Everton’s £4.5m pre-season decision comes back to haunt them after Merseyside derby defeat
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Everton fans bemoaned Michael Keane’s flailing arm which granted Liverpool the chance to open the scoring during the Merseyside derby defeat at the weekend. Substituted on alongside Nathan Patterson following Ashley Young’s sending off, he formed part of a deep defensive backline with James Tarkowski and Jarrad Branthwaite in what was a desperate situation up against Jurgen Klopp’s side.
That was Keane’s fourth Premier League appearance of the season as he was dropped from the side after starting in both their two defeats against Fulham and Aston Villa at the start of the season. But being thrown in against Liverpool in the derby at Anfield with 10 men is about as trying a situation as you can find yourself in after coming on, and he came up short.
Dyche had two options at half-time in terms of changes: Ben Godfrey or Keane. Considering that Keane has played far more often than Godfrey across the past however many months, he had to go with the senior figure.
But if Everton had just triggered their option-to-buy for Conor Coady last season, he would have surely turned to the former Wolves defender. There was a mixed fan reaction when Coady departed after a season on loan; he had been out of the side for the relegation run-in, but he returned on the final day against Bournemouth and made an all-important intervention which helped to maintain their Premier League status, and he loved his time at the club given how glowingly he has spoken about it since departing.
Everton failed to trigger the very reasonable fee to sign him permanently and given that he is the same age as Keane, he is the superior player with far more experience and ability on the ball - and now the decision to let him go seems very short-sighted. The decision to allow the injury-prone Yerry Mina leave on a free was justified given his lack of availability and high wages, and allowing Mason Holgate to play regular football in the Championship was certainly needed.
But in terms of the rest of the season, Godfrey and Keane are the backups which could worry fans and maybe a January addition may be sought out. Especially given that an injury to either of Tarkowski or Branthwaite could be detrimental.
Tarkowski played every single minute of last season in the league - which was an incredible feat - and he is unlikely to achieve it again, but he will certainly be an ever-present in the side - he’s also managed 31 games or more in the league in every season since 2017.
His partner Branthwaite, at 21 years of age, is in remarkable form, but he too will need a rest at some point given the demands of the Premier League that he has stepped into this season.
Therefore, while the decision to allow Holgate and Mina to depart was justified, allowing Coady, an experienced Premier League campaigner who had only just turned 30, seems extremely questionable in hindsight.
While there’s no telling what effect Coady would have had on the game in the same situation, the overall depth in that position is certainly one to question after the weekend.