Everton’s surge towards a precious Champions League place is not just the latest twist in a tortuous campaign, it’s also the climax to an audacious gamble by Roberto Martinez.
The Spaniard has relied heavily on three players this term, according to analysis by Kickdex – none of whom are contracted to be at the club next season: striker Romelu Lukaku, schemer Gerard Deulofeu and midfielder Gareth Barry.
If the gamble comes off, the rewards are huge: a £30m boost to revenue from Champions League participation and the pulling power to attract players previously beyond the club’s reach.
Should it fail, not only will Lukaku and Deulofeu likely be playing in different colours next year, but Martinez will have to address the gaps those players filled all over again.
A glance at the graphic below illustrates how influential the loan trio has been, providing 26 per cent of the team’s total attacking output.
Lukaku has been Everton’s most effective offensive player – and by some distance. His contribution has been 49 per cent greater than the second best, winger Kevin Mirallas.
To illustrate how reliant Everton are on the big Belgian, full-backs Seamus Coleman (third) and Leighton Baines (fourth) are the next most influential going forward.
What of Ross Barkley, England’s saviour? Not as effective as Deulofeu on a per-game basis.
Veteran Barry, meanwhile, has been a revelation: Everton’s most influential player on possession control and providing defensive cover.
In fact, he has been the team’s best-performing midfielder bar none, and one of the highest rating in the Premier League this season.