Right now, Everton need more than just two months of Landon Donovan to climb back into the English Premiership’s top eight, a level they’ve comfortably maintained for the bulk of the last decade.
As it is, the Toffees are treading water – barely. They’re 12th in the table, but only four points above the drop zone. They’ve scored just 15 times in 14 games. Since mid-September, they’ve been shut out five times and notched more than two goals in a game just once. And their leading scorer has tallied a whopping three goals.
|Everton's EPL Results in 2009-10||With Donovan||Without Donovan|
|Average Goals For||2.00||1.43|
|Average Goals Against||1.00||1.39|
|Points per game||2.00||1.46|
They're a team in sore need of some attacking punch, and two months of Donovan is a good start. Better than most probably realize.
When the American attacker joined Everton last time, way back in January of 2010, they were a in a similar situation. David Moyes was fielding a hard-working, low-scoring side that didn’t give up cheap goals but didn’t really take the game to their opponents in the attack.
Ten games with Donovan changed that (see table at right). His commitment to staying wide and pushing the opposition deeper with his off-the-ball movement opened up the final third for the likes of Louis Saha and Tim Cahill, both of whom struck a rich vein of form with Donovan in the lineup.
It paid off in wins, in shots, in goals scored and even in goals conceded. Everton improved across the board when Donovan got there. The butterfly effect of his presence was both tangible and measurable.
And the effectiveness of the set up was perfectly illustrated on the biggest stage, in Everton’s 2-1 win over Chelsea on Feb. 10 of that year. It may very well have been Donovan’s best game as a professional, as he simply ripped Ashley Cole apart – both with and without the ball – and was named Man of the Match by virtually all the media covering the game.
The Toffees also beat Manchester United during Donovan’s run, and posted a 6-2-2 record in the Premiership during his 10 matches. The final of those was a 5-1 thrashing of Hull City that had the Everton faithful chanting “U-S-A, He-Must-Stay” during the final minutes of the match.
He didn’t, of course. But now, temporarily, he’s back.
What should the Everton faithful expect this time through from their American hero? Take a look at the numbers and see for yourself.
Matthew Doyle writes the Armchair Analyst column for MLSsoccer.com