Any Evertonian or somebody who understands football will be able to relate to our defence as being one of the worst in the league. This is a problem that has been around for years, even in the David Moyes era and one that is yet to be resolved. The less said about Blackburn the better. It is easy to see areas of weakness in our side and which players stand out, and not for good reasoning. After the departure of Ramiro Funes Mori that’s one less defender to worry about and don’t get me wrong his passion was in the right place, but he wasn’t Premier League quality. Let’s take a run through of how are defence fared during last season and take a more direct look at the individuals.
There isn’t much to really say about England’s number 1. After a fantastic tournament in the World Cup he should fit straight into our team just like last season, playing a vital role in keeping our heads above the water (or at least in the top half of the table). Last term Pickford ranked 4th in terms of Premier League Saves making 121 of them. He will obviously be linked with major moves away from Goodison Park, but only being 1 year into a 5 year contract will mean it would have to be an astronomical fee. Hopefully he can continue that dominance in goal, and avoid any Karius mistakes.
Our Centre-Backs last year were never chosen as a starting pair. Koeman relied heavily on the absence of Michael Keane and Mason Holgate whereas Allardyce opted for a more varied approach, playing Williams or Jagielka alongside Keane, not really giving Holgate much game time. These choices seemed to be a problem last year only making 10 clean sheets. In addition to this we had to make over 160 blocks and ranked first in terms of clearances at 1,299.
When Williams signed for Everton there was confusion among the fans. Firstly why are we signing a 31 year-old centre back and secondly, why Ashley Williams? These groans of discontent were met with reality as Williams failed to perform at any given stage during the season, playing a major part in the 58 goals we conceded during last term. In my personal opinion Williams should never wear the shirt again especially after his disgraceful actions against Burnley. I’m thankful Silva and Brands see him as a dead rubber and hope he leaves as soon as possible.
Over the past 11 years ‘Jags’ has been fairly solid for us and can probably be considered a veteran. Silva pointed out that he does not have a problem with age as long as the ability is there and Jagielka could probably still be considered as a backup player, although it is laughable from any other pint of view to believe we are paying a 36 year-old for their service. However I believe he has a commanding presence in and around the dressing room and especially the mentality and morale among the squad. He has been our captain for a prolonged period of his stay at our club and maybe it’s time for a change. Thinking back to his time under Roy Hodgson at England highlights his authority and how he was put in place by Hodgson after a feud over who was in charge. Jagielka also played a key role in the departure of Roberto Martinez. I believe moving him on, along with Leighton Baines would really suggest a new era, but I’ll get to Bainsey.
When it comes to Mason Holgate there is a majority of supporters who see him as a prospect for the future and I agree. At the moment Holgate, like Tom Davies, isn’t quite fully ready for the pace of the Premier League and still needs to adapt. He is promising and could be a significant part of our defence in future years and provides a good backup for Silva in terms of bringing through youth into the first team.
Now my next statement is going to be frowned upon but just goes to show how bad are defence actually is, on paper last season Michael Keane was our best defender. Yes, I know, that’s worrying. However in terms of heading the ball he was ranked 3rd at 146 headed clearances against any other Premier League Defender. Now if his performance against Blackburn is anything to go by then we should get him out the door ASAP. To be bullied off the ball by a league one striker who is 2 feet smaller is embarrassing. For me Keane doesn’t show the aggression of a footballer, he doesn’t fight for a ball and walks around the pitch like a prima-dona. The structure in which Brands is trying to build will surely see him out of the football club after another 1 or 2 year(s) as he cannot be considered for European football. However after signing him for £25 million from Burnley I can’t see Silva giving up on him just yet and I expect to see him in the plans for next season, somewhere down the line.
Our full backs are a grey area but still one requiring improvement. I won’t talk about the right full back and wing back positions because Silva has already confirmed he won’t be purchasing a new right back and I believe Coleman and Kenny will be there in the foreseeable future.
There is no denying that Leighton Baines has been a good servant over the past 10 years or so and possessed a huge talent in his prime. However over the past 3 or 4 years his ability has deteriorated and he has made even more mistakes as the years have progressed. Furthermore he is now 33 years old and if we are building for our future and have a structure in place, Baines should and I presume will leave the club. The ongoing talks for Lucas Digne signal an end for Baines and a long term successor is on its way.
It’s no secret that our defence is a shambles in the left and central areas and we probably need 2 or 3 new additions in these key areas. I also think there are to be 3 or 4 departures in the defence as it needs to be rebuilt.