Everton's 2012-13 Premier League season, the last under David Moyes, is now well and truly consigned to the football annuals of time.
A sixth-placed finish and 63 points may well have been taken by most supporters back in August, but an unfortunate lack of European football and two dismal cup exits will leave a sour taste lingering in the mouths of many.
Several excellent, in-depth analysis of the Toffees' fluctuating fortunes have already been written, highlighting the tactical trends of the season. Following on in this style, here's more of a focus on the individuals, as opposed to the team.
We start with a look at Everton's goalkeeper, which, as it has been for the past seven years, was almost entirely Tim Howard. Jan Mucha performed heroics in a memorable win over Manchester City, but the rest of his season was almost completely irrelevant, mirroring his previous three years on Merseyside.
Here's a look at Howard's statistics, compared to his form over the past five seasons:
It's actually quite remarkable how similar Howard's five years have been, but these numbers don't show the American's sporadic production this season. Six clean sheets in his final nine appearances actually glossed over a lengthy bout of inconsistency and rather augmented his final return, as this article highlights.
Initially this campaign was on course to be his worst at Everton, as early-season lapses against Newcastle, Stoke, Norwich and Fulham ultimately cost the Toffees dearly. His five individual errors, all during the first half of the season, are his worst return for the club.
On his game, the American is still one of the most reliable goalkeepers in the division, but there is certainly a need to identify a younger model to develop behind him and eventually replace him with.
After an uncertain middle period, Everton's defence rallied to finish the year as the top flight's fourth-best unit, conceding just 40 goals. Here's a look the main defensive contributors:
It doesn't take a particularly educated eye to spot the main culprit for the Toffees' poorer spells at the back. Having been awarded the Fans' Player of the Year award last season, to say John Heitinga has disappointed over the past 12 months would be a huge understatement.
He recorded the lowest production in most categories and too often handicapped a side that conceded far more goals with him in defence. Leighton Baines may be slightly disappointed with his overall contribution at the back, although his sensational offensive facets more than atone for this.
In contrast, Seamus Coleman was arguably Everton's most improved player this season. His growing effectiveness is demonstrated by some impressive numbers, especially in the challenge area, while Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka are extremely consistent throughout.
That previously mentioned uncertainly relates to a period between September and January when the Toffees failed to keep a clean sheet in 18 matches. A worrying trait that became particularly prominent during this run was an inability to cope with physical strikers. Only Wigan conceded more headed goals than the Toffees' 15, which is reflected by the aerial duels won column, in which only Distin excels.
Jagielka is exceptional on the ground and in almost all aspects of defending, but perhaps only average in the air. Everton need a towering presence in their left-sided berth to not only complement Jagielka, but also to compensate for Baines' lack of height next to him. Without Distin, Heitinga is not able enough in this department, and too stylistically similar to Jagielka to partner him, ever. An imposing centre-back must be brought in over the summer.
Next, here's a look at Everton's midfield men. When looking at scattered numbers like these it must be remembered how different players have different roles to perform. Sometimes these statistics are useful merely in identifying them as opposed to making instant judgements without relevant context:
One of the main issues with the Toffees' midfield was a lack of bite when not in possession. With Marouane Fellaini predominately occupying a forward berth, Leon Osman, Darron Gibson and Phil Neville were generally left responsible for Everton's core.
Gibson produced the worst tackling figures at the club, Osman was dribbled past more than anyone in the Premier League (aside from Santi Cazorla) and Neville's ground duel success is rather awful. In other words, the Toffees were often vulnerable through the middle.
Fellaini reappeared in a deeper role towards the end of the season and, coincidentally, the Toffees only conceded four goals in their last 10 games—although they also scored far less. With the Belgian potentially about to depart the club, a physical, energetic presence should be targeted in midfield.
Elsewhere, Pienaar's exceptional creative production is emphasised here, a return that makes his sometimes sloppy retention skills slightly more forgiveable. With the ball, Osman and Gibson produced fine campaigns, with Gibson's poise and Osman's passing in the final third especially impressive.
Attack was Everton's glaring weakness this season, with the Toffees managing at least 10 goals fewer than each of the six sides around them. Too often goals were not registered during dominant passages of play meaning narrow leads were eventually surrendered. Here's a look at the main offenders:
It's hard to summarise Nikica Jelavic's fall from grace. Having started brightly enough, with six goals in 15 games, the Croatian's currently on a demoralising run of just one Premier League goal in 22 games.
While it may have initially had something to do with Fellaini's forward berth, the fact that the Belgian's recently returned to a deeper role dispels, or at least silences that argument for now. After such a bright burst late last season, this year has only brought disappointment, and he now looks completely bereft of confidence.
As a result, he records some pretty dismal figures. He creates the least, wins little in the air, misses the target most often and, crucially, needs more chances to score than any other forward.
Elsewhere, the reason for including Kevin Mirallas here is to reveal his increasing effectiveness in the final third. As well as leading the creative and dribbling stakes, he more than holds his own in the shooting department and is surely a candidate to play behind the striker more frequently next season.
Fellaini enjoyed an outstanding start, with eight goals in 14, but found it hard to maintain the pace. The Belgian was still dominant in the air throughout the year and was his side's most clinical player in the final third. Without producing anything statistically stunning, Victor Anichebe produced his most consistent year in an Everton shirt and can be an effective, physical foil for more subtle players around him.
Best and Worst
To finish, here's a light-hearted look at some of Everton's best and worst statistical performers:
It's impossible to review the season in numbers without mentioning Baines' outstanding creative production. From left-back, the England man fashioned out a mammoth 116 openings for his teammates, the most in the Premier League—by 12—and currently the most in Europe's five major leagues.
He was also the Toffees' top crosser, made the most tackles, had the most touches and played every minute of a season. He was effectively his side's heartbeat and was rightly crowned his club's Player of the Year.
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