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Everton 2020/21 Season Preview: Full-Backs

Have the Blues got enough strength in depth after Leighton Baines and Djibril Sidibé departed?

Everton FC v Burnley FC - Premier League
Will Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne be Everton’s first-choice pair at full-back this season?
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Stats: 2019/10 Everton Fullbacks

Player Minutes Clean Sheets Goals Assists
Player Minutes Clean Sheets Goals Assists
Lucas Digne 3396 9 1 8
Djibril Sidibé 2090 5 0 5
Seamus Coleman 2082 7 0 1
Leighton Baines 490 1 1 0

Tactics

Only on sporadic occasions in 2019-20 did Marco Silva, and then later Carlo Ancelotti, switch to a back three with wing-backs further up the pitch. For the vast majority of the season, whether in Silva’s anaemic 4-2-3-1 or Ancelotti’s functional 4-4-2, Everton’s full-backs made up half of a traditional back four.

As ever, Lucas Digne would look to bomb on down the left, though his partnership with Bernard failed to blossom after a promising end to 2018-19. Leighton Baines proved a more than capable deputy when called upon, and provided great defensive solidity with his advancing years having caused his attacking powers to wane slightly.

On the other side, Djibril Sidibé was without doubt the more attack-minded right-back, at times absolving himself of defensive duties to support Everton’s front line. Seamus Coleman was by no means unwilling to venture forward but disappointed with his delivery throughout the season, and his best games of last term always involved solid defending on his part, like in June’s goalless Merseyside derby.

Current Players

Lucas Digne - not quite as imperious last season as in his debut campaign, yet Digne still ended up with more assists than in his first year and undoubtedly improved as more games passed. For whatever reason, he seemed to lose a bit of confidence at the start of 2019-20, but when in full flight, there’s no arguments that the Frenchman is one of Everton’s best players. Crucial to Ancelotti that he stays injury-free.

Blackpool v Everton - Pre-Season Friendly
Digne improved as last season went on
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Niels Nkounkou - a free transfer from Marseille in July, the 19-year-old is certainly raw - he never made a first team appearance for l’OM but had attracted interest from Juventus and RB Leipzig. Looked physically ready for the step up during pre-season; Ancelotti must now decide if he is technically ready to be Digne’s deputy.

Seamus Coleman - a loyal servant to Everton but, 32 in October, Coleman can’t be considered the club’s first choice right-back for much longer. Since returning from a broken leg, he has, understandably, rarely looked the same marauding full-back as before that horrific injury in March 2017, and he has a frustrating proclivity for aiming crosses right at the first man. Still worthy of being a squad player, but nothing more at this stage.

Blackpool v Everton - Pre-Season Friendly
Are Coleman’s best days now behind him?
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Jonjoe Kenny - back from a generally positive season-long loan at Schalke 04, the 23-year-old still has much to prove. Being a boyhood Evertonian and a homegrown talent, as Tom Davies will testify, only garners you so much good will. Plenty still doubt Kenny, in particular from a defensive viewpoint. Can he prove them wrong this season?

State of the Position

Quality should always take precedence over quality. Everton may have two left-backs and two right-backs, but with the exception of Digne, it is debatable whether the other three remain good enough for a club harbouring ambitions as lofty as the Blues.

Baines’ faultless performances drove Digne on to be a better player. Nkounkou may do the same in time, but is such an untested talent ready to do that immediately? Has Kenny shown enough to stake a claim as Coleman’s long-term successor? Is Coleman already past the stage of being Everton’s first-choice right-back?

These are the potential headaches Ancelotti and Marcel Brands may be saddled with before the transfer window shuts on October 5. Digne aside, it looks a murky mixture of two rough diamonds and one fading star.


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