Everton were recently hit with the biggest points deduction the Premier League has ever issued, and only the third since the top flight of English football was rebadged in 1992.
Middlesbrough were docked three points for failing to fulfil a fixture in 1996/97, before Portsmouth were penalised for nine in 2010 thanks to going into administration. All it took for Everton to top those efforts was to lose £124m in three years. A remarkable effort from all concerned.
The struggles of the three newly promoted teams means this is not the worst season in which to be hit with such a punishment. Everton are only five points adrift of 17th place Luton and have the best goal difference of the bottom five.
However, with Burnley travelling to Sheffield United and Luton at Brentford at 3pm on Saturday, it’s plausible that the Blues could be bottom of the league and further from safety when they play Nottingham Forest at the City Ground in the 5:30pm kick off.
Everton are narrow favourites to win at the time of writing, and their fixture list suggests they need to head home with the three points.
Four of their next five league matches after Forest see them face Newcastle, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City, the Toffees could be in an even stickier situation by the end of the year.
Could relegation be on the cards and will it be thanks to the 10 point deduction they have suffered?
History not on their side
As much as Everton supporters feel hard done by, things could have been far worse for the club. The case was referred to an independent commission in March and had they come to the same conclusion before the end of 2022/23 then the Blues would have been relegated.
While this penalty could not have been applied the season before – as that is the last of the three covered by the assessment period – a theoretical 10-point deduction in that campaign would’ve sent them down that year too. They’ve been struggling for a long time.
On the positive side, receiving their punishment now gives Everton plenty of time to recover and escape from the bottom three. The fly in the ointment is that history shows how hard it is to stay up with so few points at this stage of the season.
There have been nine instances of a Premier League team having no more than six points after 13 games, and the only one to stay up was a Newcastle side that was taken over by a nation state mid-season. A nice bail out if you can get it, eh?
Six teams had seven points at this stage with three avoiding relegation, so the picture starts looking rosier there. And of course, Everton can argue they’ve played like a 14-point team, not a four point one.
However, their true total equates to 1.08 points per game, and maintaining that form over the remaining 25 games will see Sean Dyche’s side finish with 31 points (assuming their penalty is not reduced on appeal). Only once in the last 13 seasons has the team finishing 18th had fewer than 33 points and the side in 17th never has in the Premier League.
With their fellow strugglers starting to pick up a few positive results, chances are Everton won’t be able to rely on their current rate of gathering points to avoid relegation. Improvements are required.
The underlying numbers offer hope
While all teams can play the ‘what if’ game, Everton own the special edition of it. They’ll take their ball home too if you’re not careful.
The Blues are ranked sixth in the Premier League for difference between shots for and against, two places lower in the respective standings for shots on target and clear-cut chances.
At the back, Jordan Pickford has conceded 20 times from the 18.2 expected goals Everton have allowed their opponents. It’s not ideal but the margin isn’t huge. The true problems lie up front, where chances valued at 20.2 xG have led to just 14 goals, with the 69 per cent conversion rate comfortably the worst in the division and certainly not nice.
If matches were determined by expected goals, Everton would be 10th in the table (points deduction notwithstanding), level with Brighton and ahead of Manchester United. The Blues’ match on Sunday with the latter proves the point – they had 24 shots worth a combined 2.4 xG and failed to score.
Their current underlying performance average would see them amass 36 points over their remaining 25 games and that would take them to the cliched ‘magical’ 40-point mark. It’s a pathway out of the mess they’re in but they will need to start taking their chances far more regularly. England’s number one improving to even average shot stopper level would go a long way too.
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