The unsung heroes & brilliant stats from NUFC’s best display of the Steve Bruce era

It was a much improved performance on Saturday, as we managed to beat Everton at Goodison Park.

The players showed good energy and desire out of possession, which has been lacking for long stretches of the season. We also showed a willingness to commit men forward and both full-backs contributed with the ball. That has been severely lacking this season. 

Although it would be too simplistic to give the credit to new first-team coach Graeme Jones, it was clear that the new man had an impact. He was frequently seen giving instructions from the sidelines and the organisation on the pitch was a lot better. Steve Bruce also deserves praise, as he has come through a difficult period and it is clear that the players are still playing for the manager. 

That said, this needs to become the baseline for a performance, not the ceiling. These players have a lot to give and that was obvious on Saturday. Below, we discuss three interesting stats to come out of the game.

Callum Wilson’s goal threat

It was a superhuman performance from our striker, as he was a constant thorn in Everton’s side. His movement was excellent, as he worked the channels well and offered a focal point to attacks. In addition to his hold-up play, he offered a goal threat that he has been missing in recent weeks. It helped that we managed to get bodies in support of him in the final third.

According to Understat, Wilson had an xG of 1.7 during the match. Therefore, his two goals were fully deserved and his underlying numbers suggest that he can continue to score at a regular rate in this system, if we can maintain this performance level. The former Bournemouth striker had six shots during the game and he missed a further three big chances.

Some will be worried about that, but they shouldn’t be. Strikers miss chances. The important thing is to create chances for them to increase their chance of scoring. We haven’t been doing that for Wilson and that has led to a goal drought. Today, we did create plenty of chances and he showed his class by scoring twice.

Miguel Almiron’s work rate

Martin Keown commented that it looked like Steve Bruce had found Miguel Almiron’s best position. It is about time that he managed to do that, as the misuse of the Paraguayan has been one of the biggest issues with the current regime. He has the quality to be an asset both in and out of possession, especially if a high press is employed. 

His energy was constant, as he covered more ground than any other player on the pitch. Almiron made two tackles and two interceptions, while he made nine ball recoveries. There were a few more occasions where he came close to nicking the ball back in the final third. 

In addition to his work off the ball, he was effective in possession. The Paraguayan made three key passes and 16 passes in the final third. It appeared that he had the freedom of Goodison Park at times. We need to see this a lot more often from him over the coming weeks. If we do, he will become one of the most important players in the team.

Jamal Lewis’ breakthrough moment

It was an exciting signing in the summer, as Lewis was being targeted by the likes of Liverpool. During his first season in the Premier League, there was a rawness in his defending, but he was electric in the final third. We haven’t seen enough of that for us, as he hasn’t been played in a system that brings the best out of him. Today, we saw what he can offer in the Premier League.

During the closing stages, he registered his first assist for us, with an excellent cross to find Callum Wilson in acres of space running through on goal. It was an intelligent piece of football from Lewis, as most full-backs would have advanced further up the pitch, but he played the ball early. This improved the quality of the chance.

This was great from Lewis, but his overall performance was good. He made some intelligent overlapping runs, while his decision making on the ball was much better. His pass success rate was 80%, an increase on his season average. There was confidence in his game today. Let’s hope this is the start of Lewis making the left-back position his own. 

Stats taken from Whoscored and Understat

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