On what was a truly depressing Saturday afternoon at Goodison Park as Everton lost 1-0 to Wolves, Jarrad Branthwaite’s performance at the back was a rare bright spot.
I have been advocating for Branthwaite to get a chance at centre-back for a while now. On Saturday he started and produced an excellent all-round display in the heart of the Blues defence.
Everton still conceded a late goal of course, but overall Branthwaite had more than merited his place with an assured performance.
The Toffees are today being linked with a move for a 25-year-old central defender Niko Elvedi. The Swiss player is currently in the German Bundesliga with Borussia Moenchengladbach, but Everton are supposedly ‘in talks’ about a possible deal to sign him.
Since the start of the summer the Blues have let several senior defenders leave the club with the departures of Conor Coady and Yerry Mina. It also still looks likely that Mason Holgate will move on too.
That effectively leaves Sean Dyche with Branthwaite together with James Tarkowski, Micheal Keane and Ben Godfrey as his only centre-backs.
As we all know only too well, Keane cannot be relied upon and has already shown this season the vulnerability he is renowed for and has exhibited on so many occasions over the last few campaigns.
And Godfrey is also a wildy inconsistent player who at times looks quick, powerful and effective while at others he shows defensive naivety and like Keane makes too many basic errors.
So, Tarkowski is the only centre-back who can be consistently relied upon, together with Branthwaite, if he continues to perform as well as he did at the weekend.
Anaylsis from media outlets on the Toffees start to this current campaign, shows that while the team are creating chances, defensively there are worrying signs of decline from last season.
Dyche was brought in most of all because he was a coach with a reputation for building defensively strong and solid sides on a limited budget.
But, having let Coady and Mina go and with serious problems at full-back where Ashley Young in the last two games and Nathan Patterson in particular, have both struggled.
Hopefully, Branthwaite can help to improve this together perhaps with another central defender brought in before the end of the transfer window.
Because, even if Everton can find strikers who are able to convert those chances and score goals, if they are then conceding more it might well undermine that improvement. The problems for this team just go on and on.