It has been proven throughout this season that you can never write Everton off.
Alongside the favourable stat that the Blues have taken 12 points from losing positions – second in the league in that particular table behind Tottenham Hotspur – they are the leaders when it comes to late goals.
And that is not just in the Premier League.
Everton’s 19 league goals scored in the final 10 minutes of games this season leads the way across the top five divisions in Europe.
A breakdown of those goals also makes for interesting reading. The Toffees have won nine points courtesy of late strikes and, if you were to take those away, they would be back down in eighth with very little chance of realising the dreams of European qualification they currently harbour.
Defenders have contributed five of the 19 goals. Seamus Coleman has helped collect four points with the equaliser against Swansea City – in November’s 1-1 home draw – and the winner at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace, while Leighton Baines earned a point at Goodison Park against Manchester United and sealed victory over Southampton with the second in 3-0 January success.
Then, of course, there was Ashley Williams’ first goal for the Club to help beat Arsenal in December.
However, Romelu Lukaku, perhaps unsurprisingly, leads the way on 10 late goals. But more on him later.
Lets look at what might be behind these impressive numbers...
“Overall the team is on the level that we like and that we need,” said Ronald Koeman prior to jetting off to Dubai for the warm weather training camp after the Toffees had drawn at Middlesbrough in February. “We are not over-trained. I think the team is really fit and in every game we can fight until the last second to have a better result.”
This has been proven true, with six late goals in the four games since that 0-0 stalemate at the Riverside.
Koeman mentioned after the game that he felt his side were now at 100 per cent fitness, having said they opened the season at 70 per cent. The impact of fitness coach Jan Kluitenberg has been keenly felt, especially now. And the man himself has seen plenty to believe the players are nearing a full understanding of his methods.
“There was a moment against Manchester City,” he said recently while visiting the new sports science facility at Liverpool Hope University. “You need that intensity, you need a bit of luck, but the wider perspective in that moment there was, for me, the feeling that this is the direction we want to go in.
“It is not only about when the players leave after training. We now go as far as when they go away on international breaks and we have individual programmes for players if they go abroad and we hope they will invest time in that.
“But we had to build it up from the moment we came in and, I hope, they are now seeing the benefits of that.”
The second thing to consider is the impact those off the bench have made. Substitutes have helped contribute to eight of those 19 late goals Everton have scored.
Enner Valencia has been integral to that particular statistic. He won the penalty that Leighton Baines tucked away against Southampton, scored in the 3-2 defeat at Spurs and set up Lukaku for goal number three against Hull City on the weekend. In fact, all three of his goals this season have been as a substitute.
Kevin Mirallas can also provide inspiration off the bench. He set up Lukaku for late strikes against Sunderland and Spurs, while who can forget Ademola Lookman’s heroics just seconds after coming on against Manchester City back in January?
BRINGING THE CROWD INTO PLAY
“Our home form has been really good this season and we look to continue it every time we play at Goodison. I think the fans have got a big part to play in that and they help us every game. They drive us forward and push us on.
“When it was 1-0, the fans urged us forward. It does help and it’s a big reason why we are so good at home.”
So said Dominic Calvert-Lewin after the 4-0 win over Hull City on Sunday, a game in which Everton scored twice in the closing stages. They became the 12th and 13th goals that the Toffees had netted in the final 10 minutes of games at the Grand Old Lady.
Then, of course, there is Romelu Lukaku and the now unshakeable expectation that he will, at some point, score.
Hull City was a prime example. After a driving run and shot that sailed narrowly over the bar, quickly followed by another venomous effort that drew a spectacular save from Eldin Jakupovic, the Blues striker could have been forgiven for thinking it simply wasn’t his day.
And yet, within half an hour of that latter chance, Lukaku had netted twice – his ninth and 10th goals that fall in the ‘late’ category.
Recently it has been a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Lukaku will score. He has nine in his last six games and 27 in 33 appearances for club and country across the campaign.
His shot conversion rate further demonstrates his reliability in front of goal. Lukaku has scored 21 league goals from 80 shots, meaning 26.28 per cent of his efforts have found the back of the net. To put that in perspective, those recognised as the top strikers in the league boast the following percentages:
Alexis Sanchez – 19.15%
Harry Kane – 27.53%
Diego Costa – 21.79%
Sergio Aguero – 13.98%
With Everton enjoying this knack of scoring late goals, and with big games to come against Liverpool and Manchester United, Evertonians would certainly be advised to stay in their seats until the final whistle for the remaining nine game of the campaign..!