Opinion divided as Everton don’t take up Coady option

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Conor Coady of Everton celebrates at the final whistle during the Premier League match between Everton FC and AFC Bournemouth at Goodison Park on May 28, 2023 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Conor Coady of Everton celebrates at the final whistle during the Premier League match between Everton FC and AFC Bournemouth at Goodison Park on May 28, 2023 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) /

The first major player decision Everton have made after the conclusion to the campaign is to let defender Conor Coady leave after his season-long loan came to an end.

This has proved a controversial decision, with Toffees supporters just about evenly divided about whether letting Coady return to Wolves is the right one.

My own feeling is I’m a little perplexed as to why Everton haven’t taken up the option of making his transfer permanent.

True, he hasn’t played much under Sean Dyche after struggling for form around the time Dyche replaced Frank Lampard and then being dropped by the new boss. And, perhaps the manager just doesn’t fancy him.

If that’s the case then there probably isn’t a lot of point in him staying at the club with the likelihood he won’t get much playing time.

But, he had done well earlier in the campaign, at first adapting to Lampard’s make-shift back four after the Blues lost centre-backs Yerry Mina and Ben Godfrey to injury on the opening day of the season.

As his form waned, Coady was replaced by Dyche with Michael Keane, a decision that didn’t meet with much approval from most Evertonians, including this one.

Keane has had a horrendous time at Goodison Park in recent seasons and his inability to handle any forward with pace and movement and a chronic tendancy to make unforced errors that directly led to goals, has been a theme for a while now.

Despite that, Dyche decided to return to the centre-back partnership he had trusted at Burnley, re-uniting Keane with James Tarkowski.

This coincided with a considerable decline in the Blues defensive solidity, although in truth that decline had begun before Dyche took over with heavy defeats to Bournemouth and Brighton for example, that could and should have cost Lampard his job.

However, even though the defence was letting in goals consistently after a solid start under him, Dyche persisted with Keane, week after week after week.

This was despite having Yerry Mina fit and available. Finally, with the games running out and relegation looking very possible, the manager turned to Mina for the final few games of the season.

That shored up the Everton central defence and just in time too.

The highlight of the run-in and arguably indeed of the season as a whole, was the astonishing 5-1 win at Brighton, when while the Toffees attacking play got most attention, they had been strong at the back too with Mina key.

Coady also eventually returned to the side as Dyche literally run out of fit and healthy full-backs and was forced to revert to a back three for the do-or-die last match of the season.

The former Liverpool trainee played his part in that final day madness as he and the Toffees backline held firm to secure the 1-0 win that preserved top flight status. And, Coady cleared a ball off the line too.

That victory over Bournemouth in the early summer sunshine was also Mina’s last game. He leaves Merseyside having played only a small portion of the matches we all hoped for from him when he signed in the summer of 2018.

His strength, hard tackling and willingness to do all the little dirty things that make up the defenders’ ‘dark arts’, together with the leadership he brings, will be badly missed.

That is partly why there seemed solid reasons to keep Coady.

He isn’t perhaps the most accomplished defender (although does seem more comfortable in a back-three) but he offers solid enough attributes and some of the on-pitch leadership so much needed in this team.

I would have considered him a good back-up option if say Tarkowski and the returning Jarrad Branthwaite were to be the starting centre-backs next season. As well as a useful alternative if the manager wanted or needed to go to a back-three again.

Given the injury problems right-back Nathan Patterson is plagued by and the inadequacy of Vitalii Mykolenko on the left, that alternative might have some merit to it.

And, for £4.5 million it isn’t much of a risk financially either. But Dyche has decided not to trigger that clause and so he’s on the way back to Molinuex.

That means that unless Everton do go out and sign at least one more central defender, a lot is riding on how Branthwaite adjusts to life back in the Premier League next season.

The former Carlise youth product has been doing well in Holland with PSV Eindhoven.

However, while I think he will become a good Premier League centre-half, it’s still a step up and having someone with Coady’s experience and nous around the squad, makes sense.

Dyche has made a big call to start the summer and it might well be considered quite a risky one too. I really hope this doesn’t mean Keane will be starting at centre-back on the opening day in August.

We will see how things work out and eventually of course, we’ll find out next season whether he has made a the right decision.