What do Dusan Tadic, Eden Hazard, Pedro, Andre Ayew, and Daniel Sturridge all have in common?
Of course, they are all top attackers in the English Premier League, but they do have another thing in common. They've all been essentially shut down by 19-year-old Brendan Galloway in the first eight matches of the season.
Galloway, who came to Everton from MK Dons before the 2014 season, is most comfortable in the center of defense, but you'd never guess it from the way he has filled in for Leighton Baines at left-back this season.
There was some surprise when Galloway started ahead of Bryan Oviedo, who successfully filled in for Baines during the 2013-14 season. Oviedo certainly has the advantage on Galloway in terms of speed and passing ability, perhaps the only two areas in which Galloway has struggled thus far.
A look at the Southampton match exhibits how Galloway can struggle when faced with pacey players.
In the first half of that match, he lined up opposite Dusan Tadic, the dangerous Serbian midfielder. Below are Tadic's heatmap and activity map, both courtesy of EvertonFC.com
Tadic got on the ball in the midfield, but Galloway kept the Serbian in front of him for the entire first half. With the English defender playing well, Tadic could do nothing but whip in hopeful cross after hopeful cross.
After halftime, the ineffective Tadic departed, and Sadio Mane shifted out to his wing. Mane, a winger with significantly more pace, managed to create chances and get behind Galloway.
Mane created two chances and was more frequently on the ball in dangerous areas. Ultimately, nothing came of any of these chances, but it is an issue to be aware of as Galloway's time at left-back continues.
His other area of weakness is his passing, particularly in his defensive third, which was often exposed against Liverpool. Galloway did well defensively in that match (four clearances, four interceptions, and three tackles), but struggled to move the ball from defense to offense in the face of Liverpool's high-pressing, pacey strikers.
Galloway's 78.7 percent passing completion percentage is the second-lowest among Everton defenders and defensive midfielders, with only Ramiro Funes Mori passing the ball less efficiently, according to WhoScored.com.
While Galloway has struggled in these two areas, which is to be expected from a center-back playing left-back, other aspects of his play have been incredibly impressive. In particular, his ability to balance attack and defense has been stellar, particularly given that he has limited experience as a full-back.
Against Chelsea, Galloway was faced with the difficult task of shutting down Pedro, who lined up opposite him. Shortly after the match began though, it became clear that Jose Mourinho's men were going to target Galloway. In particular, Eden Hazard frequently shifted from his starting position on Everton's defensive right side over to the left, in an attempt to overwhelm Galloway.
Hazard's heatmap makes this exceedingly clear.
The Belgian pops up frequently on Galloway's side, but the left-back handled the situation remarkably well.
Below is an activity map showing both Hazard and Pedro's contributions to the match.
Neither player had a shot on goal nor a chance created. Additionally, neither player played in a cross from Galloway's side. Galloway's success stemmed from his discipline. Specifically, he avoided the temptation to frequently join the attack, and smartly kept Chelsea's dangerous playmakers in front of him at all times. His heatmap reflects this.
However, he did pick one excellent time to get forward, and in doing so assisted on the match's opening goal.
The play starts with Galloway on the ball and most of Chelsea's players in front of the 19-year-old.
Galloway lays the ball off to Barry and begins to make a run forward. In this situation, he can afford to get forward. He's not leaving any attacking players unmarked behind him, and Gareth Barry is in a position to cover for him if the ball is turned over.
As the ball is worked forward, Pedro tucks inside to try to help out defensively. As a result, he's not in a dangerous position to spring a counter-attack, and Barry remains in a sound defensive position. So, Galloway continues to foray forward into space.
Galloway gets the ball in space from Steven Naismith, and the defender puts a perfect cross into the box for the Scotsman, who gives Everton a 1-0 lead.
The former MK Dons player couldn't afford to get involved in the attack frequently against Chelsea. But, he picked his spots well and defended admirably when called upon.
The following week, Galloway and Everton took on Swansea, and the left-back put forward a completely different performance.
Galloway lined up against an equally dangerous attacker against the Swans in Andre Ayew. Ayew had three goals and an assist in his first six league matches with his new club, so he came into the match against the Toffees as one of the hottest players in the Premier League.
Galloway managed to completely neutralize the Ghanaian, but in a completely different way than how he shut down Pedro and Hazard. Instead of sitting deeper and keeping Ayew in front of him, Galloway bombed forward throughout the match, forcing the winger to defend first and attack second. Galloway's heatmap from the match makes this clear.
Ayew's production was almost nonexistent as a result. His activity, as shown in the image below courtesy of FourFourTwo.com, was mediocre at best.
Both Galloway and Roberto Martinez deserve credit for finding the ideal way to utilize the young defender, who has been an asset, rather than a liability, this season.
Statistically, the results speak for themselves. Galloway's 3.1 tackles per game leads the team, while his 0.6 fouls per game are lower than that of Gareth Barry, James McCarthy, and Tyias Browning. (Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com)
His WhoScored rating has been over 7.0 in each of Everton's last four league matches, a feat unmatched by any of his Toffee teammates.
Galloway is not perfect, but he is doing a remarkable job of filling in at an unfamiliar position. If he continues to play at this high of a level, he will give Martinez impressive flexibility and depth at the back. At 19 years old, the sky is the limit for Brendan Galloway.