Everton FC: Assessing the Contributions of Kevin Mirallas vs. Steven Naismith
Everton's right side of midfield has predominantly been occupied by two of their newest recruits this season, in Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith.
But which has fared better so far?
Mirallas has generally been considered first choice of the pair, making nine starts and two substitute appearances.
However, his continuing injury woes have afforded Naismith a series of starts too. The Scot has made eight in total and has also come on in every other Premier League game this season, except the 3-1 win over Southampton.
So far Mirallas has clocked up 660 minutes on the field to Naismith's 766 (via eplindex.com), numbers that are similar enough for an accurate statistical comparison.
Here's a look at what both have contributed in certain areas—considering only Premier League games.
Despite spending over 100 minutes more on the field, Naismith has made 379 touches to Mirallas' 386, suggesting his contributions have been a little more peripheral than the Belgian's.
With Mirallas more eager to dribble, cross or shoot, Naismith has exchanged more passes (273-207), but each player should be aiming to increase their involvement as the season progresses.
They are close in terms of passing accuracy, each recording an average around 79 percent—just below the Toffees' team average of 80 percent.
With Everton looking to involve Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar as much as possible, David Moyes focuses the majority of build-up play down the left.
As a result, the Toffees have launched 43 percent of attacks down their left and just 30 percent down the right—the highest and lowest figures across the league for each flank.
Mirallas and Naismith average just a third as many passes per game as Everton's left-sided duo, something Moyes will surely want to balance out, over time.
Playing in attacking midfield, it's important that both players create chances for their teammates and influence games going forward.
Again, possibly due to Everton's emphasis on the left, neither have contributed a significant return in this department, although Mirallas has produced the more consistent work.
The Belgian has created 17 chances with two assists, to Naismith's 13 chances and one assist—which again shows Mirallas edging out his positional counterpart.
However, when compared to the 62 and 42 chances made by Baines and Pienaar respectively, it is clear just how reliant the Toffees have been on their left.
This is where the two players' opposing styles become particularly evident, as well as Mirallas' extra flair.
First of all, there is a staggering difference in crossing. Mirallas has delivered 35 times and Naismith just five, highlighting the Belgian's willingness to reach the byline and cross, versus Naismith's preference of cutting in and playing narrow.
In terms of dribbling and beating a man, there is also a clear difference here. Mirallas has passed an opponent 13 times from 36 attempts, whereas Naismith is yet to pass his man from six failed attempts.
As a result of his more aggressive traits, Mirallas has predictably been dispossessed twice as much (14-7), although his passing accuracy in the final third is 74 percent while Naismith slips to 70 percent.
Moyes has targeted Naismith via the aerial route in the final third, seeing him compete for 40 aerial duels to Mirallas' five. The Scot is also more prominent tracking back, making more clearances (12-2) and tackles (16-11) than Mirallas.
Of course, the essential contribution in football is goals. While Mirallas is providing better production everywhere else for the team, Naismith has been more clinical in the box.
Brought in to add extra potency in the final third, the Scot has three goals from just 14 shots so far, and his chance conversion rate and shooting accuracy are the best in the squad.
Mirallas is yet to find his Olympiakos scoring form at Everton, as his 34 shots have heralded just one goal—a strike he had to finish off with a second attempt against Swansea.
Only Marouane Fellaini averages more shots per game than his Belgian compatriot, but so far not enough of them are troubling the goalkeeper.
How do you rate Mirallas so far?
Both players have shown encouraging signs, but Mirallas certainly comes across as the more essential choice, for now. The only problem is getting him fit.
He is more creative and a considerably more rounded threat in attack. He can sprint forward for a cross, take on a man and shoot, or join in some quick interplay with those around him. The main area he will want to improve is his finishing.
Naismith is the more conservative choice, more workmanlike and disciplined in his approach and less likely to cough up possession. He's not as dangerous going forward unless he's making a late run into the box to get on a cross. His influence could prove vital coming off the bench when chasing a game.
How do you rate Naismith so far?
Judging by their return, Everton's right might well have been more productive this season with a fully fit Mirallas. Naismith has done an admirable job, but may ultimately be a better option playing off the front man, as he often did at Rangers, or even drifting in from the left if Pienaar is missing.
Mirallas will be the happier of the two with his early Everton career, although it will take each player time to adjust to the pace of the Premier League.
Expect more from both over the second half of the season.
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