One of this year's chief complaints from Evertonians is how bad the defense has looked. Supporters have begun to play the "what if?" game and wonder how a more stalwart defense could have us sitting in a Champions League berth rather than 6th with only a few months remaining in the season. The truth is that our perception of events are far different from reality. The true culprit to Everton's woes, and recent slowdown, is the lack of a consistent goalscorer up top.
This year Everton has conceded 32 goals while scoring 40. In contrast, Tottenham Hotspur, sitting in 4th have conceded 30 goals while scoring 44. Even if we take Everton's goals conceded total to 30 and turn two of our draws into victories, we would still be sitting in 5th place. If we instead gave Everton an additional 4 goals, the club would be in 4th place.
With both goals allowed and conceded so close this season, it is important to look at past seasons. Since the 2006-2007 season, it is clear that Everton has been able to compete with top clubs on defense, but it is offense where the club is truly lacking.
In the past 6 seasons, Everton is normally within 4 goals conceded of the team that finished in 4th place for the season. Last year we even conceded one goal fewer than Tottenham, who finished 4th. The only year that stands out is when the club conceded 8 more goals than the 4th place club in the 2009-2010 season when we finished 8th.
Four goals is not a a large enough total to explain the discrepancy in points between us and the club that finishes in 4th. The answer lies in improving the offense. Everton have scored on average 11 fewer goals than the 4th place team for that season. Depending on when those goals would occur, Everton left a potential 20 points on the table each year. Even the two seasons when Everton finished 5th they were outscored by 12 and 13 goals respectively. Funny enough Everton's closest season was when the finished in 8th and only scored 7 fewer goals than the club that finished in 4th. The table for all of the seasons mentioned is below.
|Season||GF (4th)||GA (4th||GF (EFC)||GA (EFC)||EFC Finish|
To look at it in another context, the 4th place club in each of the past 6 seasons has averaged 1.76 goals per game while conceding only .98 goals per game. Contrast that with Everton who has scored only 1.41 goals per game while conceding 1.04 goals per game. Once again this is an example of the small difference in goals conceded between Everton and 4th place, while there is a much larger difference in the goals scored category.
The solution is simple in principle, but execution has proved to be Moyes' weakness. Everton don't necessarily need a 20 goals a season striker, but they do need a consistent striker. For whatever reason a strikers arrival at Everton coincides with a brief run of form, followed by disappointment and a multitude of offside flags.
Yes, the defense does have problems. Honestly, they are the same problems we see every year. The club needs a right back and some depth at the center back position. They need a center back who can deal with a brute forward similar to those at Aston Villa and even our own Victor Anichebe. None of these problems are nothing new, but they are secondary to a need for a striker. The table above shows where the club needs to be concentrating resources, and it is on offense not defense.
Bottom line is David Moyes can and should fix the defense all he wants, but it is highly unlikely to put Everton into the Champions League. Rather, finding a quality strikeforce should be his number one priority. Once a true striker is brought in then Everton's path to Europe will be all but secured.