Everton giving Seamus Coleman an extension at the beginning of the season was a bit of a no-brainer. He has established himself as one of the best right backs in the Premier League and at 26 years old, his best football is still ahead of him.
While Leighton Baines may be Everton's best full back, Coleman is arguably their most important. When Coleman struggles, Everton often struggles. When Coleman is out of the line-up altogether, the team seems unbalanced and out of sorts. This is why Coleman remaining healthy will be the determining factor on whether or not Everton can salvage their campaign following early season issues.
Two perfect examples of Everton's struggles without Coleman are the Europa League games against Krasnodar and Lille. In both matches, Tony Hibbert received the start at right back which immediately unbalances Everton's attack. Hibbert was defensively solid in both games, but he lacks the ability to contribute offensively. He's short on speed and his passing isn't always crisp.
Since the Lille game is fresh in our minds, I'll focus mainly on that match. Throughout the game Everton sought to move the ball up the left side with Leighton Baines. Baines is probably the finest left back in English football, but Lille was able to key in on that side of the field, leaving him with few options moving forward. Even when Baines was able to get free, his crosses were often blocked and he couldn't influence the game as he usually does. Overall, Lille was able to ignore the right side of the field for large portions of the game.
That being said, Hibbert is not the reason that Everton was unable to score against Lille. The team seemed happy to settle for a tie and the midfield seemed unable to get quality passes in the offensive third. But not having a right back that can seriously contribute to the attack certainly played a role in the Toffee's lackluster offensive showing on Thursday. Teams can essentially focus most of their defensive efforts on the left side of the field since that is where the majority of the offense comes from.
However, when Coleman is in the line-up, teams have to honor the right side. Coleman has the ability to wreak havoc in the offensive end by serving up great passes and putting quality crosses into the box. His pace also allows him to track back on defense and he is less likely to be blown away by speedy players. He can also score some goals, something Tony Hibbert has yet to do in his career.
I should also say that I am not trying to use this article to rag on Hibbert, he has been a lifelong Evertonian and a great ambassador for the club. But he is 33 years old, and is unable to pack the offensive punch that Coleman does. Unfortunately, Everton are low on options at right back. But if Coleman is able to remain healthy throughout the season, than Everton have an excellent chance of climbing up the table.