Much has been made of Everton leading the “chances created” table across the top 5 leagues in Europe. They fell behind Bayern Munich recently, but after the shot-fest against Fulham, Everton regained top spot in this regard. For the non-stats freaks out there this simply means we’ve had more shots at goal than any other team.
While it’s a nice looking statistic, it needs context before it means anything. Everton have scored 19 goals so far while plenty of other teams across Europe have gone way beyond 20 and Bayern have now scored 30.
The stats geeks working on an Opta data release for every kick of the ball last season have confirmed the fairly obvious: what counts towards wins is ‘shots on target’. They’ve gone even further to proving common sense by extending this to what counts most is ‘shots on target from inside the box’. So next time someone blathers on about passing stats, point them here.
So, if Everton create so many chances, why don’t they score more goals? Can they not hit the target? Are shots getting blocked because they’re not really on and the decision making is poor? Here’s the numbers:
Now don’t feint, but Anichebe is a player that hits the target AND makes good decisions by not trying to hit the ball through a sea of legs. Admittedly these numbers are just for this season so we looked at last season too. Big Vic’s traits were exactly the same.
Jelavic’s numbers looked similarly efficient until his recent mini-slump where he’s not scored for 3 games. In that time his shooting has become wayward by his own very high standards. His ability to get clean shots off remains unwavering, though. If a shot’s not really on, he simply doesn’t like to take it.
This is in contrast to the shoot-on-sight philosophy seemingly adopted by Fellaini, Mirallas and Osman. While it lacks composure, it’s serving Everton well so far simply because of the number of shots they’re taking. Even based on this small sample size, Mirallas’s goals column looks light and the sheer number of shots he takes combined with his ability to get them on target suggests goals will come.
Going back to the stats geeks findings where shots on target from inside the box are key, Everton do well in this regard. 70% of their shots come from inside the box (10% inside the 6-yard box). However, here’s a graphic (courtesy of Squawka )of where Everton’s goals have come from so far this season:
Over a quarter of them (marked with an x) have come from areas wide of the goal (unsurprisingly, the left side). This is very unusual amongst the sides who score a lot of goals. Everton’s willingness to shoot from these wider areas in general is not good. None of the other high scoring teams do this. It suggests that Everton will only keep up the decent goal return if the volume of shots stay at present levels. If only the Premier League champions got anywhere near this volume in previous years, it’s unlikely Everton can maintain it for 38 games.
Everton, then, need to be a little “shot smarter”. It’s unlikely that the trigger happier players will suddenly change habits in order to improve, so Everton will need to work better positions to shoot from. Everton are alone amongst the top scorers in the way they play with Fellaini’s back-to-goal approach being a massive influence. Normally, a totem pole would be flicking on but the Belgian continues to display awesome chest control to get the ball on the deck. This necessarily means a spread of the play wider. Also, no matter how well Fellaini is doing when the ball comes back in at present, he’s essentially a midfielder and is unlikely to possess the ability to find the space in the box that a top striker would.
This is the conundrum Moyes faces. Stick with what’s working (most likely for now) or withdraw Fellaini back into a midfield role, with Mirallas off Jelavic and Naismith being brought in wide right. It would mean Mirallas getting shots off in the more important central areas and would most likely mean us being tighter in the middle of the park too. This could well be the way forward once Gibson returns to the fold. What would you do?
Follow me on Twitter here.