At the very end of the 2015-16 season, Roberto Martínez was fired from Everton and was replaced by former Southampton manager Ronald Koeman. Since taking charge, Koeman has been sensible and hasn’t spent too much in the transfer market; Everton ended the transfer window with a positive net spend of €1.4 million. However, some would argue that a positive net spend would have been all that Everton could afford, given they finished in the bottom half for two straight seasons. The fact that all the players Everton bought played in the Premier League last year shows Everton adopted a risk-free approach this summer.
- Yannick Bolasie
Previous Club: Crystal Palace
Price: €29 million
In my opinion, Yannick Bolasie was great at Crystal Palace last season. He was the fast, energetic spark that kept Crystal Palace in the Premier League. His radar, however, is less than impressive.
As the radar shows, he may be a good dribbler, but he doesn’t do much creative work. Bolasie’s scoring and shooting stats aren’t that great, either. His advanced stats were average, too. According to Paul Riley’s xG data that takes shot on target location into account, Bolasie’s xG90 score was only 0.235. His xG efficiency, 0.92, was below the league average that season, 0.946. His xA sum was bad as well: his xA last year was only 0.1.
His shot on target locations were good, though. However, shots do have to be of high quality to be on target. That little clump right to the left of the danger zone indicates Bolasie loves to cut inside and shoot.
There is one more problem: Bolasie missed 8 games due to injury last year. He only played 60.7% of the time for Palace in the Premier League last year. Everton should really have done a stats check on Bolasie before signing him for €29 million. They would have done much better to recruit a young winger from another league.
- Ashley Williams
Previous Club: Swansea City
Price: €8 million
I’ve been a big fan of Ashley Williams for the past two years. He’s a defender who doesn’t commit to too many tackles, but prevents goals by making tackles and interceptions when needed. The biggest thing about Williams is that he is a born leader. You see him shouting and motivating his teammates till the last minute. Even though we can’t capture leadership in a radar, Williams’s radar is remarkable.
Like I’ve said before, we can’t quantify a central defender using his radar. However, Ashley Williams looks like the reliable defender I thought he was. He makes only a few tackles and interceptions but rarely gets dribbled past. What he does do is block crosses, shots, and passes. Williams has stopped tons of goals for Swansea. He also makes sure danger is at bay when he clears the ball after winning it.
Williams played 95% of available minutes in the Premier League last season. He played every minute of 36 games. He was dropped for the last two games against West Ham United and Manchester City. Williams can deliver his good defensive work every week for Everton. The only issue is his age. Nevertheless, Williams can defend his side well for at least a year. If Everton had bought some other player from a different league, or someone younger, the defender would have had a harder time relocating compared to the experienced Ashley Williams.
- Idrissa Gueye
Previous Club: Aston Villa
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Price: €8.5 million
Idrissa Gueye was very good in France where he won a Ligue 1 with Lille. He moved to Aston Villa for the 2015-16 season. Bad choice. You would think playing for a team that got relegated last season would result in the player putting up horrible numbers. Well, think again.
Gueye was not creative last season, but his defensive work and work-rate compensates for that. He is the most defensive defensive midfielder you can find! He goes in for tackles, intercepts the ball, and rarely loses a duel. He is a good dribbler, too. His discipline is a problem, though. He has made many fouls and picked up 10 yellow cards in the Premier League last year. If Koeman can try to control his tackling, Gueye will come good at Everton.
The other benefit of hiring Gueye is the fact that he isn’t injury prone. He played 90% of available minutes for Everton last season. The only reason he didn’t play more was because he was dropped for three games. Villa lost every game that Gueye missed.
- Maarten Stekelenburg
Previous Club: Fulham (on loan to Southampton)
Price: €1 million
To replace the amazing American veteran Tim Howard, Everton bought a player Koeman knows well. Maarten Stekelenburg is Dutch and played at Southampton last season. In my opinion, Stekelenburg was good at Ajax, but he wasn’t as remarkable at Southampton last year.
Nobody has designed a goalkeeper radar yet, so I’m going to look at his individual stats on their own. According to Paul Riley’s xG data, Stekelenburg should have conceded 14.91 goals. He conceded 19. Joel Robles, Everton’s other keeper, did better. He should have conceded 20.08, but conceded 20. Joel also faced more shots than Stekelenburg. Tim Howard’s xG conceded was 33.39, though he actually conceded 35 goals.
I then used Squawka’s comparison matrix to compare the three goalkeepers. And the results were tight.
Stekelenburg and Joel are tied for first place with 3 stats won, while Howard only won 2. However, each keeper only won each stat by a small margin. No one is a clear winner. And Howard isn’t a clear loser, either. But the player we are trying to evaluate is Stekelenburg. It looks like he’s better than Howard, and he’s a bargain: €1 million!
But just one thing – why buy him, even if it’s for close to nothing? Joel Robles is a good, younger keeper. He is a better shot-stopper than Stekelenburg. The Dutchman’s is too old to be a backup keeper. This transfer is just weird. Maarten Stekelenburg is a good keeper. But Joel is (marginally) better than him. Everton bought neither a starter nor a backup. The only things going in his favor are:
- He has played for Koeman in the past and hails from Koeman’s country
- Everton spent only €1 million on him
So you tell me if he was a good buy or not.
Ronald Koeman did well in the transfer market. To test that conclusion I’m using Everton’s current stats to see how well the new signings are doing.
Remember what I had to say about Bolasie? I wasn’t too accurate. Just take a look at these stats:
- Bolasie has made 2 key passes per 90 minutes this season. That’s as much as Paul Pogba and Eden Hazard have done so far.
- He has created the highest number of big chances this season.
- He dribbles past 3.5 players per 90 minutes. Alexis Sánchez, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Heung-Min Son, Dimitry Payet, Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, and Mesut Özil have all dribbled past fewer players this season. He is 10th in the league based on that metric.
- He has crossed more than Mesut Özil, David Silva, Heung-Min Son, and Christian Eriksen. He is 16th in the league in terms of successful crosses.
Bolasie was no good last year, but he is this year. With his new Everton teammates, Bolasie looks like a whole new player. He has been very good with Romelu Lukaku. Four of Lukaku’s goals were from a pass from Bolasie. Bolasie has only scored one goal, though. And the reason for this is his decision-making. This is Paul Riley’s shot map (counting all shots, not just the ones on target) for Bolasie this season.
Bolasie really needs to get into better scoring positions. Only then will he truly fulfill his potential.
Gueye is the perfect box-to-box, all-action midfielder. To prove this, I have a visualization from Paul Riley concerning his ball recoveries.
He does as well, or even better than the Leicester-turned-Chelsea defensive midfielder N’Golo Kanté.
Another thing is that Idrissa Gueye is a better engine than Kanté. To the left is Gueye’s ball recoveries in second halves of a match compared to Kanté’s (right):
The radars of Idrissa Gueye and N’Golo Kanté were pretty similar last year, too.
A player as good as N’Golo Kanté. For £8.5 million. Well done, Everton, well done.
Stekelenburg has improved his shot-stopping. Before Everton played Chelsea on the 5th of November, his xG against tally was 9.14, while he had conceded only 7 goals. According to Paul Riley’s rating, he was better than Petr Cech, David de Gea, Claudio Bravo, and Thibaut Courtois. His other stats weren’t bad last season, so Everton have a good goalie on their hands for just €1 million. Joel will get his time later in his career at Everton or at another club.
. . .
In conclusion, according to this year’s data, Bolasie and Stekelenburg (players whom I didn’t rate based on last season’s data) are fine players. Idrissa Gueye is as good as he was last year, if not better. These players and Ashley Williams can be the players who can re-establish Everton in the top half of the league table.
Update: I wrote this post before the game on the 5th of November. That has to be one of the best performances I’ve seen Chelsea put up. And it was one of the worst performances I’ve seen the Toffees put up.
Everton’s game was undeniably a horror show. It also revealed a few problems in defense. Everton sold a great, young, fast center-back and replaced him with the slow, old Ashley Williams. Bolasie wasn’t that much of a threat. And don’t even get me started on Stekelenburg, although he woke up in the second half and saved a few good shots. Gueye’s influence was missed dearly.
One match may invoke a halo effect, but just looking at other matches it looks like the new signings are splendid players. But the real question is: how will they be used?
I would like to thank Ed Shorthouse for his help on this article. An Evertonian with an analytical view, he provided me with lots of information, opinion and stats. This article would be nowhere without his help.