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Everton's 10-Point Punishment Couldn't Have Come at a Better Time

During the international break, the Premier League handed out one of the harshest punishments in recent memory to Everton for a breach of financial regulations.

The accusations are pretty straightforward, and the evidence is damning. According to their investigation, Everton severely breached the league’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules (PSR), recording a massive loss of £124.5m in the 2021-22 season, well above the established £105m threshold. Back in March, the League referred the club to an independent commission, which held a hearing in October and ruled in favor of the Premier League’s accusations.

After having been found violating the established PSR regulations, the Premier League deducted 10 points from Everton this season, sending them tumbling from the lower rungs of the table down to the relegation zone. A harsh penalty was softened only by the club’s cooperation with the investigation. This means that Everton will, once again, be fighting for their survival in the top flight of English football, as they did last season and the season prior.

But the 2023-24 season might be the best time to be given a ten-point deduction because the teams at the bottom of the table are so incredibly bad. To be sure, Everton weren’t necessarily going to challenge for any silverware this season, nor were they in the race for the European spots, but they are by no means a bad side.

Sure, they’re in the bottom half of the league for goal differential. Beneath the surface, however, they’re actually in the positive, boasting a +2.3 xG differential, better than Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, and nine other clubs in the table. That figure further translates to a decent-enough +0.18 xGD per 90 minutes, another positive sign for Everton fans.

Looking at the other relegation candidates, it’s easier to see a future where Everton survives for another season in the Premiership. Before the deduction, Burnley, Sheffield United, and Luton Town made up the bottom of the league table, and all three teams carry a double-digit negative xGD (-11.7, -18.6, and -12.5, respectively). And none of these three teams have kept a clean sheet all season.

It doesn’t require an advanced degree in mathematics or a deep knowledge of soccer to see how generating better chances than your opponents might translate into a better position in the table come spring.

Burnley, currently at the bottom of the table, haven’t won a game since their 2-1 win on October 3rd against fellow relegation candidates Luton Town. Vincent Kompany’s Clarets currently find themselves on a seven-match losing streak, conceding nearly twenty goals in the process. They’ve allowed 2.49 goals per game, totaling 22 on the season so far. Their highest goalscorer, South African Lyle Foster, has only found the back of the net three times this season.

Sheffield United are perhaps the only team defensively worse than Burnley. They’ve allowed a league-leading 98 shots on-target against this season, conceding at a rate of 2.62 goals per game. They’ve given up the most goals in the top flight this season, as they’ve watched opponents celebrate 34 goals in 13 matches played. It doesn’t help that Paul Heckingbottom’s Blades only scored 11 goals on the season. Had they not somehow beaten Wolverhampton back in early November, Sheffield wouldn’t even have a victory this season.

Luton town, meanwhile, have let in far fewer goals and tout a better goal differential than their cohorts Burnley and Sheffield but is struggling to transform those performances into wins. They dropped points at home to Liverpool, having gone 1-0 up in the 80th minute before conceding the late equalizer. Two more draws combined with two surprising victories have certainly helped Luton’s chances, but they’re riding some unsustainable luck. With all due respect to Belgian international Thomas Kiminsky, the Hatters are currently over performing their post-shot xG conceded by +4.5, which is the best in the league. It's unlikely they'll be able to keep that up across a full season.

So, where does all of this leave Everton? They’re performing much better than any other team currently in the relegation zone. They’ve scored more goals and conceded fewer goals. The 14 points they would have without the deduction places them clear of relegation, above Nottingham Forest and just below Fulham. Everton doesn't simply pass the vibe check for survival, either. Opta’s simulated Premier League table has them surviving, albeit barely, in its most current iteration.

It certainly won’t be easy, but manager Sean Dyche is a master motivator with a track record of keeping his team above water against the odds. “Myself and the players are well aware of the task in front of us,” he said of the team’s mentality since the news of the points deduction broke. “We’ve got to keep working hard and find our way through the latest setback.” That siege mentality also extends to the stands at Goodison Park, where visiting teams will surely be met with a hostile atmosphere, as Manchester United were last weekend.

Everton will continue their campaign on Saturday away against Nottingham Forest, which should be a winnable game from their perspective. American viewers can tune into the match at 12:30 PM Eastern on Peacock.

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