Are Everton’s defensive nightmares fully behind them? Don’t Stek your life on it…

It’s been a positive start to the season for Everton and the fans are happy.

Which players have been impressive so far? Idrissa Gueye is a new fan favourite, Romelu Lukaku is back scoring goals and Maarten Stekelenburg is looking pretty damn solid compared to what we’ve seen in recent times between the sticks.

The Blues lie third in the table and things are rosy…mostly.

While it’s nice that Everton finally have a keeper in form, a little look at the numbers raises the only cause for concern in the team’s performances to date.

‘Which numbers?’ I hear you scoff.

“Stekelenburg’s numbers,” says I.

The Dutchman’s shot-stopping numbers are twice as good as average.

Which keepers maintain such a level?

None of them…

Imagine a world where each game is played over and over until all the quirks of each game were ironed out. Each team gets the same chances in front of goal. Different outcomes occur. The luck on any particular day is wiped out. Play the game thousands of times over and by the end, what ‘should’ have happened, happened, and you get your ‘fair’ result – a new reality.

Basically, although its anathema to you as an Evertonian, I want you to act like a Liverpool fan. Ask yourself: ‘What if?’ over and over until you’ve got what you want and fully justified it to yourself.

Koppite behaviour? Lord, yes.

Everton have conceded just 2 goals so far. I’ve built every shot taken in the Premier League over the last 6 years into a model to tell me how often a certain type of shot can expected to be scored.

The model takes the shots Everton have conceded this season, reaches into this imaginary world and plays the games over and over. It then punches out a nice looking graph. It’s a likely distribution of goals Everton conceded in each world based on the shots faced so far. It tells us that Stekelenburg could have conceded anything up to 10 goals in some worlds. In most worlds he conceded 4 goals:

everton-oppo-shots-sim-14th-september-2016Here’s the footage of the saves Stek has made:

He’s made some absolute belters already hasn’t he? And this is the slight problem, here. This level of performance isn’t sustainable. The garden’s rosy, but it isn’t perfect.

While a team can only play what’s in front of them, Everton have played three pretty poor teams in the first four games. And in most other worlds would have conceded 4 times. In fact, Everton were more likely to have conceded 5 or 6 goals than 2 from that set of shots.

What am I saying? The defensive frailties haven’t suddenly been fixed overnight by Roanld Koeman. The outcomes may lead you to think they have been. The process is actually still ongoing. Stek’s numbers can only steadily get worse until they drop back down to this world. The planet we live on.

Get prepared for a slightly new reality in the not too distant future.

Follow me on twitter @footballfactman

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How does Funes Mori v Williams effect the team?

So I was watching the Tottenham game back, studying it move by move to sort out a passing sequence map and ended up tweeting this:

I laughed all over again about him ending up on the deck after trying to bounce Kane off the ball (and the ref blowing up for a foul in the Argentine’s favour) but was mostly struck by how poor he and Holgate were in possession when under pressure.

Which is a bit weird because I’ve since tweeted this too:

It’s quite possible Ramiro is both good and terrible on the ball depending on the situation. I’ve rattled on before about the effects of a left footed player playing left centre back as opposed to a righty. It’s become starkly apparent already this season. Here’s the passing networks from Everton’s first two home games:

everton-tot-v-stoFunes Mori’s open body allows the left flank to be utilised and the attack is supplied from around the pitch. Right-footed Williams is closed off. Everything goes towards the middle and then through Barry. Here’s the individual forward passes from left centre back in the first three games (courtesy of the @StatsZone app for iPad):

img_3717img_3719img_3718It’s fine if Barry is the fulcrum in games when Everton dominate the ball. But Barry struggled against Tottenham’s muscular midfield, couldn’t get involved and the Blues spent much of the 2nd half chasing shadows and went 10 mins at one stage without stringing more than two passes together.

With Gueye a shoe (shoo?)-in for one central midfield slot but isn’t going to link defence and attack regularly in a direct manner. Cud for Koeman to chew on.

Follow me on twitter @footballfactman

Posted in Sports