Everton Season Preview: Central Defence

In part 2 of our look at Everton’s 23/24 squad, we look at the centre back situation. This is a postion in flux. There are notable departures, young prospects and players facing a career crossroads.

Mason Holgate

Having played only 8 times last season and never being able to nail down a first team role, it is perhaps time for Holgate to look elsewhere. Holgate is a player who has fallen foul of Everton’s constant managerial churn and has never made a position his own. He’s played all across the back line and was even shunted into midfield on occasion.

That said, he hasn’t helped himself either. Holgate never seems to learn from his mistakes and a lack of concentration has led him to make similar errors season after season. He has 2 years left to run on his contract and, thus, both player and club have a decision to make.

Michael Keane

I have resisted the temptation to copy/paste everything I wrote about Mason Holgate here. But only just. It is perhaps indicative of Everton’s financial situation that a 30 year old centre back who has consistently underperformed isn’t being moved on. However, the resources to replace him simply don’t exist.

Whilst Keane can be effective, particularly in a low block, his mistakes and his inability to move on from them in-game have cost Everton time and time again. That it took Sean Dyche the better part of 3 months to realise this is in itself troubling. That said, none of us will forget his vital goals against Palace in 2022 or Spurs last season.

James Tarkowski

Finally, a reason to be cheerful. Following his free transfer from Burnley, Tarkowski played every Premier League game last season. And my how we needed him. Dominant in the air, he was in the top 3 in the league for ariel duels won. He was also right up there in blocks and tackles and was easily one of Everton’s best performers. He also bagged a winner against Arsenal (more of that, please)

It was also encouraging to see him running the length of the field to set the record straight with opposition players. If anything, reuniting with Sean Dyche brought even more out of him and he became a real tone-setter in the squad. He seems to have shrugged off a knock to be ready for Fulham on Saturday so we expect more of the same.

Ben Godfrey

Right, back down to earth. We all had the highest of hopes for Ben Godfrey when he joined from Norwich. This was the Ancelotti era, when we allowed ourselves such thoughts. The truth is, though, that the raw 22 year old centre back we signed is now a raw 25 year old centre back.

A broken leg on the opening day of the season limited him to 13 league appearances last year. The most notable being winding Erling Haaland up to breaking point. However, he still gets caught ball-watching and his positioning is suspect. His pace can get him out of a jam, however and he has sometimes used that as a replacement right back. This is a player who should be competing for a starting role and he needs a big season.

Jarrad Branthwaite

Surely we deserve a breakout star. Following a season on loan at PSV Eindhoven, where he played 27 times and lifted the Dutch cup, and a summer spent winning the European U21 championship, Branthwaite returns to Goodison to stake his claim following the departure of Yerry Mina

One of the highest rated young defenders in the country will always have suitors, Manchester United are rumoured to be circling. But hopefully, the recognition that his size, strength and aerial ability could be enough to make him a regular for a Premier League team will be enough to keep him at Goodison. One of the reasons to get excited for the coming season.

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