There’s no greater problem for a manager than having too many good players to choose from. For Marco Silva at Everton, that issue is about to raise its head at centre back.
So far this season, consistency has proven key for the Portuguese boss. The strong summer transfer window overseen by Marcel Brands left him with plenty of options, particularly in the heart of his defence.
The arrival of Yerry Mina and Kurt Zouma meant Silva had those pair plus Michael Keane, Mason Holgate and Phil Jagielka to choose from. Fortune, however, forced his hand.
An injury ruled out Mina while a red card left Jagielka on the sidelines. After Zouma got fit and Keane returned from an injury they established themselves as the first choice pairing.Zouma has continued where he left off with Stoke last season with a series of impressive performance. Ask around the Potteries and they will tell you that the Frenchman was one of few to come away with his head held high last year. Indeed, had it not been for his presence at the back, their relegation may have been a whole lot bleaker.
Keane, meanwhile, is enjoying a renaissance. After arriving in a big money move from Burnley last summer his first year at Everton was not a success. Amid the club’s disastrous campaign he was among the worst performers. Plenty questioned why the club had spent so much money to sign him.
This year, though, has been the polar opposite. Now fit and playing under a progressive manager, he has flourished. A return to the England set-up has already been secured and the faith of the Everton fan base is on a similar path. The Blues finally have the player they thought they were getting last year.
Courtesy of Zouma and Keane, they also have a functioning and successful centre-back partnership. The two have formed a relationship and one that is proving to be a strong one. The centre of defence is no longer an issue.
Except, the return of Mina from injury has created one most managers would be glad to have. With Zouma unable to play against parent club Chelsea before the international break, the Colombian came in to fill the void. It was a job he completed with aplomb.
Plenty of defenders have floundered against Maurizio Sarri’s side this season but Mina is not among them. While slightly fortunate on several occasions his performance was an impressive one and left his manager with a question to answer.
Does he leave the giant Colombian in his defence or return Zouma to the fold? It is a tough decision to make. The pair are difficult to choose between. Tall, athletic and pacey they both make an ideal fit for the high defensive line that Silva prefers his team to play. They similarly provide excellent partners for Keane.
Choosing between the pair is a dilemma for Silva. Does he stick with Zouma, who has built up a rapport with Keane, or continue to integrate in big money signing Mina? For most, the answer would be the latter.
There is little sense in keeping the Colombian on the bench given how much money, never mind the trouble the club went to, to bring him from Barcelona in the summer. Even less so when it’s a player as talented as the 24-year-old. Silva also has the future to consider.
While Mina is a permanent signing, Zouma is only at the club on loan. There is no clause to buy him from Chelsea come the end of the season. There has also been no signal from the Londoners that they would be open to a permanent sale. Mina and Keane represent the future and setting that up sooner rather than later makes sense.
Of course, that is cruel on Zouma. The Frenchman has impressed so far and is worthy of his place in the starting eleven. But that is the nature of the Premier League. It is also how the biggest teams work. There is no sentimentality at the top and Everton have been adopting that mantra since the summer. Unfortunately for Zouma, he is likely to be the latest victim.
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