Ramiro Funes Mori, 25
Phil Jagielka, 33
John Stones, 22
Key Departures: None, yet.
Key Arrivals: None to date
Returning Players: At this point the Toffees will be bringing back their full lot of center backs for the 2016-2017 campaign. Those fist three words – “at this point” must be stressed as it is widely expected that John Stones will depart for Manchester City in the coming weeks. But for now he’s in royal blue instead of sky blue so we’ll keep him in our list. Joining Stones in the center of the backfield are veteran and captain, Phil Jagielka and the ill-disciplined Argentinian Ramiro Funes Mori.
Everton also has some young players who can move between different positions on the back line including center back in Matthew Pennington, Tyias Browning, Mason Holgate and Brendan Galloway. Depending on how the season goes, and whether or not they are sent out on loan, we may see some of them in action; likely in tandem with some of the more veteran players.
Tactics: With one exception last season (Reading in the Capital One Cup), old boss Roberto Martinez kept four defenders on the back line. His preferred pairing was Jagielka and Stones though Jags was limited throughout the season with knee and hamstring injuries. With Jags off the pitch, Ramiro Funes Mori got more than his fair share of playing time as well.
Unlike Martinez, the Toffee’s new manager, Ronald Koeman was more adventurous with his lineups at Southampton; changing his formations virtually every week. Depending on his read of the competition, he would have between three and five defenders lined up at the back. His new club certainly have the depth to run out those defenders but outside of the top three center backs listed there remains questions of experience and quality. It is noteworthy though that the club has been rumored to be interested in a number of new center backs including Premier League veterans Jose Fonte (32, Southampton) and Ashley Williams (31, Swansea).
Summary: Seeing what the new regime will do with the entire squad will be very interesting this season. The center back position will be one of the bigger areas to keep an eye on as the club is in the midst of a transition with Jagielka entering the twilight of his career and struggling with injuries and Stones, once seen as the future planning on walking out the door.
Funes Mori has shown potential, enough to be a starter on the top ranked team in the world, but he has also demonstrated a lack of discipline which has cost the team dearly at times. With the departure of Stones seemingly imminent, the 2016-2017 campaign will be the Argentinian’s time to take that big step forward and cement himself in the lineup.
Even if Koeman brings in the rumored reinforcements, they will only be a short-term stopgap due to their advanced ages. They may though buy the manager enough time to let new Director of Football, Steve Walsh work his magic.