Continuing our analysis of the 2019-20 Premier League season, we come to our reviews of the individual Everton players starting with the defence.
Yet again this season, Everton had defensive problems throughout the campaign. It actually started in the summer when the Toffees couldn’t bring back Kurt Zouma following his successful loan spell the previous season.
This was a major headache because Zouma had formed a very solid partnership with Micheal Keane during the second half of the 2018-19 campaign.
Once it was clear that Chelsea wouldn’t sell Zouma because of their transfer ban, the Blues were forced to try and find another centre-back. But thy failed to find one in time and went into the campaign with only three frontline central defenders. This seemed a major failing by Marcel Brands and the Everton board.
As well as this, there were also constant issues around players making individual errors, which so often proved costly to the team during the season.
Everton’s first-choice goalkeeper during the season, Jordan Pickford, was one of those players who was most prone to committing individual errors.
Pickford had a very ordinary season overall as he continued to decline from the level of performance he was producing in the past.
He made plenty of good and spectacular saves as usual but was regularly guilty of losing concentration at critical times and conceding goals that he shouldn’t have, especially late on.
These errors often cost the Toffees points, which could have proved crucial in the team’s eventual finish and perhaps contributed to the failure to secure European football.
Critically, a keeper needs to be consistently reliable and to maintain his concentration throughout a game. Pickford isn’t that keeper.
Pickford’s continuing problems raises major questions about whether he is good enough to be the top quality keeper that Everton need and is yet another problem that might require the Blues to go back into the transfer market to solve.
During the 2019 summer transfer window, the Blues brought in another full-back in French World Cup winner Djibril Sidibe to provide an alternative to Seasmus Coleman who had been in decline.
Sidibe was signed on loan from Monaco, and although he offered plenty going forward with his pace and creativity, defensively he proved an erratic and inconsistent performer who was too often caught out of position.
After having been in and out of the side, under Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti, he was dropped by the Italian when the season resumed and Coleman came back into the team to play most of the remaining matches.
Everton seemed undecided about whether to turn his loan into a permanent deal, although the club did renew the loan deal to the end of the season.
It’s not clear if the Blues still have an option to buy Sidibe this summer. Although he has defensive issues, his tacking stats are good indicating he puts in plenty of work and he is a very powerful overlapping fullback. I personally think if he is available at a very reasonable price, say £10 million or so, then he is probably worth signing permanently.
Coleman when he came into the team later in the season performed satisfactorily defensively, although he wasn’t the attacking force he had been.
Long-term, Coleman’s future remains uncertain and it doesn’t seem as if he will be the Blues first-choice right-back for long.
On the other side, Everton had another strong season from Lucas Digne at left-back. The Frenchman started slowly and wasn’t at his best early on in the campaign. He seemed to be coasting a bit and didn’t appear to be responding as well to Silva’s management or tactics.
Despite this he was still creating plenty of chances and offering an excellent outlet on the left hand side.
After Silva was sacked and once Ancelotti was in place, Digne upped his game and started playing as well as he had done last season.
The French international remains one of the Toffees best and most consistent players and is perhaps the best all-round full-back in the Premier League.
Leighton Baines played very rarely this season as Digne had of course made the left-back slot his own. The club and Ancelotti were keen to have him sign another contract for one more season.
However, at the end of the season he announced his retirement after Everon’s last Premier League game against Bournemouth.
Everton had gone into the season with just three first-choice central defenders; Yerry Mina, Micheal Keane and Mason Holgate.
Mina and Keane started the campaign playing together in the heart of the Blues defence. Mina was strong and consistent in the early weeks of the season. while Keane had his problems and was often caught out or guilty of making unforced errors.
Although they were reasonably solid as pair, they were too similar with both lacking pace. So Mason Holgate came into the team and quickly began to strengthen the defence. His pace and composure on the ball combined with his increasing confidence and maturity, made him a first-choice alongside Mina or more often, Keane.
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In January, Everton signed a young central defender Jarrad Branthwaite to strengthen their options in the middle. However, bringing in a totally inexperienced teenager didn’t seem the best way to provide immediate reinforcement to a defence still too prone to lapses.
During the first few months of Ancelotti’s reign, the Toffees did began to defend better and with more consistency. They looked a better outfit at the back and Holgate’s continued development was one of the few bright spots in the whole season.
But those defensive problems came back to plague Everton when the season resumed in June. After a solid start, the Blues began to concede again and often as their season fell apart.
Branthwaite came into the team out of necessity, with Holgate suffering injury problems and performed well to give hope that he could form a long-term partnership with Holgate. It does though look likely that Ancelotti will want to dip into the transfer market to find another more experienced, quality centre-back.
Ratings: Mina 6/10, Keane 6/10, Holgate 7/10