At times this season, it was easy to wonder whether Marco Silva would be the man Everton needed going forward. The set piece defense was terrible, he did not seem to know his best front line, and bad results were piling up. Everton fans have been burned by too many managers to not have some justification for uneasiness in that kind of situation. However, down the stretch, the squad recovered. We started playing great football, getting results against top six sides and nearly nicking 7th to grab a Europa League spot.
As the season comes to a close I think there is every reason to be optimistic about next year. So here is what the team did well this year, and some thoughts as to whether we can continue to do that next season. We will also highlight which players we key to each area of success.
Creating chances from set pieces
Everton finished seventh in the Premier League is shots generated and eighth in shots on target per game. Both those numbers are extremely solid but where we really stand out is on set pieces. Everton was second in the Premier League in shots from set pieces per game, with Manchester City, Liverpool, and Tottenham all posting numbers just below ours (and Cardiff being a strange outlier at the top of the heap). Lucas Digne and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s work on set-piece delivery was a key feature of this success, and the 16 goals we scored on set pieces were tied for second best in the league, behind only Liverpool.
An improvement at the right wing position should lead to more open play chances. If we combine that with our success from set pieces we are probably looking at one of the better offenses in the league next season.
Everton was the fourth most fouled team in the English Premier League this season (up from 14th last year). Fouls happen most often in football when you put the defense in a compromised position and under Marco Silva we drew 54 fouls more than we did last season.
The key difference in this stat will not be a surprise to anyone. Richarlison drew over thirty fouls more than anyone else on the team. While there are times where we all wish the Brazilian would either stay on his feet or return to his feet quicker after going down, the fouls he draws in attacking areas are directly tied to our set piece success mentioned above. Richarlison puts defenders in bad situations, draws the foul, and then Gylfi and Digne step up and make the other team pay.
Defending our box
Everton gave up the fifth fewest opponent passes within 20 yards of our goal (stat excludes crosses). Everyone ahead of us in this stat is playing in the Champions League next season. Simply put, despite being very successful going forward we still do a good job covering our own box.
The assertiveness of our back line and goalkeeper are key to this stat. Michael Keane was 9th in the Premier League in clearances per 90 (min 30 appearances), two slots ahead of Virgil Van Dijk, Kurt Zouma was 19th. The tireless work of our CBs creates a base from which the rest of the lineup can be more assertive in attack. Securing Zouma for next season is, in my estimation, essential. He works great with Michael Keane and that is a partnership I would like to see continue.
Most positions accounted for
In most offseasons, we find ourselves wanting to fully overhaul the squad. There have been years where all but one or two starters have reason to doubt their place going into next year. Honestly, I think we need a young right back capable of competing with Coleman, and a new starting right wing, and other than that I really like most of our first choice XI. More depth is a must, especially in like for like reserves for positions like the 6 and the 10, but overall I think this is a team moving in the right direction.
I would have really liked to make it to the Europa League this season, while that did not work out, we finished the year in a way that would have us nipping at the heels of the top six next season were we to keep it up. Our ability to generate goals from set pieces is as good as anyone in the Premier League. If we get better at defending them, and add the right pieces, we may finally see this club where it belongs battling the top 6.