Heading into the 2013/2014 campaign, Leighton Baines was the prized defensive player to have for fantasy lineups, and for good reason. In his 7 year career with Everton he’s racked up 19 goals, 40 assists, kept 29 clean sheets, and played 263 complete games. All the while being promoted to the senior level English national team and is included on the short list of the best Left Backs in the world. He’s been the model of consistency, and possess an ability to not only get forward and aid in attack, but lead it; something real and fake teams crave. But this season, though not a complete disappointment for fantasy players, has for the most part been a down year for the star defender. 6 games missed due to injury haven’t helped, but with only 3 goals and 2 assists he certainly isn’t performing like the dominant fantasy defender we’ve come to expect, and what the £7.4 price tag would suggest. Instead, that role is being occupied by another Everton defender.
Seamus Coleman has emerged, almost out of nowhere, to become one of the most feared defenders in the Premier League. Much in the mold of his backfield mate Baines, he has thrived not only in defense at his Right Back position, but has also been unstoppable at times in attack as well. He began the year at a measly £5.0 on fantasypremierleague.com, skyrocketing all the way to his current value of £6.6, and at 37.4% is the 4th-most selected overall player after Luis Surarez, Yaya Touré, and Eden Hazard.
But just how has this Irishman gone from relative obscurity to become not only one of the most sought-after players in fantasy football, but also in the real version as teams the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal are supposedly lining up to acquire his services?
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We begin with the obvious, the goals. His total of 6 is tops for defenders in the league, and is a true testament to his attacking prowess. Like Baines and most other top backs in the world, it’s Coleman’s ability to get forward and be someone the opposition has to account for when being pressed is what separates him from most other defenders.
The above heat map for his performance against Cardiff City this past Saturday essentially sums up his involvement for the Toffee’s this year. As you can see, he’s been a mainstay in not only his half of the field, but the opposition’s as well.
In addition to the goals, he’s also been very adapt at passing, completing 87% of his attempted passes. Out of those, he’s managed to create 32 chances. He’s only provided 1 assist with those chances, but the 31 key passes (tied for tops amongst defenders with Patrice Evra), demonstrates his ability to pick out a teammate and set them up for a shot on goal. And when you look at where these chances are coming from, you see that he’s been at his most deadly in the final third of the pitch…
But, being that he is a defender, all the goals and created chances wouldn’t mean as much if he wasn’t able to hold up his end of the bargain on defense. Everton have been the 2nd best defense in the Prem this year as far as goals against (28 to Chelsea’s 23), and while no one will confuse him for being a rock on defense, he’s definitely held his own. Looking past the clean sheets (of which he has 10), we see that he’s done his part in the core areas needed to be a defender: winning the ball back, and doing so cleanly.
From this chart you can see that he’s been successful on far more than half of his tackle attempts, and when it comes to fouls, he’s been the one getting fouled more often as opposed to being the one getting penalized. This is especially crucial as the fouls can lead to deadly set pieces. His attacking duties often draw him away from his half of the field, putting more pressure on the Center Backs, but when needed, he’s been more than a capable defender and has definitely played a role in Everton being the 2nd best defense in the league this year.
To sum everything up, when you look at his total involvement, one would have to say that Coleman’s been one of the most complete players in the Premiership this season. In fact, one could even make the argument (this writer included), that he’s been the most valuable Everton player this year; even over Romalu Lukaku and his 10 goals. If you got in on him early before his stock soared, congratulations. If you haven’t yet splurged the £6.6 to have his name in your starting 11, hopefully this article has swayed you to pull the trigger on that transfer.
All statistics taken from Squawka.com
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