International breaks are typically times in the season that clubs tend to sweat over the safeguarding of their stars and their return to club duty without any injury problems. Sustaining injuries on international duty is always a blow, but that suffered by Everton’s Seamus Coleman was not only a major setback to his club and country but one of the low points of the whole international break, after a rash challenge by Neil Taylor resulted in the Ireland captain being carried off the pitch at the Aviva Stadium with a broken leg.
The right-back will be out of action for at least six months following successful surgery, but during his long spell on the sidelines, he will not only be a big miss for his country, but for his club, with a return to fitness unlikely to come until next season.
A composed head at the back, Coleman is not only a strong defensive asset for Everton but he is well known for his tendency to break forward, adding an extra dimension to the Toffees attack and often chipping in with vital goals and assists. Indeed, in the 26 games he has featured for Everton in the Premier League this season, he has scored four goals, clocked up three assists and taken part in 12 victories, finishing on the losing side on seven occasions.
What will render the Irishman such a great miss for the Merseysiders is his consistency as much as anything else. As far as that quality is concerned, his statistics speak for themselves, having featured 206 times in the league for Everton, scoring 18 goals and chipping in with 17 assists from full-back, and contributing to 55 clean sheets.
The impressive defensive side of Coleman’s game is often overlooked given that he has become known primarily as an attack-minded full-back. Nobody would be wrong in saying so of course, but this season as much as any Coleman’s defensive game has been of great help to Everton. Of the 55 clean sheets he has helped keep in the Premier League, ten of those have come this season, and he has starred in a defence that with the Irishman on the pitch has shipped just 28 goals in 29 games, of which Coleman has missed just three.
In the 26 games in which Coleman has featured, he has made 53 tackles, with a success rate of 79%, one last-man challenge to deny an opponent, two blocks inside the box, 29 interceptions, 68 clearances and 40 headed clearance, with one clearance coming on his own goal-line. With his attacking presence meaning he often gets up the pitch, he is also forced to track back and do the defensive work, which he also does to great effect, having recovered possession 135 times.
Another aspect of his defensive game that the Toffees will be lacking is his willingness to involve himself in personal battles on the pitch. Out of 246 duels on the field Coleman has become involved in this season, he was won 130 and has also won 31 successful 50/50 challenges. He may not be the tallest full-back at 5″9, but he doesn’t shy away from aerial battles either, winning 20 headers from a possible 44, where his height has put him at a disadvantage. He makes up for this with his contributions elsewhere on the pitch, as well as his composure and professionalism on the ball, having conceded no own goals this season and committed no errors leading directly to a goal for the opposition.
His professionalism also comes across in an impressive disciplinary record. Being an attacking full-back with a responsibility to track back and throw in challenges, it can often be a problem position for players racking up bookings, yet Coleman has not seen red all season, and has only picked up a yellow card on three occasions, and with his injury will see out this season without incurring any suspension. The most impressive statistic is that in those 26 games, Coleman has only made 18 fouls, a stellar total for any defender.
Given his reputation as an attacking full-back, however, his contributions to Ronald Koeman’s side going forward will be sorely missed just as much as any other aspect of the Irishman’s game. From his favoured right-back position, when getting forward Coleman has contributed three assists this season out of seven chances he has created, including an assist for Idrissa Gueye to score against Sunderland, an impressive cross volleyed home by Lukaku against Bournemouth, and also forcing an own goal away at Stoke after his curling effort on target was put into his own net by Ryan Shawcross.
He has also netted four goals of his own and struck the woodwork on two occasions, with some of his successful strikes including a late headed equaliser against Swansea, a well-taken strike against Middlesbrough and an emphatic last gasp winner at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace, in which he received the ball from Tom Davies following an impressive run forward, before drilling the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
In open play, Coleman is a force in getting the Toffees up the pitch and in retaining possession, having played a total of 920 passes this season, with an average of 35.38 passes played per game. From getting down the flanks and in behind the opposition, he has put a total of 92 crosses into the box, but he often does better venturing inside and either going for goal himself or playing a short pass, with just 18 of those crosses finding their intended target, more often the not the height of Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian serves as the focal point of the attack, and that is also reflected in Coleman’s game, with the defender having played 51 accurate long balls up toward the lone striker.
Attacking wise, therefore, it is not just Coleman’s key goals which Everton will be lacking, but also the player’s general creativity and ability to link play. When getting forward, Coleman favours overlapping runs and quick passes inside, often playing one-two balls with either his winger or a central midfielder, to receive the ball in behind and wreak havoc in opposition penalty areas, where he will either supply a cross or pass, or go for goal himself. Whether his stand-in full-back Mason Holgate will chip in going forward remains to be seen, but if so, what the youngster will also need to adopt into his game is a work-rate similar to Coleman’s.
When a full-back goes forward and plays a more attacking role, watching supporters often take for granted that the player must how the desire, work-rate, speed and tenacity to trackback when possession is lost, particularly in the opposing final third against teams which can break with pace and conviction. Coleman is able to do this in abundance, has shown by his impressive statistics in recovering possession, as well as his contributions in defence.
With a plethora of attributes, Coleman has grown into a good all-round attacking and defensive full-back, a game which Mason Holgate or any other defender who deputises for Coleman will have to adopt if Everton are to retain the same attacking force down their right flank. If the player filling in is of a less direct style, Ronald Koeman may be forced to adapt and tweak his side in terms of their play in the final third, such is the price for ensuring that the right side of the defence remains just as solid.
If Coleman’s replacement can retain the same overall game within the side, then his absence may well have less of an impact, but such all-round, well developed attacking full-backs are hard to come by, and what Coleman brings to the table is certain to be missed at Goodison Park during the long road to recovery.
Get well soon, Seamus, from all at The Boot Room.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by chao1989.
Statistics courtesy of www.premierleague.com.