersey, it’s time to discuss the first defender signed by Ronald Koeman - Welsh national team captain Ashley Williams. Ash played the most minutes of any Everton defender, and one of the highlights of his year was scoring the late winner against Arsenal at Goodison Park.
While not necessarily known as being a distributor, Ashley Williams graded out well in terms of both long balls and short passes. At 4.7 accurate long balls per 90 minutes, he was behind only more talented defenders like Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Joel Matip, and a few others. With the departure of John Stones, Ronald Koeman needed someone to step up in this area, and the ex-Swansea man did his part.
Whether or not it was a product of subpar defense earlier in an attacking buildup or the multiple absences of Morgan Schneiderlin is a discussion for another day, but Williams successfully cleared the ball more than nearly any other defender in the league - a whopping 8.1 times per 90 minutes.
Either way, Everton enjoyed one of their best defensive records at Goodison Park in years - conceding only 16 goals - and Ashley Williams was at the forefront of all of it.
For an experienced player, Williams has the propensity to make some poor decisions when he finds himself in trouble. His 1.1 fouls per 90 minutes was 8th worst in the Premier League among center backs with at least 1000 minutes played, to go along with 7 yellow cards and 1 red.
From the start, Williams was Ronald Koeman’s defensive anchor. He made his debut as a substitute in Everton’s second game of the season, against West Brom, and went on to play all 90 minutes in the 36 remaining games. That sort of consistency is impressive at any age, much less 32.
Ashley Williams’ defensive partners ranged from Phil Jagielka to Ramiro Funes Mori to Matthew Pennington. In the end, he finished the season with the fourth most minutes among all Premier League center backs with a whopping 3,150.
The contract Williams signed last summer was for three years, so it seems likely that Ronald Koeman will continue to use him in a starting role for at least one more season, before relegating him to a smaller role, akin to Jagielka.
Who he pairs up with is anyone’s guess - Michael Keane? Harry Maguire? - but the Welshman has yet to really show his age and remains, for the time being, a perfectly competent top level defender.
What is your grade for Ashley Williams' 2016/17 season?
This poll is closed