Lack of squad depth could undermine progress Everton are making

The Toffees beat Chelsea 2-0 yesterday but looked a little leggy and fatigued so might the lack of strength in depth within the squad begin to hurt the team?

Everton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Everton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages
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I think Everton did deserve to win the match on Sunday, in spite of what Chelsea boss Mauricio Pottechino said afterwards.

Pottechino claimed his team were much the better side and should have won the game but were beaten because they didn't take their chances.

That is precisely what the Toffees themselves have so often done recently, especially in the first few weeks of this campaign when they blew the chance to win home their early matches against Fulham, Wolves and Luton.

Everton have become a little better at taking those chances having scored five goals without reply in their last two games.

The problem though hasn't gone away completely and was evident against Manchester United in the first match after the points deduction had been announced as well as in the first half against Newcastle.

As pleasing as the goals being scored, was the fact that the Blues look so soild defensively having not conceded since the United defeat and with an overall goals-against record comparable to several of the top teams in the Premier League.

Two young players have proved pivitol to this big improvement in defensive resiliance and consistency over the last few months: Vitalii Mykolenko and Jarrad Branthwaite.

Mykolenko is arguably Everton's most improved player this season and after struggling so often last term he has grown in confidence and is producing polished and strong performances at left-back.

The Ukrainian international has become a fixture at full-back and that has solved a potential problem at least on that side of the defence.

As for Branthwaite we are running out of superlatives to describe the level of excellence that the 21-year-old centre-back has been producing since he came into the side.

There are now constant stories of interest from this club or that in the England Under-21 star, with the latest team linked with a move being Tottenham.

Branthwaite of course signed a new contract recently which keeps him at Goodison Park until 2027 so anyone wanting to try and prise him away from Merseyside will have to pay a huge fee.

Obviously, I imagine all Evertonians hope that ideally he sees out that new contract or at least stays for another few seasons even if he does eventually leave.

However, Branthwaite picked up another yellow card on Sunday and will miss the next fixture at Burnley on Saturday afternoon.

This together with the possiblity that Seamus Coleman might not recover from his setback fully and Ashley Young's injury against Chelsea means that suddenly that defence has some issues to resolve.

Nathan Patterson is a perfectly good replacement for Coleman in my view and in fact should be starting at right-back anyway.

But Branthwaite's absence will be much more keenly felt. Presumably, Micheal Keane will have to come into the side in his place and that is a real problem.

These selection issues highlight one of the biggest problems Sean Dyche has to wrestle with and that is the lack of depth in his squad.

This is something that is the consequence of his having inherited a hugely bloated and expensively assembled squad, the result of years of wasted spending, which needed to be trimed substantially.

Last summer a large number of players were either released or sold including central defenders Yerry Mina and Conor Coady and then on deadline day Alex Iwobi, all players that Dyche would certainly have used regularly this season.

It has left the Toffees boss seriously short of options particularly in defence and on the flanks, something which could still return to haunt the Blues this season.

And there is not much hope that Everton will be able to strengthen at all in the January transfer window given all the uncertainty around the club's finances and ownership.

This time of year too is especially demanding with a glut of games often in quick succession that always test the strength and depth of a Premier League club's squad.

Furthermore, Everton have the complication of a Carabao Cup quarter-final against Fulham this month as well.

So the next few weeks could prove to be a real test of whether the Toffees have enough quality and togetherness to overcome the lack of depth in the squad.