Everton position by position: centre back

As I analyse the team by position, I am moving on to look at entre-back, as new transfer stories have emerged linking Everton with a move for the young Barcelona defender, Jean-Claire Todibo.

This one comes from the Daily Mail, who claim that Everton are already in talks with the Spanish giants over a transfer deal for Todibo for around £20 million.

The Mail also say that supposedly Todibo was on the Toffees radar back in January and now the club have revived their interest in him.

The 20-year-old Frenchman, has obviously not had much opportunity at Barcelona given his age and inexperience, and is currently on loan in Germany with Schalke 04, the same club where Jonjoe Kenny is playing this season too.

Again though, he hasn’t had many opportunities for them either, and the Bundesliga club apparently don’t want to take up an option to buy.

So would the young Frenchman make a good investment at centre-back, a position which has been a real problem for the Toffees for a long time?

This problem was, in my opinion, one of the major reasons why Marco Silva’s reign ended. Go back to this time last year and the Toffees were at last showing signs they had perhaps turned the corner and were making real progress.

After a very inconsistent season, Silva appeared to have finally found a starting eleven that was functioning properly and there were hints that maybe, just maybe, he could get it right.

Everton had struggled all through the campaign to find a settled central defensive partnership. Silva had tried several different combinations of Phil Jagielka, Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma and he wasn’t helped by the injury problems that kept new signing Yerry Mina out of the team for long periods.

Eventually, as with so many positions on the team, Silva stumbled on the right pairing as Keane and loan signing Zouma came together and struck up a good understanding.

Zouma’s pace complemented Keane’s tackling and ability in the air and at last Everton had a central defence that was performing solidly and consistently, week in, week out.

The Blues went on an unbeaten run to finish the season including some excellent wins at home against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Finally it seemed as though the team had turned a corner and the newly constructed defence was a key part of that. But then at the end of the season, Zouma returned to his parent club Chelsea and the fledgling partnership was broken up.

Everton tried hard to sign Zouma permanently, but Chelsea were hit with a transfer ban, which meant that they now were unsure whether to sell and eventually decided to keep him.

Despite having plenty of time to secure another central defender in the meantime, the Toffees failed to do so and entered this season with only three front line centre-backs.

This included one, in Mason Holgate who had been playing at full-back on loan with Championship club West Brom the previous season and so was more or less untested as a centre-half in the Premier League.

That combined with the fact that Everton had sold defensive midfield dynamo Idrissa Gueye to PSG, meant the club were certainly light on numbers and experience in terms of defensive options.

And of course it showed, as the Blues lurched from one serious defeat to another in a dreadful first half to the season.

Defensively the team were wildly inconsistent and conceded goals regularly although Mina himself was usually the most reliable individual player. And, although Holgate and Mina showed enough evidence that they could form a good partnership, there never really had enough time together, especially as Holgate would often end up playing in midfield.

New manager Carlo Ancelotti, having assessed his options, certainly seems determined to add to the choices in this area of the team. With the season was suspended last month, there was soon inevitability talk of who Everton might sign when the transfer window re-opens.

One name that keeps on cropping up is Lille defender Gabriel, who the Toffees have been repeatedly linked with these past few weeks.

Indeed, according to some reports, Everton have already agreed terms with the Brazilian, although that of course seems unlikely, especially as other clubs like Chelsea are also supposed to be interested in him.

Now comes today’s stories about Todibo, who if these reports are true, (yes not likely!), is presumably being considered as a back-up if the deal for Gabriel falls through.

I’ve previously suggested that centre-back isn’t necessarily the most important priority now, and that given Holgate’s huge improvement this season, a combination of him, Keane or Mina might be good enough, alongside emerging players like Lewis Gibson and January signing Jared Branthwaite.

But on reflection I would have to say that the Blues probably do need to invest in this position if the right player becomes available.

Gabriel looks as though he would be a good addition, while Todibo is a player who is talented but still raw and developing. If Everton are to sign another central defender in the upcoming window, they probably do need a more experienced player alongside the existing options.

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