Keane and Jagielka prove Everton need change

Watford manager Marco SilvaIt may seem strange to outsiders but of all the signings to arrive at Everton in the transfer window, it was two centre-backs who were the most anticipated.

While Brazilian pair Richarlison and Bernard added much-needed firepower and creativity to a front line that was lacking in both last season, and Lucas Digne answers a question over who will replace Leighton Baines, it was Kurt Zouma and Yerry Mina who were most needed.

Last season proved that the Blues defence was in need of drastic change, particularly in central defence. Michael Keane arrived in a big money move after impressing under Sean Dyche at Burnley. His performances at Turf Moor had caught the eye of several clubs, including both Manchester United and Manchester City. The hope was he could form the backbone of a solid new defence.

Instead, he struggled as Ronald Koeman’s time at the club unravelled. The situation did not improve under the Dutchman’s successor Sam Allardyce either.

Keane’s skillset suits Allardyce football but his confidence had taken too many blows. Like his performances, it was at an all-time low. His issues and those of his fellow centre-backs saw Everton end the campaign with a defensive record they would rather forget.

58 goals conceded was the second worst in the top ten and worse than two of the bottom six sides. Relegated Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion conceded less than Everton last season.

For further context, it was the most Everton had conceded in 18 years and one more than when they finished 17th in 2003/04. Only twice have they conceded more in a season since the Premier League began.

On a personal basis, the stats continued to be poor. The fact that each of Jagielka, Keane and Mason Holgate lost more tackles than they won last season makes for painful reading. Major problems and for some, the cause of last season’s misery.

Those problems came back to haunt them in the opening day draw with Wolves. Jagielka and Keane were again the sources of the issue.

40 minutes into the game and Everton were cruising. Richarlison had put them in front and Jordan Pickford had remained untroubled throughout.

Then, Jagielka miss-controlled a pass, lunged in to try and stop Diego Jota and saw red as a result. Ruben Neves scored the resulting free-kick and the game had changed.

It was further proof that Jagielka, at 35-years-old, is on the decline. While he may have served Everton perfectly for more than a decade, age has begun to take its toll. A change is necessary.

Alongside him, things had been better for Keane. Evertonians were full of praise, claiming it was his best performance for the club to date. Then, in the 80th minute, he lost track of a Neves cross, got caught under the ball and allowed Raul Jimenez to head home and secure the home side a point.

Two mistakes, two goals conceded and two points dropped. Two changes that Marco Silva will now have no hesitation to make moving forward. Bringing in Yerry Mina and Kurt Zouma to the heart of his defence has now become a matter of when not if. If Everton are to succeed, both are likely to be key to that success.

Silva’s system needs centre backs that are comfortable on the ball, bringing it out of defence and getting involved in play further up the field.

It also requires centre-backs who are athletic. The high line the Portuguese boss prefers to play, with full backs who push on, means his team can often become exposed by counter-attacks.

Mina and Zouma both have the pace and athleticism to make up the ground in such scenarios. They are both better suited to the high-intensity football Silva wants Everton to play. The fact both are also comfortable on the ball and dangerous on set pieces are also added bonuses. Individually and as a pair, they are better than Jagielka and Keane.

With Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines or Lucas Digne beside them, Everton’s defence will be a far cry from the slow, error-ridden one of last season.

Jagielka and Keane’s mistakes last weekend will only help to hasten their arrival into the starting eleven. Like any new manager at a new club, Silva will have been keen to give the players he was inheriting a chance to impress.

But after a disappointing pre-season and two dropped points against Wolves, he will know that some simply are not up to the standard he requires. Everton’s defence needs changing. Mina and Zouma fit the bill perfectly.

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