Everton are well and truly in the thickest of things right now, and could desperately use a series of strong performances and good results to break out of this hell we find ourselves in.
Two key issues continue to beset this team, and they’ve been ongoing problems since Marco Silva took over - set-piece goals conceded, and the paucity of goals on the attacking side.
To go into a bit more detail, the Toffees conceded sixteen goals last season from set-pieces last season in the Premier League (highest of any team), and have already shipped six this season (also highest).
Everton also have managed only six goals in eight games (18th out of 20 sides), and that is from an expected goals (xG) of 11.24 (ninth best). Only Watford (-6.93 to Everton’s -5.24) have been ‘unluckier’, as in have scored less than what their expected goal performance should be, +/-0.
Arguably, going by expected points (xPTS) Everton should really be fifth in the table with 11.75, but life doesn’t work that way if you’re the Blues - consider Liverpool eight points clear at the top of the table with 24pts when xPTS says they should be second with 16.70, alas.
All that aside, let’s hearken back to mid-February of this year, when Everton were coming out of a difficult winter period and struggling to put together some sort of consistent run. The Blues had just three wins in all competitions going back New Year’s Day, and went into the February international break out of both Cups and having lost three straight games.
Jan 1, L #8 Everton 0-1 #10 Leicester City (Premier League)
Jan 5, W Everton 2-1 Lincoln City (FA Cup)
Jan 13, W #11 Everton 2-0 #12 AFC Bournemouth (Premier League)
Jan 19, L #16 Southampton 2-1 #10 Everton (Premier League)
Jan 26, L Milwall 3-2 Everton (FA Cup)
Jan 29, W #20 Huddersfield Town 0-1 #11 Everton (Premier League)
Feb 2, L #8 Everton 1-3 #7 Wolverhampton Wanderers (Premier League)
Feb 6, L #9 Everton 0-2 #2 Manchester City (Premier League)
Feb 9, L #8 Watford FC 1-0 #9 Everton (Premier League)
Marco Silva would later say that the break came at a perfect time for the Blues to heal up, and for him to be able to implement changes in the zonal marking system he had in place that would then set a firmer foundation for the run-in to the end of the season.
It’s not like the manager fully solved the inconsistency issues, especially away from Goodison as the second half collapse at Newcastle and the no-show at Fulham displayed, but the Blues at least again looked like a team closer to the top six than the bottom three.
Feb 26, W #17 Cardiff City 0-3 #11 Everton (Premier League)
Mar 3, D #9 Everton 0-0 #1 Liverpool (Premier League)
Mar 9, L #14 Newcastle United 3-2 #10 Everton (Premier League)
Mar 17, W #11 Everton 2-0 #5 Chelsea (Premier League)
Mar 30, W #9 West Ham United 0-2 #11 Everton (Premier League)
Apr 7, W #10 Everton 1-0 #4 Arsenal (Premier League)
Apr 13, L #19 Fulham 2-0 #10 Everton (Premier League)
Apr 21, W #10 Everton 4-0 #6 Manchester United (Premier League)
Apr 27, D #12 Crystal Palace 0-0 #9 Everton (Premier League)
May 3, W #9 Everton 2-0 #15 Burnley (Premier League)
May 12, D #4 Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 #8 Everton (Premier League)
While some of those positive results can be attributed to sheer luck, playing the right teams at the right times, scoring early in the game, and any other number of factors, the same reasons can also be said to apply this season, but quite opposite, let’s take a look.
Everton have now lost four Premier League games in a row, the first time since early 2015 when Roberto Martinez was in charge.
Sep 1, W #12 Everton 3-2 #15 Wolverhampton Wanderers (Premier League)
Sep 15, L #15 AFC Bournemouth 3-1 #6 Everton (Premier League)
Sep 21, L #11 Everton 0-2 #15 Sheffield United (Premier League)
Sep 24, W Sheffield Wednesday 0-2 Everton (Carabao Cup)
Sep 28, L #14 Everton 1-3 #2 Manchester City (Premier League)
Oct 5, L #11 Burnley 1-0 #15 Everton (Premier League)
Of those games, the losses to the Cherries, Blades and the Clarets can all be directly attributed to idiotic mistakes at set-pieces which led to goals, and then the teams parking the bus even tighter in front of goal.
And as dire as the Blues’ attack and defending at set-pieces has looked, the Blues have been statistically unluckier than most teams at both ends of the pitch (2nd unluckiest in attack, 5th unluckiest in defence), combining to create this maelstrom that has resulted in Everton sitting in 18th place in the table after just eight games.
Just cleaning up the mistakes and Marco Silva getting back some players from injury and not being so stubborn with his lineup choices should get the Blues righted before the statistical corrections even us out and back in the right end of the table.
As bad as things are looking right now, like we saw last season after February it just takes a couple of things to go our way before we can build some momentum upwards, but the big question is if things will get worse before they get better, and in that case how long is the Board’s leash for the manager?