Everton defender Jarrad Branthwaite will have thrilled Carlo Ancelotti after producing a brilliant performance during his Blackburn Rovers debut at home to Stoke City on Saturday.
Branthwaite only moved to Ewood Park on Thursday after agreeing to a half-season loan deal to become the Championship side’s first signing of the January transfer window.
The 18-year-old described the deal as a “no-brainer” as Tony Mowbray’s side was the only club he wanted to leave the Toffees for, after making only one first-team outing at Goodison Park this term due to an early-season ankle injury.
Branthwaite played the full 90 minutes as Blackburn rescued a point at home to Stoke on Saturday, in a game that saw the Potters’ influence grow throughout the second-period as Rovers struggled to find their rhythm.
Stoke took the lead late in the first half courtesy of a Nick Powell header but were pegged back by Adam Armstrong, who saved the Lancashire outfit’s blushes against a 10-man Potters side with his 16th goal of the Championship campaign.
Despite Stoke’s pressure, Branthwaite offered a reassuring presence at the back with strong and assertive challenges, and Rovers have been lauded by Lancs Live for bringing a ball-playing centre-half to Ewood Park, even if the £15,000-per-week titan’s inexperience occasionally came to the surface at set-pieces.
Rovers supporters also flooded a club tweet praising Branthwaite for an assured display, with some describing the 6 ft 5 colossus as their Man of the Match for his brilliant efforts.
Branthwaite deservedly earned the praise of Blackburn supporters following his debut, as his performance offered Mowbray a key figure beside Rovers captain Darragh Lenihan that will have undoubtedly delighted Ancelotti back at Everton.
The teen talent, making his first senior appearance in any competition since September, attempted one additional tackle compared to his experienced central defensive partner Lenihan, with each man boasting a 100% tackle success rate with in each of their three and two respective tackles, per WhoScored.
Branthwaite further stood firm to provide his side’s second-most clearances (3) to help protect Thomas Kaminski’s goal, was never dribbled past, and offered two interceptions to thwart Stoke’s frontline consisting of six-goal striker Powell and Jacob Brown, who has offered 0.8 shots per game on average this season as a frequent attacking threat.
Ancelotti will also have been impressed to see the Blues’ prospect contest a game-high five defensive aerial duels with a 60% success rate, as he held down the left-side of defence beside full-back Barry Douglas, winning more aerial duels than Everton’s current centre-half options have averaged per game in the Premier League this season.
Branthwaite was also far safer in possession than 26-year-old Lenihan, with an 84% completion rate from 41 of 49 passes, compared to his teammate’s 74%, while losing possession 10 times compared to 19, and never shying from taking the ball to register 62 touches, per SofaScore.
Had Branthwaite’s performance been in an Ancelotti backline during a top-flight fixture, his efforts would likely have stood out, with only Ben Godfrey offering a greater haul of successful tackles per game (3.3) when fielded centrally for Everton, per WhoScored.
It was a good start to his team at Blackburn, hopefully for Everton, Branthwaite can continue to play in such a manner for the rest of the season and come back to Goodison Park as a player who is ready to battle for a regular place in Ancelotti’s starting line-up.