In recent weeks, Everton have been linked with a number of centre-backs. Various outlets have reported that the club are interested in the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Clement Lenglet, and Merih Demiral. However, with Yerry Mina, Ben Godfrey, Mason Holgate, and Michael Keane, Everton already have pretty good depth in this area. All four first team centre-backs have been operating at a similar level over the last two seasons. Ben Godfrey has quickly become a fans’ favourite after an outstanding debut season, whilst Michael Keane improved significantly under Carlo Ancelotti, and played more league minutes than any other Everton player last season. Mason Holgate (below) perhaps disappointed at times last season, following a very impressive 2019-20 campaign. However, the 24-year-old often played out of position, and so wasn’t helped by this. Meanwhile, Yerry Mina (often considered the best of the four) had another good season, however one in which he again picked up minor injuries which meant he played the least league minutes out of the four.
Having said this, all four players feature in the top 11 for Everton players with the most Premier League minutes last season, which indicates their importance to the team. As well as this, three of the four centre-backs each cost around £25m, further highlighting their significance at the club. If Everton were to bring in another centre-back, it’s likely that one of the existing ones would leave as they are simply too good and too expensive to be fifth choice.
Who is number one at the moment? Who is most likely to leave if Everton sign a centre-back this summer?
We’ve analysed the stats from last season to see how Everton’s current centre-backs compare with one another in different areas. All stats are from FBRef and are from the 2020-2021 Premier League season.
When looking at general defending (tackles, interceptions, blocks), Ben Godfrey (above) ranked as the best Everton centre-back. The 2020 summer signing blocked the most shots (per 90 minutes) out of the four, whilst making the second most tackles and interceptions (behind Mason Holgate). Holgate, although making the most tackles and interceptions, ranked lowest for shots blocked. He blocked 0.51 shots per 90 minutes; less than half as much as the next best which was Michael Keane at 1.14.
Verdict (best in this area): Ben Godfrey
Godfrey’s great defensive work is again highlighted when analysing one-on-one defending, ranking highly for successful pressures per 90, as well as percentage of dribblers tackled.
It should be acknowledged that with both Holgate and Godfrey often playing as full-backs last season, they are more likely to register a higher amount of pressures than Mina and Keane, who only played centre-back. This can also be said for tackles and interceptions, as full-backs and defensive midfielders tend to lead these statistics. However, their ability to play full-back is an interesting difference in itself; a difference primarily produced because they have superior pace to Keane and Mina. Another interesting observation is that Yerry Mina was twice as successful at tackling dribblers than Michael Keane, and slightly more than even Ben Godfrey. Although Godfrey and Holgate make the most successful pressures, Mina and Godfrey are clear of Keane and Holgate in terms of tackling dribblers.
Verdict: Ben Godfrey
Often utilising the low-block system (usually away from home) Everton tended to rely on the heading ability of Yerry Mina and Michael Keane to clear away the opposition’s crosses. Their superiority in this area is reflected in the stats, with Michael Keane ranking highest for both aerial duels won per 90, and aerial duels success rate.
Yerry Mina ranks second for both, with Ben Godfrey third, and Mason Holgate fourth. This shows that, although Godfrey and Holgate are significantly quicker (which is highlighted through their interceptions, pressures, and ability to play full-back) Keane and Mina possess strengths in other areas, such as being far more dominant in the air.
Verdict: Michael Keane
As well as being good defensively, centre-backs now require the ability to progress the ball. Last season, Everton often struggled to play through high-pressing teams, and this was as much down to their defenders as it was the midfield.
Along with being the best in the air, Michael Keane (below) ranks as the best progressive passer out of Everton’s four centre-backs. Holgate also scores highly, whilst Godfrey is the lowest of the four. Fast, aggressive, and a very capable defender, this is perhaps an area where the 23-year-old Godfrey could improve.
Verdict: Michael Keane
Despite being the worst of the four for progressive passes, Ben Godfrey ranks as by far the best for progressive carries. The young defender registered three times as many carries into the final third than Mason Holgate, who was the next best. He also made 2.68 progressive carries per 90 minutes; the second most of the four. Surprisingly leading this statistic was Yerry Mina who made 3.4 progressive carries per 90 minutes.
Even with his pace and technical ability (demonstrated through his passing statistics), Mason Holgate was the lowest in this area. This is quite alarming considering he played many games at right-back, however perhaps isn’t surprising given the lack of creativity down Everton’s right-hand side last season. A new right-back is needed this summer.
Verdict: Ben Godfrey
Lastly, an interesting finding was discovered when analysing the team’s performance when each centre-back was playing. Goals conceded per 90 minutes (when the player was on) and team points per match (when the player was on) were both examined. The significance of Yerry Mina’s presence in the team was highlighted.
For points per match when Yerry Mina (below) was playing, Everton averaged 1.96. For the other three players, Everton averaged either 1.5 or 1.6. Furthermore, (compared with the other three) Everton conceded less goals when Mina was on the pitch, letting in 1.02 per 90 minutes. The next best was Godfrey at 1.16. Clearly, when analysing the centre-backs’ impact within the team, Yerry Mina makes a big difference when he plays.
Verdict: Yerry Mina
Centre-Back Overall Rankings:
Centre-Back Overall Rankings:
- Yerry Mina
- Ben Godfrey
- Michael Keane
- Mason Holgate
Although not outstanding in many individual statistics, Yerry Mina’s statistical profile is still well-rounded. He ranked highly for one-on-one defending, aerial duels, progressive carries, as well as the team earning more points and conceding less goals when he was on the pitch. When watching the towering Colombian, his lack of pace could be seen as a weakness, however, his success at tackling dribblers suggests this isn’t an issue.
From watching the players, and from analysing the stats, it’s clear that Keane and Mina are similar kinds of players to one another. They offer different qualities to Godfrey and Holgate, who are themselves similar to one another. In order to create a balanced centre-back pairing, Everton should play one of Mina or Keane, with Godfrey or Holgate. I would favour Mina with Godfrey. Godfrey’s pace, one-on-one defending, and aggressive style are all very impressive. Furthermore, he offers the ability to carry the ball forward. Having said this, his progressive passing could improve as it ranks as the worst of the four.
Let us know who you think is Everton’s best centre-back, and whether you think Everton should sign another one.
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