In a season where Premier League survival was secured even later than the previous campaign, few if any areas of the team can escape harsh scrutiny. That being said, Everton had two managers who had very different views on how to play and obtain results, which will have an impact on performance. From Frank Lampard’s possession obsession to a more pragmatic, simple approach adopted by Sean Dyche, the Blues’ central defenders had to adapt to more than one system this season to varying degrees of success.
With 57 goals shipped, it is worth noting that it was the fewest of any team in the bottom six. Not that it will be of any consolation to any Toffee enduring another final-day escape, but who were the ones who stood up to be counted when needed, and who didn’t?
There was competition for places in terms of bodies, how many were worthy of wearing the Royal Blue?
Here’s the first three:
Lampard’s time as Everton boss won’t be remembered as a success but acquiring the former Burnley man on a free transfer was a shrewd piece of business. Completing every minute of every league game for the Toffees, the Manchester-born defender offers a no-nonsense approach to football, winning almost twice as many duels as he has lost and often being the man in the way of an opposing shot, leading the league in that metric.
Not overly noted for his attacking side, the England international’s only goal of the season came against Arsenal in Dyche’s first game as Everton boss, securing a precious three points over the then league leaders.
Stats aside, it is well worth documenting that this team has long since been devoid of a number of leaders. Seamus Coleman has often been the one man band, rallying a side who seem to accept its fate no matter what. Tarkowski has been different. Not afraid to get in the face of a striker or remonstrate with an official, the 30-year-old is usually the first to defend a teammate when opponents attempt to throw their weight around. The central defensive area will be one Dyche focuses on improving, but for me it will be a case of who plays with James Tarkowski, rather than instead of.
Grade: B+ (bold and brave)
Much was made when Everton secured the loan of the Liverpool-born defender in August 2022. Vocal and experienced, the loanee from Wolves was another willing to lead in a side where too many are happy to follow. Often thought of as a defender more suited to a back three, the England international was a regular under Lampard no matter the formation and proved popular amongst the Goodison faithful.
Had his strike stood against Liverpool at Goodison however, Coady would have written himself into Toffee folklore. Damn you, VAR!
Dyche’s appointment saw the 31-year-old’s playing time reduced significantly as the former Burnley boss had other ideas for that area. Coady would start the first four games under Dyche, but had to make do with a place on the bench following Everton’s 2-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa. Despite his change in fortunes, the former Liverpool trainee’s professionalism and enthusiasm never waned, but it was announced this month that the Club would not be taking up the option to make his transfer permanent. A decision that has divided opinion amongst the fanbase.
Grade: C (Couldn’t faut the effort, Conor)
Undoubtedly Everton’s most talented centre back of the 2022-23 season, it is heart-breaking that the big Colombian appeared in only seven league games for the Toffees, as a series of injuries continued to disrupt his Goodison tenure.
Big and imposing, the Blues always seemed a more capable outfit when the 28-year-old takes to the field. Comfortable on the ball, Mina’s stats are not the most impressive due to lack of playing time, but he did net a priceless goal in the tenth minute of injury time at Molineux to ensure Everton’s fate was in their own hands on the last day.
Strong both in the air and on the ground, the former Barcelona man won almost twice as many duels as he lost and claimed over 30 recoveries, displaying a quickness not normally associated with an individual of his size.
Although another who was never afraid to lead and undoubtedly a huge talent, his dreadful injury record and high salary will both be contributing factors to a parting of the ways between he and Everton when his contract expires at the end of the month.
Grade: C (Can’t help but lament his lack of fitness)
That is the first three assessed and graded, part two will be following in a couple of hours.