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Should We Buy Everton Defenders in FPL 2019/20?

At the time of writing, Lucas Digne is the 5th highest owned defender. He’s a staple in nearly all of the FPL veterans’ drafts I’ve seen, following his impressive performances last season.

Unfortunately, Everton’s pre-season form has hardly reinforced the faith instilled in him. They’ve managed just one win from seven games, scoring a measly three goals in the process.

In this article, I’ll look at the numbers behind Everton’s 18/19 campaign and how, in reality, a few preseason fixtures needn’t be a cause for concern. Prepare yourself: some of the data I found was baffling and arousing in equal parts…

Everton’s manager and tactics

Long gone are the days of proper Brexit pint-o’-wine football under Big Sam, but even so, Marco Silva is a bit of an enigma.

He dropped into English football with an awful Hull squad destined for relegation, festering at the bottom of the Premier League at Christmas. Hull picked up 23 points in the second half of that season, form that certainly would’ve kept them up. They outplayed and beat Liverpool easily, held Mourinho’s United to a draw away from home before giving up the ghost in Gameweek 36.

At Watford, Silva also got off to a flyer. They sat in 4th after eight games and looked like the real deal until the Everton tapping-up saga. Prior to Hull, Silva broke almost every record available with Olympiacos. The side won 28 and scored 81 goals in 30 league games.

His managerial CV really is pretty fantastic, but there is a consensus that Silva’s teams trade some defensive stability in pursuit of ‘good’ attacking football.

Everton play a pretty intense 4-2-3-1 high press, sometimes with a double pivot. They try to defend from the front and break up attacks early, a role that Richarlison excels in. That’s the reason Everton paid so much for him.

In attack they transition quickly, with the wingers drawing defenders into the middle of the pitch to create room for their wingbacks to overlap. As we know, this makes Coleman and Digne extremely enticing FPL options.

Everton’s stats in 2018/19 season

This is where it gets interesting. On the face of it, Everton had an average season; 54 points, 8th place. But, if we look a little closer at the numbers things get a bit more spicy.

It seems the Everton squad may have had a hard time adapting from Allardyce’s style to Silva’s, but when they did things took a turn.

GS GC Pts
GW1-19 31 (7th) 29 (14th) 27
GW20-38 23 (16th) 17 (3rd) 27
GW28-38 18 (5th) 7 (2nd) 21

In the period of GW 28-38 Everton were in fantastic form. In this period they beat Chelsea, Arsenal, United and held Liverpool to a nil-nil draw.

The most exciting stat though might be that they kept eight clean sheets in those 11 games. There is a significant swing from the first half of the season defensively, both in real life numbers and underlying stats. The numbers read like top four form.

xG xGA Shots Faced CS
GW1-19 26.46 (8th) 27 (11th) 212 (5th) 4 (13th)
GW20-38 23.25 (13th) 21 (5th) 191 (4th) 10 (2nd)
GW28-38 16.87 (5th) 9 (3rd) 105 (3rd) 8 (1st)

Aside from City, Everton had the best defence in the league over the last 11 gameweeks and close to it in the whole of the second half of the season.

Conversely, they were only 13th for expected goals in the second half of the season. If we take the numbers at face value, the abrupt change in defensive stats would suggest that either Silva tried to tighten up Everton’s defence tactically or the transitional period lasted until it ‘clicked’ in the second half of the season. Either way, they make for pretty surprising reading and may account for their lack of goals in preseason.

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Potential issues for Everton FPL assets

Everton have sold Idrissa Gueye to PSG, and Zouma has returned to Chelsea from his loan. Gueye had the highest rate of interceptions per 90 of any midfielder in the league last season and was integral to that late form. As any Everton fan will attest to, Zouma was a rock at the back for most of the season.

The highly-rated Gbamin has just been purchased as a like for like replacement for Gueye and should slip into the same role nicely. What’s really interesting is that in the initial 8-game run Silva had at Watford that left them in 4th, Capoue (27) had 10 more interceptions than any other midfielder by that point. Coincidentally, Gueye was in second (17).

Silva’s 4-2-3-1 system benefits defensive midfielders as the system is so reliant on them. So while Gueye is a big loss, he may be more replaceable than it might seem.

Zouma, who is rumoured to return to Everton before the window closes, will be missed if he doesn’t return, but they do still have Mina and Keane. The pair have a proven partnership, having kept three clean sheets (two vs Chelsea) in the six games they partnered up in.

What does this mean for Everton’s FPL potential?

Although pre-season is notoriously awful for predicting actual form, the trend has continued. Everton may have only won one game in preseason, but they kept four clean sheets in seven games too.

Their lack of goals is a bigger worry for me. They’ve just signed Moise Kean who should bring them goals, but it’s hard to justify a Richarlison or Sigurdsson punt when everything points to them struggling going forward. At least until he beds in.

Everton have very solid opening fixtures, and if you buy into these late season stats their defensive assets are great options for clean sheets alone. They also have the 4th best xG from set plays, potentially adding some value to their taller centre backs. With Digne and Coleman’s attacking wing-back roles, a double-up might not be the worst idea.

For more Fantasy Premier League Tips, read:

Who to pick for Gameweek 1?
The ultimate guide to clean sheets
Top five differentials for FPL 19/20
Robertson vs Alexander-Arnold


Marc Dowding

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