Everton need a striker.
How many times have you heard this? How many times have you said this? Too often, people used this excuse to pardon some of the buffoonery of the Ronald Koeman regime.
The idea that striker is this gaping hole in the Everton roster is an absolute myth. The Blues have very strong performances happening at the striker position, but those players are not being used effectively by their manager(s).
In this article we’ll be discussing something called “expected goals”. If you do not know what expected goals (xG) are, please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the idea in the links below:
What is expected goals? (video)
Expected goals models explained
In short, expected goals can tell you a lot about the quality of a team or player even if their actual goals scored are affected positively or negatively by luck.
A great example of this can be found in the current La Liga season. Valencia has scored 30 goals in eleven games. That’s as many as Barcelona and eight more than Real Madrid.
On the surface, it seems like they have this incredibly unstoppable offense. However, xG measures the quality of chances they have been creating, and their xG production for the year is only 20 goals.
Meanwhile, Barcelona’s xG is at 27 (three below their actual tally so far) and Real Madrid’s is at 29 (seven ABOVE their tally).
What this indicates is that Real Madrid has been creating chances of a quality much better than what their return has been, and if they continue to produce these quality of chances Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema are likely to find their shooting boots.
Meanwhile, at Valencia, Simone Zaza is not very likely to continue his current pace.
Individual players have xG just like teams do, and the top players in xG for the English Premier League are no surprise. Harry Kane of the Harry Kane team leads the league with 6.5 xG, having bagged 8 goals, and Romelu Lukaku, having feasted on minnows early in the league season, is in second at 5.3.
Harry Kane has played 870 league minutes, Lukaku has played 990. Now to Everton. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Oumar Niasse have combined for 1,010 minutes so far in this league campaign.
Of those minutes, many of them were played in Ronald Koeman’s disaster ridden scheme where they were forced to either come off the bench in a tight spot or start in an odd position or play ahead of three central attacking midfielders because sure, Ronald, that makes sense.
Despite that, our Toffee boys have combined for an xG of 5.5. That’s right, in twenty more minutes of play than Lukaku has, Oumar Niasse and DCL have 0.2 more xG.
Now, both Lukaku and Kane are performing ahead of their xG curve. That's why they are considered so elite. Against their 5.5 xG the Everton duo has 5 league goals, led by Oumar scoring a goal every 72 minutes. (And scoring big goals, too. A brace to beat Bournemouth and the goal that began the Watford comeback as examples.)
This finishing isn’t at Kane or Lukaku level, but we shouldn’t expect it to be (though if you count goals from all competitions the duo has chipped in four more goals in limited time from the League Cup and Europa League).
The bottom line is that these two strikers are performing at a quality level. Everton are literally getting better production from their two 9s than Real Madrid is getting from the top two number 9s on their roster.
Heck, the Blues are getting better production from Niasse and Calvert-Lewin than Madrid are getting out of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Remaining in the market for a January striker is fine. But striker is absolutely not why this team has struggled this season.
Everton are getting the production they need from Oumar and DCL, they just need a manager with the sense to use them consistently. The defense is a far more pressing need, particularly someone who can play both CB and LB when needed.
Stop saying that the problem is the striker situation. It’s simply not true.