Do Everton boast the best in the league?

Everton have not been at their last season’s best as of yet, but we got a glimpse of this as the Toffees’ comfortably pushed aside Aston Villa on Saturday.

It was a very good team performance from Everton but the stand-out players were again their full-back duo of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman. They may sound like a beginning of a terrible joke but the Englishman and the Irishman give the Toffees’ an extra dimension when they both play. Coleman returned from injury against Aston Villa and he was as sharp and as influential as ever.

Not many sides would rate their defenders ahead of their midfielders when it comes to the influence they hold over the team’s attacking prowess, however the way Everton use them makes them far more effective. We all know how influential Leighton Baines is to Everton, not least for his set-pieces, and the England international is certainly a key player for the Toffees.

However, it’s now gotten to the stage where Seamus Coleman in particular is so incredibly influential from the right-back position that it’s hard to imagine Everton cannot handle life without him.

In their last 10 matches in all competitions, Coleman has made an appearance in five. In the five without the Ireland international they have failed to win a single one, while the Toffees have won three out of five with the right-back in the team. When Coleman has played, Everton have scored 14 goals, a ratio of just under three goals a game. However, this number falls to five in the games the Irishman has missed, an average of just one goal per game on average. In particular, Coleman adds an attacking edge and when combined with Leighton Baines’ ability when going forward, the two make Everton far more prolific. It’s quite astonishing the difference full-backs can make to a team’s offence.

Everton have seemingly made the full-back position an art form with Baines and Coleman. Leighton has a total of five assists so far for Everton in the league this season and although this is expected when he takes the majority of their set-pieces, four of them have come from crosses during open play – that is when he is most dangerous. This is particularly impressive when you consider that the rest of the squad combined have just seven (including 1 from Coleman despite playing considerably less than most, because of his injury).

With the two full-backs contributing so successfully to their attack, how does that effect their defensive responsibilities? Well, when the two full-backs have both started the match this league season (which has happened on four occasions) they have conceded an average of two goals per game including two clean sheets and the 6-3 defeat against Chelsea. The statistics suggest that there is little difference between Everton’s defensive capabilities when the full-back partnership is broken up, as in the four occasions in which Coleman was missing from the line-up, Everton have again conceded an average of 2 goals per game.

So perhaps Everton are not the best defensively regardless of whether their full-backs take on a more offensive responsibility or not. However, offensively Baines and Coleman are absolutely crucial to Everton and they are the best clubs at utilising their full-backs in the Premier League.

Keep doing what you’re doing chaps – it’s wonderfully entertaining if nothing else.

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