This is not an article about air conditioning maintenance.  It relates instead to a somewhat mind-bending article on CIES Football Observatory that shows we have three of the world’s best U-25 players in their roles.

The interesting thing about the CIES analysis is that roles do not correlate to positions on the pitch.  The roles cover 6 offensive activities, 4 defensive activities and passes.  These roles are then combined to create bizarre sounding role-based categories of players.

Anyway, our young world beaters and their bizarre sounding categories are set out below:

Amadou Onana: the “air blocker filter man”

Our ace new midfield giant is 6th in the world with Jules Kounde now of Barcelona top, but behind the likes of Thomas (Leicester) and Tomiyasu (Arsenal).

This category specialises in air defence and recovery.

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Onana’s height obviously helps with the former.  Speed and positioning probably helps with the latter.

Vitaliy Mykolenko: the “ground blocker filter man”

Our left back is 8th in the world in this category, behind a mix of defenders and defensive midfield players like Lisandro Martinez, William Saliba and Boubacar Kamara.

This category specialises in ground defence and recovery.

Speed and reading of the game will help here.

Anthony Gordon: the “shooter infiltrator”

This is a pretty star-studded category, with Leao and Mbappe coming our 1st and 2nd respectively, with our young star at 6th.

This category specialises in take-ons and shooting.

It’s interesting because a lot of commentators on Toffeeweb have (fairly) criticised Gordon for his shooting.  It is often a bit lacking in power (Pienaar was similar) or wayward.  But statistically it’s treated as a strength.

Who cares?

This is a good question.  In some respect you wonder sometimes about all these statistics and how deep up their own arses the statisticians have disappeared.

But let’s humour the concept for a little longer because I think there are some good points to take from all of this:

  • As is fairly obvious, a good team relies on a mix of physical and other capabilities.  You don’t necessarily need a hugely tall CB pairing if you have a giant like Onana ahead of them.
  • The Premier League is fairly well represented in these tables but Arsenal are absolutely streets ahead of anyone.  I suspect they are building a squad specifically by reference to these statistics.  Otherwise, it’s a heck of a coincidence.
  • Other routinely successful spenders, Liverpool, Brighton and Leicester are also well represented.  Leeds’ recent recruits fall into these categories too.
  • We’re doing pretty well with our 3 representatives, two of which are fairly recent recruits.
  • The casual observer may not rate Gordon so highly as some more glamorous players, but we may all be underrating what he brings to the table.  I’m glad he stayed.
  • There are some pretty modestly priced players in amongst a lot of very famous names, all making exceptional contributions to their sides – and who might well be available to us.  Another way of saying it might help uncover some of the hidden gems we all hoped for when Brands arrived.

Although I cannot claim to fully grasp all of this, I suspect that it is now something which, behind the scenes, is helping to mould squads and drive recruitment choices.  You could easily say it is nothing more than attaching a few numerical values to what those with a good eye and a feel for team dynamics would always have done anyway.

But it is also pretty sophisticated stuff and will help explain why, for example, certain players fit in certain teams but not others.  And it may well reduce the risk of buying a player who might be a poor fit.  Clearly, we had a big overhaul of the squad this summer and, as things bed down, we might find that the players assembled together have the right blend of offensive, defensive qualities etc to make us a team more than the sum of its parts again.  If that’s the case, it may not be down to luck.  It may not even be down to luck.  It might be down to statistical analysis of mindbending complexity.

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Dupont Koo
1 Posted 15/09/2022 at 03:23:01
Thank you for sharing, Robert. Delighted to see Onana, Mykolenko and Gordon are ranked relatively high in those rankings.

It also explains a player's fit with their respective team. Just look at how we maximised Pienaar, Fellaini and Lukaku. Pienaar had an absolutely miserable time with Dortmund & Spurs, while Fellaini and Lukaku had an adequate time with Manchester Utd that were a lot less than what they brought to us.

Kevin Prytherch
2 Posted 15/09/2022 at 07:33:04
Do you have a link to the article?
Martin Reppion
3 Posted 15/09/2022 at 08:08:12
My son, a student of theoretical physics, loves a stat. He would be all over this.

The days of looking only at goals scored or conceded are long gone. I remember Ray Clemence stealing 50 caps from Peter Shilton because his team conceded so few goals. The fact that the ball was seldom at his end of the field seemed lost on England managers.

This particular study seems a little more scientific than the 'expected goals' nonsense on MotD. For years we've turned up at Goodison barely expecting a shot on target.

What is most revealing, however, is the kudos this study gives to the Chelsea pursuit of Anthony Gordon. Having watched Everton players from the days of Joe Royle and Alan Whittle, I, like most other Blues fans, could not see how we could turn down offers in excess of £40M for a player who promised much, but had seemingly delivered little.

Indeed, it seemed that it was only because he is 'One of our own' that the club and management were desperate to keep him. Well, his form so far this season has had 'large price tag' written all over it.

How wrong we were.

Keep on doing the stats, whoever you are.

Robert Tressell
4 Posted 15/09/2022 at 08:10:55
Most impactful U25 players worldwide

Or type "CIES Football Observatory" into Google and go to the site. The best U25 players article is their lead story on the homepage

Danny O’Neill
5 Posted 15/09/2022 at 08:47:56
As always, Robert, your detailed study and analysis of the wider game is more than impressive.

I'm not one for statistics personally. I tend to go off instinct. Whether that is right or wrong, I don't know. I see it, I call it. I think that's the player in me.

Anthony Gordon has developed really well over the past 12 to 18 months. Really well. As recent games have shown, he is now hopefully adding end product.

He'll never have a rocket shot on him in my opinion, he's not that type of player. Neither will he (I think) have the traditional winger "whip it in" type cross in him. But he can deliver from set pieces.

He's not a "get to the byline" type of wide player; like Gray, he likes to cut in from wide positions. But his touch, control and class mean he will increasingly pass the ball into the net from in-the-box situations. Or cut it back to midfield runners, which recently, we've been lacking. Hopefully he will increasingly have those options that previously weren't there.

I liked Mykolenko as soon as I watched him, even though some judged way too early. Likewise with Patterson who has been great so far this season. But they are young and developing. Expect them to make mistakes and have dips in form. But we have two very good and young, exciting full-backs on our books.

In Onana, I see a great player in the making. I hope we can hold onto him for as long as possible, but I suspect the hawks will be circling soon. I think he is going to benefit from having Gueye mentoring him. And the rejuvenated Iwobi is now even more free to go and do his thing with those 2 alongside him.

This may seem like an overstatement in my usual overly optimistic way, but I really feel that in the space of 2 transfer windows, we have transformed the squad. Not just in terms of incomings and outgoings. But in terms of mentality and transforming players who were already here. Certainly a different team and squad from the one I was watching only 12 months ago.

Robert Tressell
6 Posted 15/09/2022 at 09:31:54
Thanks, Danny, although it's not really my analysis. I'm just passing on something I stumbled on.

I expect that great sides over the years would score very highly on this statistical basis. That's because they all had the right blend of physical attributes and football intelligence.

Since I cannot remember the great Everton sides of the 80s, my formative years were spent admiring AC Milan and then Juve on Football Italia. They are both prime examples of how well a team can function when the component parts all complement each other.

Indeed you don't need the best, most talented players for each position – you need the right person for the role. Hence Desailly was a big success in centre mid for AC Milan alongside Albertini – even though he was really a centre-half.

Clearly, therefore, it is entirely possible to build a great side without all the stats. But I think the stats will help to guide human judgement and reduce the human error / bias too in relation to building a good squad.

Dave Abrahams
7 Posted 15/09/2022 at 10:20:10
Robert (6),

“You don't need the best most talented players for each position – you need the right person for each role” and “It is entirely possible to build a great side without all the stats”.

I think those two statements from your post sums up the teams that Kendall and Harvey produced in the 1980s, with Neville Southall being the only world-class player but the others having a mixture of nous, toughness, endeavour and plenty of skill to build a great side, which they were for four great years.

Tony Everan
8 Posted 15/09/2022 at 10:27:55
I don't know about the stats but the names of the categories has got me chuckling away.

Interesting to see this though. Gordon this season has taken his goals well, a bit more composed and sure of his shot. Patterson was talking about improving his shooting in training with Frank. Gordon will have been doing the same. Hopefully that will continue to improve, I think it will.

Patterson will join the list soon at the Wide Tartan Filtration Spigot. Since his comments about improving his shooting I have been imagining him scoring some prime Seamus like goals attacking from the right. Who knows, starting on Sunday?

Brian Murray
9 Posted 15/09/2022 at 10:57:08
We have to get away with the shrugging of shoulders when we find or unearth some gem: "Oh, he won't be here long".

If we are tearing it up in the league and showing rapid progress, the likes of Onana would rather stay here and grow as Champions League players.

Not beyond the realms. Just a different mentality which I think we are getting. No way Richarlison would've left if he saw this. Even sulky arse Lukaku.

Danny O’Neill
10 Posted 15/09/2022 at 11:08:23
I think the phrase goes along the lines that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Like any good recipe, it's about the ingredients. And they don't all have to come from Marks and Spencer or Waitrose... for example:

1) A part-time goalkeeper come binman and hod carrier from Llandudno.
2) A right back with a hell of a shot on him who came through the ranks.
3) A relatively unheard-of cockney born in Belgium who played for Wales (figure that one).
4) Another product of the youth system who got dropped for Glen Feeley in that derby (still hurts) who became our most successful captain.
5) A crock midfielder from Huyton earning a crust at Bolton who epitomised the spirit of that team (the captain without the armband).
6) A tricky unassuming young winger with potential taken from Burnley.
7) A graceful midfielder whose hair never seemed out of place and sadly, whose career was cut short through injury. He could have been up there with the best.
8) A centre-forward bought on the cheap from Dunfermline and didn't hit it off with Everton initially but came good.
9) Complimented by the addition of another crock from Wolves who has admitted not fully disclosing his medical records.
10) And (you know this is coming), but the Liverpool reserve who was gifted with a magic wand of a left foot and graced Goodison more than any player I have seen to date in my humble years.

A team is exactly what it says on the tin. Not necessarily a collection of the best individuals. A balance of skill, talent, desire, commitment, fitness, passion, aggression, work ethic. A blend of youth, potential, experience and leadership. A putting together of the components that achieve the aim.

To win football matches, titles and trophies.

Sorry. I can get emotional about these discussions!

Michael Kenrick
11 Posted 15/09/2022 at 11:23:29
Quite the head-scratcher there, Danny.

I think #1 is Big Nev. Pretty sure I know who #10 is... I think you might have mentioned him before.

It's this 'Glen Feeley' chap I'm worried about. Sounds like a decidedly dodgy bloke. The only one you named too. Shome mishtake, shurely?

Paul Hughes
12 Posted 15/09/2022 at 11:28:24
Point of order, Danny. (8) came from Dumbarton.
Danny O’Neill
13 Posted 15/09/2022 at 11:39:51
Occasionally, Michael. He was a joy to watch, even though some, my best mate and match-going comrade included, bemoaned his apparent laziness. I guess we all see the game different.

I'll take that on the chin, Paul. I knew it was a Scottish team beginning with D!!

I can't believe I forgot the goalscoring centre-back, taken after a handful of games for Tranmere, who gave us the iconic black eye celebration at Villa Park in the semi-final.

And the replacement of him that caused much debate bordering on footballing civil war amongst the faithful such was our affection of him. Even though his replacement went on to be equally iconic.

Dave Abrahams
14 Posted 15/09/2022 at 12:14:30
Danny (13), regarding no (10), I knew you’d write about him before you did!!
Brian Murray
15 Posted 15/09/2022 at 12:25:55
Danny, that number 10 was smoking more than a packet of them (showing my age). The other kopite reserve wasn't too shabby either and what a shot (Harper). i remember dancing in the Chelsea rain as he unleashed a brilliant winner in '87.

A week earlier, I done the same in the Highbury rain as Wayne Clarke chipped a beauty. Risking life and limb them days but still here to tell the tale as our loons were no shrinking violets but scary stuff.

Brian Murray
16 Posted 15/09/2022 at 12:34:38
Sheedy, even in the fledgling early '83 dark times, showed his class on more than one occasion. Imagine Steaua Bucharest or an average Barca trying to contain him. Bastards, but that's another story.
Dave Abrahams
17 Posted 15/09/2022 at 12:35:03
Michael (11),

Danny's dog knocked him as he was posting...

Glenn Keeley was the man Howard Kendall wrongly chose for one game, sent off after 30 minutes in that, a derby game.

Brian Murray
18 Posted 15/09/2022 at 12:44:50
Dave. Jeez, you had to bring that up, I done one when the third went in. That binman was dropped after that and Arnold got us a draw in the return derby.
Danny O’Neill
19 Posted 15/09/2022 at 13:23:08
The boy does try to get on the keyboard quite often, Dave. At 3 foot tall (head height), he's big enough to put his head there at ease and send off a few messages!! I claim that as a caveat to some of my ramblings. It's not always me; sometimes it's Rorke!

That match still haunts me, Brian. I know we've had a few thumpings and dark times since, but that one upset me more than any I remember. I was distraught. My Dad didn't speak for about 2 days. Talk about a bear with a sore head.

Wayne Clarke's chip was a peach but his simple knock in after Brucie Ballsups spill (aided by pressure from our forwards) was equally enjoyable. It firmly put a stop to them doing an earlier version of Arsenal's Invincible season.

I walked about half of the way back to my Mother's Aunty's house on Middle Way in Croxteth before catching whatever bus ran along the East Lancs Road that day (number 20??), where I was temporarily living at the time. Smiling all the way.

Robert Tressell
20 Posted 15/09/2022 at 13:37:54
The fact that I cannot remember any of the stuff you guys are reminiscing about is, I think, why I like statistics and analysis.

The actual football has been pretty crap for any Tony Cottee era fans like myself.

Brian Murray
21 Posted 15/09/2022 at 13:47:08
After the '87 season, the only hero I had was Michael Thomas.

"It's all up for grabs nowww!!!" (ha ha – Brian Moore commentary).

Good old Gunners.

Dave Abrahams
22 Posted 15/09/2022 at 17:46:00
Brian (18), that heavy defeat was entirely down to Howard Kendall.
Martin Reppion
23 Posted 16/09/2022 at 00:25:49
Danny #19.

I was in the Main Stand at Mordor when Wayne Clarke scored that goal to piss on their chips. I seem to remember it was early on (within 20 mins). We then spent the rest of the game passing the ball around not letting the red shite have it.

All around me, red noses were screaming 'boring blue bastards' and such. We just loved it. Shouting back, that our lot learned to do this watching old films of Shankly's teams.

Still one of my happiest derbies. Only Danny Cadamarteri running rings round that fat cockney twat came close.

Danny O’Neill
24 Posted 16/09/2022 at 08:41:42
Yours and other generations' time is coming, Robert.

I had to persevere the ‘70s and dark days of the early ‘80s. But when it happens it will be an explosion.

Your generation and the younger ones, starved of success deserve it more than me. I have nothing more than respect.

And due to my OCD and obsession with even numbers, I can't go anywhere until we get that 10th title, 6th FA Cup, win the League Cup and get our 2nd European Trophy.

To be paraded literally on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey at Bramley-Moore Dock.

Jim Lloyd
25 Posted 16/09/2022 at 09:28:10
Robert (20),

Similar story here! Lightened up by some brilliant moments and darkened by others. The likes of being on the Gwladys Street terraces behind the goal when that Glenn Keeley had his match to forget.

On the other hand, the period 1983-84, we won the Cup and I was at Wembley to see it, to about 1987, we had a team who could take on anyone. Just a crying shame the Victims did for us at Heysel.

Robert Tressell
26 Posted 16/09/2022 at 12:26:50
Danny & Jim, I actually have a greater sense of optimism about the club than I've had in a while.

And the CIES stats reinforce that optimism. The squad building is looking more intelligent.

Just need a few wins to build up some momentum.

Danny O’Neill
27 Posted 16/09/2022 at 12:43:51
I'd agree with you there, Robert. There has been a more coeherent plan and a strategy to recruiting.

Identify the problem areas and identify what is needed to address them.

I'm not getting carried away and despite my youthful optimism on my 51st Birthday, who knows what the next few years will deliver?

But it definitely feels different to the reckless scattergun approach of the last few years.

Most importantly, a unified support base is behind it.

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