Pep Guardiola was one of the first managers in recent years to outline the importance of having a left-footer as the left-sided centre-back, and since then, the demand for defenders fitting that exact description has gone up.
When asked about why Aymeric Laporte is so important to his Manchester City side, Guardiola explained: “Especially because he is left-footed playing on the left side. He gives us an alternative for the build-up, quicker and faster than the other ones with the right [foot].
“When you receive the ball to the right you have to go inside because you go to the right foot.
“On the left, you go to that side. So that helps us to create this build-up and [another] build-up. With the right it’s always [the same build-up]. It’s a little bit more complicated.”
This reasoning is exactly why Everton have a potential gem on their hands in homegrown 19-year-old Jarrad Branthwaite, who scored his first senior goal against Chelsea earlier in the season and completed 90% of his passes against Boreham Wood in the Toffees’ 2-0 FA Cup victory last Thursday.
Described as a “terrific” player by Everton under-23 coach John Ebbrell, the left-footed 6 foot 4 colossus is under contract until at least 2025, and is currently valued at just £2.7m by Transfermarkt – but that value is sure to rise dramatically the more he is given opportunities by Frank Lampard.
The former Chelsea manager has gained a reputation for developing young players, and with Everton not in a race for Europe and underoing a rebuilding phase, it seems probable that the likes of Branthwaite will get regular first team game-time should the Toffees secure survival in the Premier League with matches to spare.
However, regular first-team action might not be that far away for the teenager, with right-footed Michael Keane struggling in recent weeks on the left side of defence, prompting some fans and pundits to voice their criticism of the 27-year-old.
There is no question that Branthwaite should receive that chance should Lampard make changes to the back-line. Not only does the teenager have vast potential, he could well become an England regular on the left-side of defence should he develop at the same rate as some of his manager’s former protégés.