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Everton English Premier League Season Preview: Wingers

Lack of wide players remains an issue with the Blues

Everton v Sevilla - Pre Season Friendly
Ademola Lookman with Kevin Mirallas
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Stats

Everton Wingers

Player Age Games Goals Assists Shot accuracy Pass accuracy Chances created Successful takeons
Player Age Games Goals Assists Shot accuracy Pass accuracy Chances created Successful takeons
Mirallas 29 37 4 6 58% 84% 44 65.79%
Lennon 30 13 1 1 0% 81% 6 60.00%
Lookman 19 8 1 0 46% 87% 0 50.00%
Bolasie 28 16 1 4 30% 73% 20 57.58%
*Denotes stats from 2015/2016 season

Tactics

Ronald Koeman used three formations for the most part last season, and none of them really called for an out-and-out winger. Whether this was because he didn’t have too many good options at the position or that he preferred his full backs to bomb forward to supply crosses is not clear.

What is clear is that wingers are expected to fulfill certain defensive responsibilities in his schemes, and failure to contribute that leads to being shipped out (hi Geri!).

4-3-3: The forward line will likely be spearheaded by a striker with two attack-oriented players on either side of him. In the preseason it’s been Sandro Ramirez and Kevin Mirallas flanking Wayne Rooney, but Ademola Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have been used there too.

3-5-2: The three-man backline allows Everton’s excellent fullbacks much more leeway to get forward in the wide position, as well as support for the sole striker with someone playing off his shoulder.

4-2-3-1: The double-pivot in front of the defence has become the formation of choice in the Premier League with some exceptions. Ross Barkley probably did his best work last season operating on the right side and this setup also brings the best out of Gareth Barry.

Current Players

Kevin Mirallas

The Belgian was awarded a three-year extension right at the end of the last season in a bit of a puzzling decision, but considering no wingers were going to be added, it makes sense that the Blues looked to consolidate what they already had at the position.

Mirallas still tends to disappear for long stretches, but when he is interested in the game proves to be a weapon with his dribbling and shooting ability. There remains the lingering doubt that Super Kev’s best position is likely off the shoulder of a big striker, but he does reasonably well on the left of a front three.

Aaron Lennon

The winger returned to the game this offseason after battling personal illness towards the end of the last season, and he was warmly welcomed back to the fold. He remains the side’s best out-and-out winger though his size often results in him being muscled off the ball in a physical Premier League.

His tracking back is one of his better qualities, and the Blues will do well to hang on to him despite interest this preseason from various other clubs.

Ademola Lookman

Probably the best pure dribbler in the Everton squad currently, Lookman can mesmerize with the ball seemingly attached to his boot at times. His appearances last season sparked the time with his energy and he has maintained that this preseason as well.

This only makes Koeman’s apparent neglect of the player even more puzzling as he has made a significant difference whenever he’s been on the pitch, even as recently as yesterday against Sevilla. Lookman offers a different set of qualities on the left side of the front three and needs to be given more game time.

Yannick Bolasie

The winger was lightning in the few games that we saw him play last season, and his budding partnership with Romelu Lukaku was starting to look like something great. His unfortunate injury though put paid to that and his return date remains unclear after two surgeries, though early 2018 has been mentioned before.

Bolasie is easily the strongest of the winger group, and on his day a handful for any defence.

State of the Position

This is likely Everton’s weakest position in the squad, with none of the players mentioned above considered truly world-class. Koeman’s formations serve to mitigate this lack of depth to some extent, but also limit his flexibility.

We saw this often last season whenever Romelu Lukaku was thwarted, with the Blues struggling to find a Plan B to break down opposition defences. Lack of pace in wing play has been very evident this preseason as well.

Should the signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson finally come through, it will give the Toffees another playmaker but will not necessarily address the deficiencies in width. With three more signings expected for striker, defensive depth and the aforementioned Icelander, there is little hope that much will change out on the wings this season.