clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Everton 2023/24 Season Preview: Full-backs

Veterans and youngsters provide a balance as Ashley Young joins the squad



For the past couple of years, Everton have been in a period of transition to say the least. The ongoing merry go round of managers has made it difficult to nail down what is required tactically and this is clearly seen in the role of the full-back. Last year started with Frank Lampard attempting to implement a 3-4-3 formation but injuries to both Patterson and Coleman forced the manager to shoehorn a variety of players into the wingback role that did not work.

With the arrival of Sean Dyche, the injuries continued with Mykolenko being the only consistent in the position. Dyche also used centre backs in the full-back position to add size and increase defensive solidity. During his successful time at Burnley, the full-backs were solid defensively but were critical in the attacking play. A quick ball to the centre forward who held up the ball was then distributed wide to the marauding full-back who finished the move by whipping in crosses from either flank. Do the current squad of players provide the quality needed to provide this role.

Current Players

Crystal Palace v Everton FC - Premier League
Mykolenko will have to improve his attacking game to balance out his defensive work
Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

Vitaliy Mykolenko

Everton’s most featured full-back during the season with 34 Premier League appearances, the Ukrainian is a solid and alert defender, ranking in the 90th percentile for interceptions and 74th and 84th for tackles and blocked shots, respectively. When he goes forward the picture changes significantly with a successful cross-conversion rate of just 25 per cent, Mykolenko had zero assists to his record last season from an expected assists total of just 1.

With Ashley Young joining the team this summer it will be interesting to see how this affects Mykolenko’s playing time when he is fit again. At the defensive end, he is excellent and perhaps it is in those tight games that need solidity that we see Dyche select the Ukrainian.

Everton v Sporting Lisbon - Pre-Season Friendly
Seamus Coleman’s influence extends far beyond the pitch and will be critical this year.
Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Seamus Coleman

For the second year running, Seamus Coleman will not be starting the season as part of Everton’s playing squad, with Nathan Patterson set to stake his claim on the right-back position in place of the club captain. The 34-year-old will begin his 15th season at the club when the campaign gets underway against Fulham on Saturday after he signed a new one year deal over the summer.

Although an incredible leader and servant to the club, Seamus Coleman cannot consistently provide the attacking and defending that Dyche requires in his team. Should Patterson take his chance and play well in the first few weeks of the season, it’s safe to say that Coleman will be watching from the sidelines more frequently. However, his role on the sidelines cannot be underestimated with his incredible leadership skills.

Stoke City v Everton - Pre-Season Friendly
Getting into the attacking third provides Patterson the opportunity to do some of his best work.
Photo by Matt McNulty/Getty Images

Nathan Patterson

Featuring in just 19 league games last season, injury robbed him of almost a month of playing time before a return to the first team. A preferred starter under Frank Lampard, Sean Dyche often elected to use centre-backs in the right-back area, with Patterson not featuring under the former Burnley boss until April.

Despite being questioned on his defending by some, Patterson ranks in the 98th percentile for tackling and 74th for ground duels won. With time on his side, an injury free season could well see him fulfil his Everton potential and claim that no.1 spot at right-back. Patterson is the prototypical Dyche full-back and the more that he works under the manager, the more influential he will be in the team. A break out year could be on the cards.

Wigan Athletic v Everton - Pre-Season Friendly
Ashley Young opens his scoring account in his Everton debut.
Photo by Emma Simpson - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

Ashley Young

There were many who felt that Ashley Young would be offered a new contract with Aston Villa after an impressive return to the club last year. The 38 year old started in 23 of the 29 Premier League games he played last season averaging 70 minutes per match. He had an impressive average game rating of 6.95 on FotMob. He is adept with both feet and has played in every position during his long career except as goalkeeper.

Young has had an impressive preseason and scored the winning goal against Wigan on his debut. The veteran will be pushing Mykolenko and will add a more attacking option going forward when required. An astute signing by Everton that should provide cover in several other positions.

Everton Pre-Season Training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

State of the Position

With two seasoned veterans and two young lads making up the squad of full-backs, Sean Dyche has the potential for more consistency this year in this position. Last year was disjointed with injuries and players being played out of position to fill gaps. The arrival of Ashley Young, even at the ripe age of 38 might be the signing of the season as he is going to provide competition and another leader to guide Patterson and Mykolenko.

With the full-backs quickly becoming some of the most important players on the pitch in modern football, Dyche’s reliance on them providing attacking crosses for the forwards will give Patterson the opportunity to show his quality in those areas whereas Mykolenko has to be more aggressive going forward and improve the quality of his delivery.

With each game played, the experience will benefit both of the youngsters and it is clear that Dyche is expecting them to step up and be counted. I have faith that they can form a great long-term partnership like Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman once did. That comparison — being logical — is obviously still a ways off, but they have the potential to make it a fair one in the upcoming years. At the start of this season, full-backs are an area in which the team has some balance.