With the volume of reports being published about Jarrad Branthwaite’s immediate future, there’s an inevitability that fans of the young Cumbrian-born centre back will have to watch Championship football to see how Everton’s cultured young player gets on in 2022/23.
He turned 20 yesterday and it’s absolutely undeniable that the centre half needs to play regular football at a senior level to hone his defending skills against seasoned professionals. I guess the only question in some people’s minds is whether he would be better served learning his trade alongside the soon-to-arrive experienced James Tarkowski or whether he is better served by moving to a club on an upward trajectory in the Championship. He may even end up in the Netherlands where he has admirers, not least in the shape of Marcel Brands our former Director of Football, now fulfilling that role at PSV Eindhoven.
Most of all, this next move is a massive step for the club.
If he does not shine next season wherever that may be, people will no doubt vindicate Lampard’s apparent view of Branthwaite’s immediate future. He didn’t shine at Blackburn Rovers two years ago by all accounts.
If he does shine, whilst Evertonians might rejoice at the prospect of him being match-hardened for the following season alongside Tarkowski, the stark reality is that the club might suddenly find themselves with wolves at the door looking to snap him up. Manchester City were already seriously mentioned as considering a bid this summer and they have a little bit of history at taking our star young centre backs don’t they?
What appears to be clear right now is that he has not yet earned the 100% trust of Frank Lampard for him to be a regular starter in the first team so a move is kind of inescapable.
Personally, I’m a massive fan of the young defender. He has a towering presence at 6’ 5”, a comfort on the ball well beyond his years, a very accurate passing rate and make no mistake he is no slouch in terms of pace. I heard some talk of him being done for pace in the sending off against Brentford. Make no mistake, in that incident, he got his positioning wrong, he was way too tight on Ivan Toney 15 yards inside the opposition half. That is something he needs to learn and improve upon but he did catch up with Toney who, himself, is pretty quick. It was only a mixture of Toney’s guile at getting across him and a certain amount of inexperience and naivety on Branthwaite’s part that resulted in the leg tangle and the easy red card.
So it’s that inexperience which worries me when the club are considering the best move. Tarkowski, had he been a Blue at the time and on the park, would have barked at Branthwaite to hold his position at the halfway line. The senior pros are there to do just that with youngsters and, yes, the old adage that you “learn from your mistakes” will not be put to the test if he leaves on loan.
Will Branthwaite learn the same against generally inferior forwards in the Championship or in another league such as the Eredivisie where the intensity and physicality simply does not compare to the English Premier League? They’re my main concerns over the next move for our classy centre back.
Even his harshest critics among the Blues fans will already be well aware of his skill on the ball and ability to transition the ball forward. That would get even better I’m sure in the Netherlands but they don’t have many “Ivan Toneys” there the last time I looked? He may also have to tone down the ball-carrying in the hurly burly of the Championship.
Fingers crossed for the right decision to be made and for the next twelve months to be a great educational experience leading to him becoming a mainstay of OUR defence for years to come. Good luck Jarrad!