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Everton 2019-20 Season Preview: Fullbacks

Solid backups for both starting fullbacks

SV Werder Bremen v FC Everton - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Cathrin Mueller/Getty Images

Players

2018-19 Everton Fullbacks

Player Minutes Assists Tkl+Int/90
Player Minutes Assists Tkl+Int/90
Lucas Digne 2966 5 4
Seamus Coleman 2560 2 2.8
Djibril Sidibe 2072 4 4.3
Cuco Martina 2427 1 n/a

Tactics

Last season, Everton’s fullbacks were asked to provide almost all the open play chance creation from wide areas. Lucas Digne particularly excelled at this, with 2.1 key passes per 90 minutes and 1.7 of those coming from crosses. No one else on the team matched his open play creative numbers. As for Seamus Coleman, only one winger exceeded his wide chance creation, and that winger now plays in the Bundesliga because apparently extremely talented English wingers just aren’t something we want (but I digress).

This year, it looks to be much of the same. There is not a lot of depth behind either of the starters, though I think in spurts Leighton Baines can still provide cover I have zero faith whatsoever in Cuco Martina. Fortunately, Marcel Brands has saved the day bringing in Djibril Sidibe, a player who will probably give us two starting quality right backs. If anything happens to either of Digne, we are immediately going to suffer gravely on both ends of the pitch, but now we should nearly always have a reliable right back out there. Below we see a comparison of Digne and Baines as attackers. Admittedly, we have a very, very small sample size from Baines last season, but nowhere in recent memory does Baines contribute what we see from Digne in these numbers.

The dropoff in attacking output from Digne to Baines is startling.
understat.com

With Everton not convincingly linked to any creative right wings, and with Richarlison still far more of a finisher than a creator, the burden is going to fall on Digne and Coleman to keep our offense humming. I’m rather bothered that our fullbacks provide this much of our open play creation, but I think it is a natural consequence of the fact that our three biggest attacking signings over the last three years have been Richarlison, Gylfi, and Kean, all who from open play are more shooters than they are creators. Selling Lookman and apparently relying on Bernard for forward chance creation is just really confusing to me (sorry, digressing again).

State of the Position

There’s a possibility that if Digne needs a rest it will be Fabian Delph who occupies LB instead of Baines. Delph probably has more left in the tank than our beloved elder statesman, but he still has virtually no chance creation numbers of which to speak.

The right side looks completely different with our new Frenchman aboard. I love Seamus Coleman, and even though he is not quite the player Digne is, he is a fine English Premier League starter. Relying on Cuco Martina, who in my estimation is not even a top flight player, would have been a disaster. We had been on that ride before when Seamus was trying to come back from his leg injury (screw you Neil Taylor) and Walsh and Koeman thought a free Cuco was all we needed to stop the gap. Cuco’s outputs that season were not too different from Jonjoe Kenny’s who was just 20 at the time and who is now off on loan trying to resuscitate his career. That said, I’m just as high on Sidibe as I am down on Cuco.

I’m really not happy with the depth on the left, as you can tell, but I love our starters and depth on the right. I think we have one of the better starting pairs of fullbacks in the league. If they can stay healthy and Silva can pull enough smoke and mirrors when they aren’t, this position should hold up just fine this season.