Everton defensive duo proved against Chelsea they can be key to avoiding relegation

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James Tarkowski and Michael Keane were ahead of the pack on key defensive stats last gameweek.

Everton’s defensive duo of James Tarkowski and Michael Keane proved that they could be vital for Everton’s chances of surviving relegation this season with their display against Chelsea.

The centre-back pairing have been Sean Dyche’ preferred choice in the heart of their defence since his arrival, with the former Burnely manager trusting his two former players over loanee Conor Coady, who was a regular prior to the new manager’s arrival in early February.

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Whilst Ellis Simms may have stole the headlines against Chelsea with a late equaliser to earn Dyche’s side a point, it was Tarkowski and Keane who topped the list for most combined blocks and clearances in the Premier League this gameweek.

Of course, the list is dominated by teams in the bottom half of the table as Everton had to fend off 20 shots from Chelsea, as they accumulated an xG of 2.56 and 69% possession.

Dyche has spoken about a change in their body language in recent games and the steel shown by Tarkowski and Keane was certainly impressive against the riches of Chelsea.

Tarkowski blocked seven shots and made seven clearances, which saw him top the list of combined stats in the league last weekend, whilst Keane managed 11 clearances in total, earning him second place on the list.

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Both played together together at Burnley and their partnership is beginning to develop following each passing game.

Although, we can’t ignore the fact that Tarkowski was involved in the penalty incident with Reece James, but Ben Godfrey had made the first contact which sent James flying into the centre-back, who couldn’t avoid the Chelsea right-back.

James Tarkowski and Michael Keane of Everton. Photo: David Berding/Getty ImagesJames Tarkowski and Michael Keane of Everton. Photo: David Berding/Getty Images
James Tarkowski and Michael Keane of Everton. Photo: David Berding/Getty Images

On the other hand, Tarkowski also managed an assist for his side’s first goal. He proved once again how threatening he is from set-pieces as he made it one goal and one assist since Dyche’s arrival.

Keane also provided an assist for Abdoulaye Doucoure in the 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest at the start of March, and this defensive pairing are proving that they are becoming vital at both ends of the pitch - and that may just be enough to keep them up.

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