Sean Dyche: Everton's xG proves we will eventually get out of the relegation scrap

Vitalii Mykolenko scores and celebrates
Vitalii Mykolenko opens the scoring for Everton against Brighton - Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Everton are in a false position in the bottom three for more reasons than you think.

Never mind the 10-point sanction which has plunged Sean Dyche’s side into the relegation zone. A missing 11 goals are equally responsible for making Saturday’s trip to Nottingham Forest so pivotal.

Dyche has frequently referenced the ‘expected goals’ statistics during a strange season in which the league table is a poor representation of where Everton belong. That is not solely down to the whim of the Premier League’s Independent Commission.

Aside from penalties, Everton have scored 14 goals this season. However, their ‘xG’ for ‘non-penalty goals’ suggests that is 11 fewer than they should have given the clear chances created. No Premier League club has such a differential, putting Everton bottom of an ‘xG’ table which is negative yet also perversely encouraging.

Clearly Dyche and his coaching staff need to work overtime with their attackers’ finishing skills, but he has tangible proof that Everton are not playing like a side one would expect to be in the relegation zone.

Abdoulaye Doucoure scores against Crystal Palace
has chipped in with four goals from midfield – now Everton's strikers need to be more clinical - Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Dyche is by no means a slave to the data, seeing the contribution of his analysis or ‘insights team’ as complementary to his day-to-day work.

But he is enthused enough to believe that the anomaly between the number of chances created and taken will fix itself over 38 Premier League games.

“I referenced mid-way through a decent run before [Everton beat] Crystal Palace that our insights team had [found] something similar,” said Dyche.

“There are certain markers that are so strong that if you keep maintaining that over a season, it does pay you back.

“Back in the day, Graham Taylor used to ‘self-stat’ things because he didn’t have analytics like we have now and there were certain markers that he always insisted upon. He said season after season after season they work. Things like the number of shots, but within that the quality of the shot.

“If you get those numbers right enough over a season it will pay you back. It might not pay you back in the next game or game five.

“But over a season that sort of positive statistic will absolutely pay you back.”

Everton’s defeat by Manchester United followed the same pattern to every home game with the one notable exception of Arsenal’s victory on Merseyside. The Gunners are the only side to visit Goodison this season whose expected goals at full-time eclipsed Everton’s.

In some cases, Everton’s ‘xG’ was double the opponent despite a home loss, Dyche’s side creating numerous opportunities which could be considered ‘sitters’ only to be punished by an opponent which had few shots but took the points.

“So far, our markers are high, forgetting the obvious one given the 10-point deduction,” said Dyche.

“If you think about it, even if we had been as clinical as we would like we were still on 14 points before this. If you are on 14 points – which considering the last two seasons is reasonable – and you keep hitting those markers with all those games to go, it is likely to pay you back even further.”

Dyche is the first to acknowledge, however, that the trend needs to reverse sooner rather than later. That is easier said than done, especially when the fitness of Dominic Calvert-Lewin is so fundamental to his side’s attacking capacity.

“Within that you have to keep making it happen,” he said.

“You cannot just go: ‘Oh well, the manager says the stats will pay you back.’ You have to focus that it is yours/our responsibility to keep doing certain things.

“So, yes, that stat is weirdly positive but you cannot be naive enough to think it will solve itself. It doesn’t solve itself, so we are not naive enough to think that. But they are clear indicators.”

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