Keeping Mina fit could be a key to Everton season outcome

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: Pontus Jansson of Brentford with Yerry Mina and Seamus Coleman of Everton in action during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Everton and Brentford at Goodison Park on February 5, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: Pontus Jansson of Brentford with Yerry Mina and Seamus Coleman of Everton in action during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Everton and Brentford at Goodison Park on February 5, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

After last weekend’s much-needed win over Manchester United, comes some further good news for Everton supporters this week as Yerry Mina returns to training.

With all the drama, controversy and upheveal over the past couple of years at Everton, one constant issue – regardless of who was in the dugout, what tactics were being deployed and which players were in the team – has been injuries.

In fact, I would argue that although there have been very real problems with underperforming squad members, a chronic lack of stability and questionable managerial appointments, injuries have been critical for the way the past few seasons have unfolded.

I’ve written in the past that it’s very possible things may have turned out much better for the Blues’ and their past managers on several occasions in the recent past had they enjoyed a bit more luck with this issue, such as when Marco Silva was in post.

Every club has injuries to deal with (athough the media of course only seem to be concerned with certain favoured club’s struggles!) but it really does seem that the Toffees’ seem to have an almost unique lack of good fortune in this respect.

Maybe that’s just because it’s our club and we’re focused on it most of all. But last season although many teams suffered these problems due to the fixture pileup because of the response to Covid, Everton had every single first team squad player out injured for a period during the campaign.

This certainly undermined Carlo Ancelotti’s time as manager and probably contributed significantly to sabotaging the Blues’ hopes of qualifying for European football, which may also have been a factor in Ancelotti’s decision to leave last summer.

That 2020-21 campaign had begun very brightly with seven consecutive wins in all competitions and the team were playing some great attacking football.

Then, came a series of injuries that undermined the excellent start to the season and the side never recovered that initial momentum.

There was an eerie similarity to the first few weeks of this campaign with Rafa Benitez’s Toffees’ team winning their first four Premier League fixtures and were unbeaten after the first month of the season while all his key players and new additions were fit and firing.

In particular there were performances such as Leeds United and Brighton away when the Blues’ were strong, competitive and produced moments of real quality. Cautious optimism still seemed reasonable at that time.

Although Benitez’s side then lost a couple of games, Everton still looked in decent shape with wins over Norwich and then a terrific performance at Manchester United (which they should have won) before things really unravelled as injury again hit the squad.

As a result Benitez reverted to type with a very cautious and highly defensive gameplan, which compounded the problems as the Blues’ conceded possession and initiative to their opponents and often lost the chance to secure points that would have proved very helpful now.

The Brentford game away was for me the perfect example of this and should have been the trigger for a change of manager to be considered.

The point about going back over all this ground again, is to underline how much player absences can affect a team’s campaign.

This is obvious in one sense because of course losing your best and first-choice players is clearly going to be a problem for any team.

But, it’s particularly challenging when you don’t have a squad with enough balance and depth and in which there are a lot of massively underperforming individuals who sometimes become misfits as managers come and go.

In addition, when your injuries seem to be concentrated on all your key players who make up the spine of the team, it’s tough to overcome.

And so we come to Mina. The Colombian centre-back has been a constant client of the Everton medical staff since he signed in 2018.

Although at times he hasn’t always been consistently excellent there’s no real question that healthy and at his best, he is the Blues’ best and most dominant central defender.

Mina’s absence from the side for most of this season has been hugely felt as his team-mates at the back have been very erratic and inconsistent. Particularly Micheal Keane whose defending many times this season has been nothing short of catastrophic.

New manager Frank Lampard has struggled to stem the tide of soft and simple goals his team keeps conceding and has tried various combinations and formations but the goals have continued, especially away from home.

The win over United also saw a rare clean sheet, more of the same will be needed as the season approaches it’s climax.

One of the most persistent problems is the lack of leadership at the back. Mina had this season been showing real signs he was stepping up to that role before his latest problems basically hobbled him for most of the rest of the season.

Now, if the Colombian is close to fitness and by some miracle can stay healthy for the rest of this campaign, then this might well prove of vital importance to Everton’s survival bid.

It’s important not to rush him back too quickly but potentially, his return couldn’t have been better timed with so many massive matches coming up.