Change to set-piece effectiveness could be a key for Everton

One thing that has been highlighted in the two Goodison Park wins Everton have secured under Frank Lampard, is the improvement in their attacking set-pieces.

Everton have been very poor at dealing with set-plays whether that’s in a defensive or attacking sense all through the first half of this campaign.

This was a marked change from last season when under Carlo Ancelotti the Toffees were one of the most effective Premier League sides when it came to set-pieces.

The work on the training ground that had been apparently led by Ancelotti’s son Davide, paid dividends and the Blues finished joint third best with just seven goals conceded from set pieces, which was only two fewer than the best side, Arsenal.

Their attacking stats were even better with a total of fourteen goals netted from set-plays, again only two teams; Southampton and West Ham scored more.

This season though things have been very different. Everton have let in ten goals already, and have only scored half that number at the other end with two of those in their last two matches under Lampard’s new coaching team.

Set-pieces are a critical part of Premier League football with an average of around 30% of goals scored this way last season.

That’s a big number and means that a failure to defend such situations when opponents gain corners and free-kicks and take good advantage at the other end when you have such opportunities, can have a big impact on the season’s outcome.

This is most particularly true when you’re fighting at the wrong end of the table and need every single edge on opponents you can find.

So, the Blues’ struggles dealing with these situations during this campaign have been a significant factor in why the season has gone so badly.

There are other reasons of course such as the increasingly negative, defensive football played under Rafa Benitez as the campaign unravelled in October, November and December.

But, this has begun to change and last Saturday’s victory over Leeds showcased this again with Micheal Keane’s goal a perfect example.

The individual most directly responsible for the improvement in set-plays is Paul Clement who Lampard set about recruiting to join his coaching staff as soone as he was in post.

Clement is the man who was once almost umbilically attached to former Everton boss Ancelotti as he travelled around Europe’s top club’s with the Italian.

He’s now at Goodison Park and has been working hard it seems to turn around his new team’s effectivness in this critical area. Next, he needs to ensure the Toffees improve further their defensive efforts in this category too.

Well, his impact has been immediate and is already bearing significant fruit as the Blues’ try to pull away from the relegation zone.

More of this could well be crucial in helping Everton do just that especially because small improvements and finding that extra five percent or so can prove so important in turning draws for example into wins.

This will prove a real boost as Lampard and the team seek to restore some pride and a decent final league position for the team by the end of the season.