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How will Mason Holgate’s loan move impact Everton?

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Young central defender will spend remainder of 2018/19 at West Bromwich Albion

Everton v Rotherham United - Carabao Cup Second Round
Holgate has not featured for Everton since September 16
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

On New Year’s Eve, Everton central defender Mason Holgate joined West Bromwich Albion on loan for the rest of the season.

Holgate, 22, began the campaign as a mainstay in new boss Marco Silva’s side, featuring in all of Everton’s first six games in all competitions.

But after shaky consecutive individual showings from Holgate, in the 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town and the 3-1 defeat to West Ham United, he lost his place alongside Michael Keane at the heart of the Toffee’s defence, and has not played a minute of first team football since that Hammers defeat on September 16.

Having not even been named in a matchday squad for nearly three months, Holgate will spend the remainder of this term with the Baggies, third in the Championship and chasing an immediate return to the Premier League.

Where does it leave Everton?

Holgate’s departure, albeit temporary, is definitely a gamble on Silva’s part.

In three of Everton’s last five matches, the manager has implemented a back three of central defenders Yerry Mina, Kurt Zouma and Michael Keane, preferring Phil Jagielka, rather than Holgate, as the deputy centre-half.

If Silva is to persist with this approach, which has yielded mixed results thus far, Jagielka is now the only viable alternative to fill in should one of Everton’s defensive triumvirate be unavailable.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Everton FC - Premier League
Jagielka was sent off in the first game of the season for a challenge on Wolverhampton’s Diogo Jota
Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Even then, Jagielka is now 36 and devoid of the pace he used to possess, while Holgate often looked far better-suited to playing in a back three, especially during the second half of the 2016/17 season under Ronald Koeman.

Otherwise, it is difficult to see who Silva would turn to. Tyias Browning is the only other ‘senior’ natural central defenders on the Blues’ books, but is now 24 and still with David Unsworth’s under-23s, having not played a minute under the new Blues boss.

With Browning reportedly close to joining Aston Villa on loan, and Matthew Pennington at Ipswich Town for the season, the only other option could be 19-year-old Morgan Feeney.

Where does it leave Holgate?

Despite increasing the possibility of causing his manager a selection headache, Holgate has too much potential to waste a whole year on him.

In his 48 Blues appearances since his debut in August 2016, the man signed for a reported £2 million from Barnsley the previous summer has generally coped well in a particularly porous defence.

He has had his low points, such as the West Ham debacle, but was arguably Everton’s best defender in last year’s lamentable campaign, and is noticeably more vocal than most of his defensive colleagues.

Everton v West Ham United - Premier League
Holgate is a particularly loud player on the pitch and was one of few positives for Everton last season
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

While it would have been preferable to see him be loaned to a fellow top-flight side on loan to see how he copes with regular Premier League football, a move to the high-flying Baggies is surely the next best thing.

Few would doubt Holgate has what the requisite attributes to make it at English football’s highest level, but the more he sits in the Goodison Park stands, the longer it will take, if ever, for his potential to be realised.