Seamus Coleman has been one of the star turns in what has been an up and down season for the Blues so far. His speed, fearless approach and raw ability have been refreshing to watch and has led David Moyes to propose that the Irishman can have the same impact for us as Gareth Bale has done for Spurs, which is some praise considering Bale is held up as the benchmark for young wide players in the Premier League. This article will assess his performance this season and will look to where he fits in with Everton’s future setup and also analyse if the stats support Moyes’ comparison between Coleman and Bale.
Coleman’s stats summary this season…….
Coleman is statistically our best tackler this season with a completion rate of 90%. His pass completion rate is an impressive 78% although his shooting requires some improvement, currently only accurate with 1 in 3 shots. His ability to take players on has been a key component to his success, with an impressive 62% success rate of beating his marker and 33% of his crosses have been completed successfully, with a classic example of both being the below mazy run and cross against Liverpool to setup Cahill’s opening goal.
With old fashioned wingers now few and far between there is a strong argument in modern day football that full backs are the most important position in the team in terms of providing width and the impact they have on matches. Seamus Coleman possesses the key attributes for this type of role in that he has speed, great stamina, excellent man marking capability and is incredibly sharp in the tackle
I have made the point on this blog in the past that Moyes has a preference for wide players to tuck inside (like Pienaar,Arteta, Billy) to enable the fullback to get up the flank and create an extra man in midfield (like Baines does week in week out). Playing right wing, Coleman doesn’t really fit into this model because he likes to hug the touchline due to him being a born and bred fullback.
Coleman is doing a fantastic job for the team this year and his speed, penetration and direct approach are qualities that we don’t have in abundance in the current squad. Pace is such a key variable in the modern game and with Coleman in our midfield it is noticeable that defenders will stand off more and hold a deeper defensive line to prevent the threat in behind. This in turn creates more space on the field for us to exploit.
The diagram shows Coleman’s average position from a recent home and away game. The top diagram shows Coleman (circled blue) much more withdrawn than Billy (circled red) on the opposite flank. The below diagram shows his and Billy’s average positions against Arsenal with Coleman clearly further forward and almost level with Saha. This has been a trend in many games this term where Coleman’s pace has been better utilized more in away games were home defenders will push up more leaving space in behind which is perhaps why out of Coleman’s 5 goals in all competitions, 4 have come on our travels.
Being a good defender and the combination he and Neville have down the right flank gives us great balance to our more offensive left side. The pair have combined greatly and subdued arguably the top 3 marauding left backs in the league this campaign (Bale, Evra & Ashley Cole) is credit to them. Indeed, of the 34 of goals we ship from the right side is just 23% have had their origin down our right side
Coleman v Bale Statistical Comparison – Premier League Games Only
Coleman v Bale
There are definitely comparisons which can be drawn between both of these all action players. Both are comfortable as full backs but are currently deployed as wingers for their clubs. Also, unlike the modern trend to play wingers on the opposite wing cutting in on their preferred foot (e.g. Ashley Young for Aston Villa) they both play on their strongest footing side, Bale on the left and Coleman on the right.
For me, Seamus Coleman has much better defensive attributes than Bale. If you look at Coleman’s tackling stats (90% completion) you can see he is a natural stopper and loves to tackle. Coleman has also shown in his man marking assignments this campaign (notably on Ashley Cole at Stamford Bridge) that he is adept in tracking and nullifying opponents.
Bale is more composed and has a better chance creation and shooting completion figure. Bale on average creates 1.7 Chances per game for an opponent whilst Coleman has a much lower figure of 0.8. I would say that Coleman is a real goal threat when it comes to instinct (4 of his 5 goals this campaign have been 1 touch finishes) but he can often show indecision when given too much time and space in the final third as happened in the second half of the Blackpool game at the weekend.
Both will often look to hit the touchline before delivering although Bale, like Leighton Baines, has a range of delivery which means he is capable of whipping/drilling balls from deeper positions. One thing which is interesting to note is that from combined they have put in164 crosses with only 41 reaching an opponent. Paul Gardner’s recent article in World Soccer Magazine talked about how in modern football the cross into the box is something of a haphazard tactic with figures showing that it has limited success in terms of creating goals. He comments that other leagues such as La Liga have a significantly less emphasis on the cross as a way of creating a goal scoring opportunity, with the games he analysed showing 3 times less crosses in the Spanish games than in the Premier League.
With our skipper Phil Neville perhaps having 1-2 years left as a pro I foresee Moyes increasingly looking to use Coleman in the right back slot. When he has been deployed here this season (albeit sparingly) he has shown that he can switch off (See below screen shot v Newcastle ) and also being caught up field against Brentford for their goal.
v Newcastle at Goodison earlier this season, SC switches off when in the right back role enabling Kevin Nolan to find space leading to SC bringing Nolan down which luckily for the Blues didn’t result in a pen.
This occasional lack of awareness is something which is resolved through experience and playing in front of Phil Neville week in week out will unquestionably benefit the Irishman in terms of advice and guidance from the skipper on when to go and when to hold position.
If you look at the current composition of our squad, I would say our best central players are midfielders (Arteta, Rodwell, Fellaini) and our best wide players are defenders (Baines, Coleman). Therefore an approach similar to AC Milan’s current 4-3-1-2 system could be deployed. The additional benefit of this approach would be to have 2 out and out strikers with Cahill in behind.