School of Science: Center Back

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Center Back position is going through a transformation this season under Martinez. Who will assert their authority as starter?

Center-back has always been one of the most important positions in football. However it has been even more important at Everton. We have usually relied on a strong defense during times when we couldn't score too many goals. After a lack of depth at the CB position for a while, Everton finally has some much needed depth at the position. The problem is, center back will be going through a transformation this year. Roberto Martinez will most likely demand this group to be able to play a regular defense (with four at back) and two centre backs and also play the 3-4-3/3-5-2 that he likes to play. This means that the most versatile backs will see much more playing time and we may start using more players than usual at the position.

Phil Jagielka:

The England international has not only been one of the strongest but also one of the more versatile of our defenders. He has relatively good speed, aerial ability, as well as good tackling. Jagielka will mostly be a first choice no matter what formation Martinez decides to put out.

Sylvain Distin:

The ever reliable Distin has almost all the skills of Jagielka, with some better make up speed as well. The main negative quality of Distin is age. Although we do say this every year, he seems to never lose a step. Maybe he will start losing a step soon but luckily this year we have some backup in case he does.

Antolin Alcaraz:

Alcaraz is the new addition to the group. Brought in by Martinez from Wigan, Alcaraz has good experience in the Premier League as well as for the Paraguayan National Team. Not only this though, Alcaraz also has experience with Martinez's 3-5-2 formation which should help smoothen the transition from our traditional defense. Bringing in Alcaraz was especially shrewd by martinez because it was on a free, he is experienced, and he is familiar with Martinez's style of play (the new formation).

John Heitinga:

Heitinga has somewhat turned into an outcast in this group. His especially poor play last season has gotten him relegated to someone who is ready to be shopped. Heitinga still brings experience and we know he can be world class, but recent form just hasn't been up to par recently. If he doesn't get sold, he will provide us great depth. He is also the only one that can also play in a defensive midfield role effectively.

John Stones:

Stones is the young'n of the group. He is only 19 years old but was very highly touted when he was signed last year. Martinez has given him some early playing time and he has really impressed already. Maybe even impressive enough that he may get significant playing time in the upcoming season. Stones has the skills to become a future star at CB and could be our workhorse for years to come.

Shane Duffy:

Duffy is another younger player that has been ready to be handed some significant playing time. Unlucky for him, he may have been jumped by some other players in the pecking order. When we have seen Duffy play, he has impressed. He wasn't solid enough to push for playing time to the starters, but was good enough to be put on the bench or get time when there were injuries. I was hoping he would get some playing time this season but that seems unlikely now.

What to Expect

We can expect to see some different combinations of players this year due to the transition to 3-5-2 and possibly due to Martinez using multiple formations in general. We should assume Jagielka and Distin to be fixes at the position when we play two centre-backs and we should probably include Alcaraz when Martinez uses a 3-5-2 formation. Due to the recent Alcaraz injury, Heitinga would most likely step in but I wouldn't be surprised to see Stones in there as well. As of now, Heitinga, Stones, and Duffy would be the backups in that order and all should be expected to put in strong performances in case they are called up. We should expect tough competition as well as a strong year overall at the position. Everton should continue to be one of the stingier defenses with an even lesser amount of goals scored against.

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