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Everton English Premier League Season Preview: Center Backs

How do the Blues stack up in the heart of defense?

KRC Genk v Everton: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Andy Astfalck/Getty Images


Everton Center Backs

Player Age Games Tkl/90 Int/90 Fouls/90 DrbPast/90
Player Age Games Tkl/90 Int/90 Fouls/90 DrbPast/90
Phil Jagielka 34 25 1.7 1.6 0.5 0.3
Michael Keane 24 35 0.8 1.6 1 0.3
Ashley Williams 32 35 1.5 1.8 1.1 0.6
Ramiro Funes Mori 26 16 1.6 1.9 0.6 1.4
Statistics reflect 2016-17 season


My colleague Adam has already tackled this more capably than I ever could, so I highly recommend reading his tactical breakdown of Everton’s defense. In short, though:

Because Everton doesn’t utilize a particularly extreme overall tactical setup (that is, they aren’t playing a Pep Guardiola-style of always play out of the back, nor a Jurgen Klopp-esque high press), its central defenders aren’t asked to do anything particularly out of the ordinary.


In most matches, their only real responsibility in getting the ball forward is to ping the ball up to the holding midfielder (Morgan Schneiderlin, usually) or to the full-backs (more on them later). It’s those players with the real responsibility for moving the ball from back to front, not the center-backs.


In defense, the center-backs are shielded by a capable holding midfielder — either Schneiderlin or Gareth Barry — while the other two midfielders try to more aggressively win the ball back. Their understanding of space with the holding midfielder is crucial when the opponent has long spells of possession.

Current Players

Michael Keane

In the brief time that Michael Keane has been with the club, it’s already evident that he is going to be an immense presence for Everton this season.

Commanding in the air, an excellent passer, and not afraid to step up into the run of play, the 24 year old Englishman looks to be the number one center back that the Blues have been missing since Phil Jagielka started showing his age.

Unlike John Stones, Michael Keane is actually happy to be at Everton. He’s a better player, too. This is one English defender who the club will be counting on for years to come.

Ashley Williams

Oh, would you look at that - an important Swansea City player that Everton were able to swipe during a summer transfer window...

Ashley Williams was brought into the fold at Goodison Park in large part due to the departure of John Stones to Manchester City. In doing so, the Blues acquired a change of pace. The Welshman is professional, calm under pressure, and possesses a world of experience and leadership qualities.

Ash isn’t going to set the world on fire in terms of man-marking, but he does his job quite capably. At 32 years old, Williams is still an above-average defender in the best league in the world. That’s good enough for now.

Phil Jagielka

Ever present in Everton’s back line, the club captain is set to remain that way a little longer thanks to his recent contract extension. While it would be reasonable to expect Jags to show his age, the nearly-35-year-old has remained surprisingly spry.

Jagielka won’t start every game, but for now, he’s a more than capable 3rd or 4th center back in a good squad.

Ramiro Funes Mori

Poor Ramiro. He had really come into his own as a Premier League player, before promptly taking a serious injury while away on Argentina duty.

During preseason, Funes Mori aggravated his knee problem, and is set to miss 6-9 more months. You can safely count him out of the equation for 2017-18.

State of the Position

...fine, more or less? The injury to Funes Mori hurts, and means that Ronald Koeman wants to find one more left sided defender. But Mason Holgate can capably deputize in the center (indeed, that’s actually his natural position), and the Blues’ first three center backs are all of the proper level for Europa League football.