“I have thrown £250m to turn a museum into a competitive outfit”.
Those were the words of Farhad Moshiri in January, with Everton in a poor run of form and in a position in the table that the majority shareholder deemed as ‘just not good enough’.
The Iranian billionaire clearly wants to see better results for his investment, but he appears to have missed the point to an extent.
While the amount invested shows Moshiri’s dedication and commitment to the cause, that sum does not guarantee success or even progress.
The key, rather than spending a lot, is to spend well on what’s required in order to progress towards the level the Blues aspire to.
When delving into Everton’s underlying numbers this season under Marco Silva, it essentially appears as though the club are trying employ a modern, attractive style, but are without the personnel for that transition to be smooth report the Liverpool Echo.
Silva’s team rank highly in terms of pressing, behind only Spurs and Manchester City for Passes Per Defensive Action (PPDA), which indicates how proactively a team look to regain the ball. Everton are also thirrd in the league, behind only Arsenal and Spurs, for what’s defined as Challenge Intensity.
This measures duels, tackles and interceptions but adjusts those based on possession, otherwise the likes of Cardiff and Burnley would show up well because they have to defend a lot.
The Toffees also average fewer shots on their goal than Arsenal, Spurs and United, with the team currently sat fourth in the table in that regard, which is promising. Basically, Silva is aiming to instill an aggressive, proactive pressing style without the ball which could very easily be considered as ‘modern’ or ‘attractive’.
With the ball however, is where the problems appear to be.
In most cases, teams press highly to either regain and recirculate the ball in the mould of Manchester City, or to create immediate scoring chances in the form of Liverpool.
Everton appear to do neither on the face of it, and their average possession share is 51.1%, which has them seventh in the league, but hardly suggests dominance.
Also, opponents don’t appear to respect the quality of Silva’s side in comparison when facing an established top-six team for example. Teams tend to allow City to make 25 passes before making a defensive action according to PPDA, and that figure is 17 for Liverpool, 15 for Chelsea and Arsenal are the lowest of the top six with 12.
Everton however, are 16th in the table, and this means that versus Everton, every team appears willing to essentially ‘have a go’, rather than sitting back.
Silva’s side are also 15th in the league for key passes (passes that lead to shots), next to Burnley and Newcastle, suggesting a real lack of incisiveness in open play.
Ultimately, the case appears to be that Everton are proactive and hungry without the ball, but don’t have much quality once actually securing it. This results in the ball pin-balling around the midfield for the large majority of matches, with inferior teams unwilling to concede dominance to Everton as easily as they would to the established top-six. The modern style is being enforced defensively, but not offensively.
So given this understanding and with a look ahead to the summer window, which players could Everton target in order to progress in an attacking sense?
Youcef Atal (Nice)
Everton have benefited greatly from Lucas Digne’s attacking output from his left back role this season, but on the opposite flank, that is almost non-existent. Seamus Coleman appears to be regressing, and it’s reasonable to suggest that Jonjoe Kenny has a ceiling considerably below top-six quality.
Youcef Atal, the 22 year-old making waves in Ligue One, could be the answer. He’s fast and very attack-minded, averaging a whopping 11.68 dribbles per 90 minutes in France. For comparison, Eden Hazard is averaging 10.49, albeit with a greater success rate. In this case, Silva would essentially be able to deploy a crosser on one flank, and a penetrative dribbler on the other.
The Algerian may be somewhat naive defensively at present, but his mobility in Everton’s evidently aggressive system would permit him contribute more naturally than the likes of Coleman and Kenny.
Theo Walcott, despite having a fairly respectable career, isn’t the wide threat that Everton need. The Englishman is now 29 years-old, isn’t going to improve, and although he’s fast, his offensive output is certainly upgradable.
In his 32 appearances this season, he’s scored just four goals with two assists, and his underlying numbers in terms of Expected Goals (xG) and Expected Assists (xA) aren’t particularly encouraging either, pictured below in comparison to Richarlison.
In another attempt to raid the under appreciated talent stockpiled at Barcelona, Malcom could be an option that could potentially be explored. He signed last summer for around £36m, but has played just 129 league minutes.
This has impacted his output this season, but based on his showings at Bordeaux in 2017-18, he’d be a considerable upgrade on Walcott whilst retaining the left-footed wide threat dynamic, shown below.
Sebastien Haller (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Arguably the most obvious upgrade required is in the striking department, as the club seemingly haven’t replaced Romelu Lukaku’s output from a number of seasons ago.
Cenk Tosun has had very infrequent success, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, for all his endeavour, doesn’t appear to hold much quality in terms of output, shown below based on this season.
Given Silva’s system and the fact that he appears to want to deploy two wide attackers as well as the super-direct Gylfi Sigurdsson as his number 10, Everton require a striker with a fairly complete game, who’s able to contribute in various areas. Diego Costa, for example, was the perfect striker for Jose Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 during his second spell in England.
An ambitious option to fill the void is Sebastien Haller, one of the breakthrough players in the present Bundesliga campaign. He leads the line for Eintracht Frankfurt alongside Luka Jovic, he’s just 24 and he’s also around 6ft 2 inches tall, indicating that he’s very much a physical presence who could potential be utilised when set-pieces and crosses are flying into the box.
Haller has scored 19 and made 12 assists this season, so he certainly wouldn’t come cheap, but the Blues have to aim high and the striker is attainable providing the required terms are met. His output this season is shown below, in comparison to Calvert-Lewin’s, with the completeness of the Frenchman clearly evident.