Today stories are circulating that Everton are willing to let Mason Holgate move on, which with other departures potentially leaves the club short of defensive options for next season.
Holgate’s situation comes on the back of the departures of centre-backs Conor Coday and Yerry Mina as well as left-backs Ruben Vinagre and Nils Nkounkou, who was also allowed to leave permanently after spending last season on loan.
I’m not saying Hogate or Vinagre for example are top class defenders, clearly not, but Everton need to ensure they don’t have to spend too much precious time and money trying to sign defenders this summer when the priority is obviously finding forwards!
Before the summer window opened, it was already clear the Blues needed reinforcements at left-back, where Vitalii Mykolenko had signally failed to perform adequately and Vinagre had hardly played any minutes at all.
With the departures of Coady and Mina the Toffees only have four recognised centre-halves left: James Tarkowski, Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane and Holgate.
Apart from Tarkowski, none of the other three have any consistency or reliability and few Evertonians will feel any confidence if they are lining up in defence on opening day in August.
Jarrad Branthwaite was also due to return from his loan spell with PSV Eindhoven, but ever since he finished what had proved an impressive campaign with the Dutch giants, there have been persistent stories he wants to leave Goodison Park too.
Meanwhile full-back is an even more threadbare position now with only Mykolenko, an injury-prone Nathan Patterson and an ageing Seamus Coleman available.
So, it looked as though the Blues would have to sign another left-back this summer anyway.
And, while I understand decisions on trimming the squad have to be made and Holgate has along with the other two mentioned above, been very poor and erratic for a long time now, this could leave the Toffees with a threadbare reserve at the back.
It also puts other decisions, in particular offering Tom Davies another deal (although it looks as though he will reject it) into a sharper perspective. It seems clear that there was a player who should have been released.
Everton need to be careful they don’t cut their cloth too thinly leaving them with a serious lack of reserve options in defence, especially as the injury jinx seems to strike so often and probably will do so again next season.
I certainly don’t want to keep player just to warm the bench for the sake of it. But, part of the problem for example with Holgate last season, was Sean Dyche insisted in playing him out of position.
He isn’t a left-back, never has been, and to see him continue with the player there when he was so clearly a fish-out-of-water, was bizarre.
And frankly, he wasn’t any worse than Keane, who Dyche had shown plenty of persistent confidence in week after week, despite his manifest deficencies and who might well be starting again next season.
The same is true of Godfrey, who has pace to burn and strength and who at times when he first arrived, looked like he might grow into a good Premier League defender, but has since gone backwards.
I think he could still operate as a defender in a three-man central defence – something Dyche might well have to consider given his full-back issues – or as an emergency left-back, if he had the support of Dwight McNeil in front of him to help out defensively.
Both Hogate and Godfrey could then be reserves able to fill in at right and left-back respectively as well as central defence, strictly in an emergency.
This is going to be a summer of tough choices and limited options as we all know. Dyche and others involved will have to make hard calls and find ways to reduce costs, no one doubts that.
The Blues need to ensure though they can find affordable replacements for players they release from the defence, which was far too porus last season, including after Dyche took over.