Ancelotti should stick with successful Everton defence

Everton's English midfielder Ben Godfrey (L) vies with Arsenal's English striker Bukayo Saka (R) during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on December 19, 2020. (Photo by Jon Super / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by JON SUPER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Everton's English midfielder Ben Godfrey (L) vies with Arsenal's English striker Bukayo Saka (R) during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on December 19, 2020. (Photo by Jon Super / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by JON SUPER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /
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After three consecutive wins and two clean sheets with just a solitary goal conceded and that from a penalty, Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti must keep faith with his new defence.

The past three Premier League matches have seen Everton overcome two title and Champions League contenders in Chelsea and Leicester City and then beat Arsenal in the space of eight days. 

The single most impressive thing about this great little run of victories has been the strength and consistency of the Toffees defence.

Even when the Blues were winning comfortably and riding high at the top of the table back when this strange season began, that defence was a problem.

Despite winning their first four Premier League games and the first seven fixtures altogether Everton were conceding a lot of goals. In fact it was eight before the first international break.

While the Toffees were scoring freely and playing some brilliant attacking football, this didn’t matter very much.

But after that first break, which undermined the Blues early momentum and with a succession of injuries and Richarlison’s suspension, the team stuttered and fell to four defeats in five matches.

A further ten goals were conceded during that bad run and clean sheets seemed to be a physical impossibility with the opening day blanking of Spurs the only time Everton hadn’t let at least one goal in.

Ancelotti tried a number of different combinations in defence and switched from the 4-3-3 formation he started the season with to a 3-4-3 to try and solve these issues.

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Nothing had really worked though and going into this run of three games in eight days before the Carabao Cup quarter-final, a period that might go a long way to defining the Blues season, it seemed an almost insoluble problem.

Ancelotti unveiled a new back line made up of four central defenders for the Chelsea game just over a week ago. It was almost like a last resort to try and cure his team of it’s defensive frailty.

Two of those four defenders Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey would operate at full-back. Holgate had played there many times while Godfrey hadn’t previously played in the position much but had already filled in at right-back for his new team.

Both these two offer real pace, which enables them to recover if they make a mistake and they are very comfortable on the ball. Operating alongside Michael Keane and Yerry Mina, who are strong, hard-tackling and good in the air, but lack out-and-out pace, that’s important.

I’ve said before that I didn’t think Keane and Mina could play together as they are similar types of defenders. Holgate and Godfrey provide that additional pace and defensive security outside them so enabling Keane and Mina to be much more effective together.

The only possible issue with this new look defence is whether they can provide enough attacking intent on the flanks.

But in fact, both have provided enough support in this respect and Godfrey in particular has been excellent. On one occasion yesterday he bombed down the left showing great pace and energy before putting in a fine ball that Dominic Calvert-Lewin couldn’t convert.

Whether these two consistently provide enough natural attacking width and creativity also won’t be as important if the players in front of them can do that.

Seamus Coleman is now fit again and it will be tempting for Ancelotti to bring him straight back into the team, especially with Allan’s injury and move Holgate into midfield. But while there are strong arguments for this, I would resist that temptation and instead stick with a defence that has given Everton some real solidity to build on.

Next. Everton secure another three points against Arsenal. dark

If the Toffees can win games without playing well or having their most creative players, that’s a fundamental quality for all successful teams. And there should be a way to graft that additional creative flair onto the defensive base that has brought them nine precious points so far.