John Heitinga, is Everton’s most internationally recognised player, with 85 caps for Holland and participation in several major International tournaments including a World Cup final on his CV, Heitinga is comfortably Everton’s most distinguished international player. However, Heitinga’s performances at centre back for Everton this season suggest that the former Atletico Madrid defender is proving to be more of a liability than an asset.
Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin have developed a very good central defensive partnership over the last 4 seasons and when they line up together in central defence this season, Everton have lost just 2 of their 21 matches in all competitions.
However, when Heitinga has had to deputise for either Jagielka or Distin in central defence, Everton are a significantly weaker defensive unit. Everton have lost 7 matches in all competitions in 2012/13 and Heitinga has lined up in central defence in 5 of those 7 matches.
Everton’s squad lacks quality in depth but it would be a worry for David Moyes that there is a chronic shortage of quality in reserve in central defence. Heitinga deputises when Jagielka or Distin are unavailable but next in line is young defender, Shane Duffy who has started just 2 Premier League matches in his career.
Heitinga is a versatile player, being able to operate in central defence, at full back and in midfield but when operating in central defence, it is Heitinga’s poor decision making, inferior positional awareness and persistent lack of concentration that make the Dutchman a huge liability at centre back for the Toffees.
A typical example of Heitinga’s susceptibility was in Everton’s game at Wigan earlier this season. Everton conceded 2 goals in the first 23 minutes with Arouna Kone running Heitinga ragged. Heitinga was at fault for at least one of Everton’s goals and Moyes hauled Heitinga off at half time, replacing him with Distin. Everton looked much more defensively solid in the second period and did not concede another goal, coming back to claim a point.
Heitinga’s defending in Everton’s 3-3 draw with Aston Villa was also dreadful. Heitinga was bullied by Christian Benteke throughout the match and was partially if not fully responsible for all 3 of Aston Villa’s goals.
Everton have won 40% of their matches when Heitinga has played at centre back but this figure rises to 47% when Everton play without Heitinga in central defence.
The Toffees have lost just 10% of their matches when Jagielka and Distin have lined up together but this figure rises to a staggering 33% when Heitinga is playing centre back meaning Everton are more than 3X more likely to lose.
David Moyes’s side concede 0.37 goals more when Heitinga lines up at centre back, now this figure may seem nominal to many, but over a 38 game season, that is an extra 14 goal concession.
The win, draw and loss statistics of Everton without Heitinga at centre back would be particularly interesting for Everton fans. If you calculated Everton’s 47% win, 43% draw and 10% loss over a 38 game period, Everton would amass a points tally of roughly 69.92 points. This points tally would have seen Everton finish 4th (or joint 4th) in each of the last 2 seasons.
With Heitinga at CB
Without Heitinga at CB
|1.47||Av. goals conceded||1.10|
Understandably Everton are significantly stronger with their first choice defensive pairing of Jagielka and Distin and this is a definitive factor in the statistics, however, the statistics also support the tangible evidence that suggest that Heitinga’s inclusion at centre back leads to a significant regression in Everton’s defensive stability.
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