Premier League Team Preview: Everton

All 20 Premier League clubs are being previewed ahead of the 2019/20 season. This instalment discusses Everton, who narrowly missed out on European football last term.

  • 2018/19 Finish: 8th
  • Signings so far: Jonas Lossl (Free), Fabian Delph (£8.5m), Andre Gomes (£22.5m), Jean-Phillippe Gbamin (£22.5m)
  • Possible Gameweek 1 lineup (4-2-3-1): Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne, Gbamin, Gomes, Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Calvert-Lewin
  • First six fixtures: Crystal Palace (A), Watford (H), Aston Villa (A), Wolves (H), Bournemouth (A), Sheffield Utd (H)

Lineup and Formation

It is clear that Marco Silva’s preferred system is a 4-2-3-1, as his Everton side lined up in that way in all but six of their Premier League outings last season. Jordan Pickford is a shoo-in, with fellow goalkeepers Jonas Lossl and Maarten Stekelenburg only likely to get game time in the cup competitions.

The defence picks itself too, unless there is a new arrival. Lucas Digne was one of the top three Premier League left-backs last season, perhaps just ahead of Ben Chilwell and behind Andy Robertson. On the other side, Seamus Coleman is the only natural right-back in the first-team squad after Schalke were blessed with a season-long loan deal for Jonjoe Kenny. Everton may still look to make a loan signing of their own in the form of Kurt Zouma, who would displace Yerry Mina to partner Michael Keane at centre-back.

Fabian Delph may have to play a waiting game for a starting spot, with Jean-Phillipe Gbamin signed as a replacement for Idrissa Gueye, who was complemented so effectively by Andre Gomes last season. This is because Silva prefers a midfield duo of a ball-winner i.e. Gueye of Gbamin alongside a playmaker who is given licence to roam and carry the ball forward in the attacking phase.

It was Silva who made Abdoulaye Doucoure first choice for Watford in that role alongside ball-winner Etienne Capoue, before bringing Gomes to the club last summer despite the fact that he would miss the first eight games through injury. If this trend continues and Gbamin and Gomes play in a midfield two in Silva’s 4-2-3-1, there is no place for Delph in the team.

Uncertainty remains in attack with Moise Kean and Wilfried Zaha linked to the club, but until any business is done, it will be Bernard and Dominic Calvert-Lewin that line up alongside the first-choice Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson. It is worth noting that Richarlison only returned to pre-season training this week and may be lacking a bit of match sharpness ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace.

Pickford vs Lloris

England’s number one certainly had a good 2018/19 season, but not one to put him on par with the division’s best goalkeepers just yet. This is evident when comparing him with Spurs’ Hugo Lloris as the Frenchman’s save percentage (77.7%) and xG prevented (+7.30) outscored Pickford’s respective values of 69.1% and +0.10.

However, going back to Pickford’s other season on Merseyside, the two players performed fairly similarly in these metrics as the Everton man saved 68.0% of shots to achieve an xG prevented of -0.60 compared to Lloris’ 73.5% and -0.90. This was an uncharacteristically poor season for Lloris though, with his lowest values in four seasons coming in 2017/18. Granted, these are not the only indicators defining the ability of a goalkeeper, but it is pretty clear who is the more effective shot-stopper out of the two.

In an FPL context the sale of Idrissa Gueye to PSG will make it even harder for Pickford to keep pace with other premium goalkeepers for clean sheets. Whereas, Tottenham may see an upward trend in this regard, having signed Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon. This further bolsters Lloris’ appeal if shopping below the £6.0m Brazilian pair of Alisson and Ederson.

The loss of Idrissa Gueye

Gueye has been one of the league’s best ball-winners in three seasons at the club, with only Wilfried Ndidi managing more tackles in any of those seasons (2017/18 and 2018/19). This results in a Leicester midfielder topping the metric in three of the last four seasons, with N’Golo Kante’s 175 tackles in the Foxes’ title-winning season the most since Javier Mascherano (178) and Mohamed Diame (176) in 2009/10.

Gueye’s role was absolutely vital in allowing Everton to set up in the way they did with two advanced full-backs and midfield runners joining attacks often leaving just him and the two centre-backs to defend when possession was overturned. Now without a player able to read the danger as well as Gueye, Everton could find themselves more exposed to counter-attacks.

The Toffees have added defensive midfielder Jean-Phillippe Gbamin to their ranks, for a fee of around £22.5 million. He is the most natural replacement for Gueye at the club, but is certainly not as impressive in that role. In a Mainz side that finished the other side of mid-table, he was only able to make 1.6 tackles and 1 interception per game in the Bundesliga last season. That is not to write him off but when compared to Gueye’s respective values of 4.3 and 2.2, he has big shoes to fill.

Everton vs Tottenham 2018/19

Tottenham exploited Gueye’s absence in this game to devastating effect, scoring six times and often from positions that he would have placed himself to cut out the danger. Their first and second goal that day will be used to highlight this.

Spurs’ first goal was a result of Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son’s clever movement in attack. Kane (10) dropped deep to link play and was pressed by Keane (4), as a result of neither Davies (26) or Gomes (8) occupying the space in front of Everton’s defence. In doing so, he left a massive gap in their backline, allowing Son (7) to run between Coleman (23) and Keane and latch onto Kane’s pass to score.

23rd December 2018: Everton 2-6 Tottenham (1st Tottenham goal)

Gueye’s positional nous may have seen this goal avoided if he had positioned himself closer to where Keane is rather than Davies. If this had occurred, Keane would not have needed to step into midfield, leaving just the right wing free for Son to make a run into. Forcing him wide would have slowed Tottenham’s breakaway, with Kurt Zouma able to hold him up and allow teammates to recover their defensive positions.

Similarly conclusions can be drawn for the second goal, following a low drive from Son which was parried by Pickford (1). The ball fizzes past Coleman who has no time to react and is met by Dele Alli (20) who is more alert to the loose ball than Gomes. Gueye’s speed off the mark and ability to read the danger would have increased the likelihood of him getting in a block to prevent a goal being scored.

23rd December 2018: Everton 2-6 Tottenham (2nd Tottenham goal)

Gueye may not have necessarily been able to prevent either goal had he been on the pitch, but the situations that arose better fit his skill set. Without a holding midfielder of his calibre, Everton could find themselves giving away more soft goals like these in 2019/20.

Defensive Players for FPL

In Lucas Digne, Everton have one of the most productive attacking full-backs in the Premier League. He created 21 more chances than any other defender and finished third in his positional xA chart.

This enormous attacking threat to accompany any clean sheets that follow in Everton’s fairly favourable initial fixtures certainly justify Digne’s current ownership of 26.6%. As a result, Pickford’s credentials as an FPL asset are tested beyond the Lloris comparison, as for £0.5m more, there is the potential for Digne to achieve as many attacking contributions as defensive ones.

Comparing Digne and Coleman provides a similar outcome. The Irishman did venture into the penalty area more, with marginally more touches and shots in the box than Digne, in turn contributing to a higher xG. But in every other attacking metric – total attempts, chances created, big chances created and xA, Digne is superior and sometimes by a significant margin.

Therefore, from both a footballing and FPL perspective, Digne is Everton’s best defensive asset and is only rivalled by the Liverpool full-backs in the final third amongst all Premier League defenders. Whether you start the season with him depends upon how much you trust Everton’s defence to keep clean sheets in the early weeks of the season and how quickly Gbamin gels with his new teammates.

Goalscoring

If no other striker is signed, Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be free to start the majority of games as was the case from late-February onwards last season. Everton first-team coach Duncan Ferguson even believed that he had “locked himself” into that role following the conclusion of the 2018/19 campaign.

However, the transfer activity and existing personnel of clubs around them may prompt a new arrival. Leicester have Jamie Vardy and have added Ayoze Perez, Wolves now have Patrick Cutrone, Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez to vie for their two forward slots and West Ham spent £35 million on Sebastian Haller with Javier Hernandez already at the club. Arguably, all three of these clubs have at least two better forward options than Everton do and the Toffees therefore risk being left behind in the race for a Europa League spot.

Sigurdsson and Richarlison do of course offer significant goal threat from midfield, as both scored 13 in the league last season. Adding to that impressive total with either or both of Moise Kean and Wilfried Zaha, who have been linked with the club in recent days, would give Everton significant firepower and do them no harm in trying to better last season’s total of 54 league goals. This is of increased importance as a way of counteracting them possibly conceding more goals following Gueye’s departure after they let in exactly one per game in his 33 appearances.

But if either Kean or Zaha was to join before Thursday’s transfer deadline, they may not be thrust straight into the starting lineup given the lateness of the transfers, especially in Zaha’s case as he has yet to play a minute in pre-season following the African Cup of Nations.

Attacking Players for FPL

Having mentioned Digne as the standout defensive option for FPL, there is again one clear favourite here and that is Gylfi Sigurdsson. Fifth for goal attempts, sixth for xG, seventh for chances created and eighth for points per match amongst midfielders last season (including the now departed Eden Hazard), there are few better options in his position ahead of an opening run of six fixtures without a top six opponent in sight.

The recently reclassified Wilfried Zaha and Ayoze Perez as well as Youri Tielemans who only played a third of a season on loan are perhaps in the best position to rival his output at a cheaper price. But it is difficult to argue against Sigurdsson over the first six games, with Zaha’s ultimate destination still unknown and Leicester facing Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham during that period.

It is worth noting that Richarlison was more active than Sigurdsson inside the penalty area, both in terms of attempts and touches. However, this is unlikely to be enough to justify his £1.5m increase in price from last season, compared to Sigurdsson’s minor bump of £0.5m.

Summary

Digne and Sigurdsson are ahead of the rest of Everton’s options from an FPL perspective, whilst Pickford punters may be better served opting for Lloris.

Meanwhile, Gueye’s departure is a massive blow due to his ball-winning capabilities and without him, Everton’s defence will have far less protection, even following Gbamin’s arrival. At 23 years of age, the ex-Mainz midfielder has been signed with the next few years in mind but Gueye’s shoes are big ones to fill in the short-term.

One way to counter-balance that in the meantime would be adding more goals to the team, with Zaha and Kean linked in recent days. Consequently, uncertainty remains over a few player’s starting positions until the club’s transfer activity is complete, particularly Bernard and Calvert-Lewin.

European qualification has to be the aim for Everton this season and the final few days of the window may prove pivotal in their quest to do so.


Stats from Transfermarkt and Fantasy Football Scout

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