Everton are away in Dubai for a few days of warm weather training, and the players continue to provide the club website with interview snippets. Earlier today, defender Michael Keane spoke with evertonfc.com, talking about the Toffees’ forward corps and his expectations for the season.
Keane has struggled for big parts of this season, in no small part due to a couple of injury issues that saw him miss time just when he’s been getting established. Coming from Burnley’s defensive structure, he has often looked lost in the Blues’ backline. His lack of speed in turning and chasing balls played behind him has led him to being exposed, as has his use as a left-sided central defender where he hasn’t settled in well. In general, Everton’s lack of defensive shape hasn’t glorified any defensive players and continues to expose Jordan Pickford on a regular basis.
Additionally, there were reports in the tabloids saying that the Blues might be looking to move on from the English defender, and might even be looking to sell him during the summer transfer window, which does seem incredibly short-sighted.
Speaking about the team’s attacking force, Keane said -
“Theo Walcott has been a brilliant addition since he has come in and added a lot of pace and dribbling ability – and a lot of quality as well.
“Gylfi Sigurdsson has been first class, and Oumar Niasse, too. And think about the players we have coming off the bench as well.
“We are looking very good going forward. We need to make sure we stay solid at the back and things are looking bright.”
He continued on Sigurdsson -
“He has got a few important goals this season. He has been a fantastic player for us. He has so much quality and is someone you can always trust to put in a good performance week in, week out.”
Regarding Niasse -
“He never gives in and never stops running. And he got the goal he deserved against Palace. He is a nightmare to play against – I know that from Finch Farm.”
Since most articles on the club’s official site tend of the propaganda nature, it’s hard to take a lot of the direct quotes seriously, but let’s unpack his comments on Niasse a little.
The Senegalese striker has now been involved in 10 goals in the Premier League this season, scoring seven times and assisting in a further three. At 27, his main strength is his tenacity, with his ability to chase down everything in opponents’ half often creating chances for himself. Niasse is not the fastest of players, but can be deceptively quick and his finishing is quite decent.
However, look at some of the forwards Keane has faced this season - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Demarai Gray, Jamie Vardy, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Eden Hazard, Willian, Michy Batshuayi, Alvaro Morata, Sergio Aguero, David Silva among many others.
In the Premier League where he’s had 19 appearances so far, Keane is averaging 1.3 successful tackles per 90 min, and he’s been dribbled past 0.8 times every 90 min. For comparison, Ashley Williams wins 1.2 tackles per 90 while he’s beaten 0.4 times per 90. Phil Jagielka is at 16 games with 1.4 and 0.5 while Mason Holgate has 13 games with 1.8 and 0.8 respectively - all better tackle ratios for won vs lost than the 4-time England international.
If Niasse is the stuff your nightmares are made of, and he’s unlikely better than more than two or three of the players in the list above, then it’s no wonder Keane is having a horrible season. And the fans know it too.
Anyone getting Keane on a 1-on-1 is just turning him inside out. Poor performance again from him #EVEMUN— Ian (@Ghedin1878) January 1, 2018
Michael Keane yapping away again talking himself up. He’s been absolutely dire for me... positionally awful, and very very slow. Struggle to find excuses for how bad he’s been tbh.— colin morris (@colin0306) January 16, 2018