A promising start to Everton’s season (followed by two disappointing results) has seen players like Demarai Gray and Abdoulaye Doucoure really shine in the team. However, Lucas Digne, one of Everton’s usual top performers, had seemingly had a fairly low-key start to the campaign. This was, of course, prior to the Aston Villa fixture where he stood out for the wrong reasons.
Using FBRef Premier League statistics, I’ve analysed Everton’s number one left-back, comparing his performances so far this season with his previous three campaigns at the club.
Generally, the Frenchman is best known for his crossing ability, and this is something that we haven’t seen too much of this season.
As evident in the graph above, Lucas Digne is providing far less crosses so far this season, as well as less completed passes into the final third. For crosses, he’s averaging 1.4 per 90 minutes; far less than the 4.8 provided in his debut season. Furthermore, he’s making much fewer passes into the opposition’s penalty area with 0.2 per 90 minutes this season. This is far less than the 1.24 of last season, 1.22 of the season before, and 1.55 of 2018-19.
These crosses and passes into dangerous areas have made Digne a strong creative outlet for Everton. Therefore a reduction in creativity could be expected. However, as shown in the graph below, Digne is averaging more shot-creating-actions per 90 minutes than last season, as well as more key passes per 90 minutes. Despite this, these numbers fall just short of his first two seasons.
Everton’s left-back is producing 3 shot creating actions per 90 minutes, and 1.8 key passes per 90 minutes. This is up from 2.35 shot-creating-actions and 1.48 key passes from last season. His debut season, however, saw Digne average 3.04 shot-creating-actions and 2.13 key passes.
Although his creativity isn’t suffering too much, the significant drop-off in crosses is an interesting change. This could be due to the player’s lack of involvement in games. Heavily relied on in previous seasons, Digne is averaging less touches and carries this season.
As shown in the graph above, Digne is registering 59.2 touches and 26.8 carries per 90 minutes. This is quite substantially less than the 75.5 touches and 37.5 carries made in his 2018-19 campaign.
Along with this, a decreased amount of passes and progressive passes also signify a dip in the Frenchman’s involvement. Last season, Digne averaged 41.1 completed passes and 3.62 progressive passes per 90 minutes. So far this season he’s making an average of 33.8 completed passes and 2.4 progressive passes per 90 minutes.
This apparent lessening in involvement could be down to Everton’s tactics, however, with Benitez’s side making the second least completed passes so far (19th in the league and only ahead of Burnley) and averaging the third least percentage of possession (18th in the league). Although things weren’t much more progressive under Ancelotti last season, the side had the 14th most completed passes, and 13th most average possession percentage.
This could explain Digne’s lack of touches and passes. However, the Frenchman has averaged his lowest pass completion so far this season, with 68.7%. This is less than the 72.5% of last season, 69.5% of 2019-20, and 71.5% of 2018-19. Sometimes this could be explained because a player is playing more long balls, for example, however his percentage for long and medium length passes is the lowest this season, and second lowest for short passes.
Digne is seemingly playing further back as well, with the player averaging more touches in the defending third this season than his previous three seasons at the club. Along with this, he’s registering the least amount of touches in the middle and attacking third. This positioning, similarly to his lack of touches, is likely to be down to the low possession tactics that Everton now favour.
Previously someone who would frequently overlap with the left-winger, Digne is not having the opportunity to do as such this season. The left-back is receiving an average of 1.8 progressive passes per 90 minutes, significantly down from 3.79 of last season, 4.09 of 2019-20, and 3.19 of 2018-19. Receiving less than half the amount of progressive passes than last season is likely to have impacted on his ability to get into promising crossing positions (perhaps explain his decreased number of crosses made).
Because of the way Everton play this season, Digne has focused more on defensive work. Despite the low possession tactics utilised by Benitez, Digne is still pressing in advanced areas. Compared with his previous seasons at Everton, he is averaging the most pressures and tackles in the final third. Contrastingly, he’s making the least pressures and tackles in the middle and defending third. This highlights an emphasis on pressing when the ball is in good attacking areas. If not, and the ball is in the middle of the pitch or in Everton’s defending third, Digne is less aggressive with pressures and tackles. Happy to sit deep, the Frenchman is less likely to leave spaces in behind if doing this. Such spaces could be exploited due to Digne’s lack of pace, and they were for Matty Cash’s goal for Aston Villa against Everton.
This increased defensive responsibility is further reflected with a rise in Digne’s interceptions per 90 minutes. He’s making 2.2 on average per game, compared with 0.87 last season, 0.71 in 2019-20, and 1.9 in 2018-19. Alongside this, Digne in the current season is averaging his least amount of times being dribbled past at 0.6 per 90 minutes; less than the 0.79 of last season, 1.1 of 2019-20, and 0.67 of 2018-19.
To conclude Digne’s season so far, he’s clearly been affected by Benitez’s tactics. He’s playing further back, he’s been less involved, received fewer progressive passes, and he’s made far fewer crosses. This is due to there being an evident emphasis on the team’s defensive work because of the amount of possession surrendered. Digne’s crossing, and ability to penetrate dangerous attacking areas will perhaps continue to be a casualty of Benitez’s new-look Everton side. This is certainly a shame as his crossing is an important asset for Everton, however Digne is still registering a similar amount of key passes and shot-creating actions, whilst Everton have still scored plenty of goals, with the joint 5th most goals in league so far.
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