Mason Holgate proved against Arsenal on Saturday that he can be Carlo Ancelotti’s secret weapon after Everton were urged to sign new defenders in January following a spate of injuries.
Ancelotti was forced to name a makeshift backline for the visit of Mikel Arteta’s side, feeling that Seamus Coleman was not worth risking as he made his return to the bench following a hamstring strain.
Ben Godfrey joined Holgate in starting at full-back in the absence of regular left-back Lucas Digne, who faces up to three months on the sidelines having required surgery after sustaining ankle ligament damage in training at the end of last month.
Ancelotti’s sudden loss of both first-choice full-backs raised concerns over how Everton would cope long-term, with the manager initially favouring Tom Davies and Alex Iwobi to play out of position.
Former England international Paul Robinson suggested the need for January reinforcements was “very apparent” against Leeds United as Everton lost 1-0 at home, with the Toffees “significantly weakened” without Coleman and Digne in the side.
Holgate, however, proved at the perfect time that he can be Ancelotti’s secret weapon at right-back with a top-draw display against Arsenal on Saturday, with Coleman watching on from the bench for the first time in six games.
Holgate’s forward advances caused Arsenal to second-guess themselves, fearing that leaving the 24-year-old unmarked would allow him to deliver yet another teasing delivery into Bernd Leno’s box.
Instead, the Gunners dropped off to free Alex Iwobi the space to deliver the ball from which Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s glancing header would ricochet off Rob Holding and into the net to open the scoring.
The £16.2m-rated centre-half rarely looked like a player who was fielded out of position as he locked down the right-hand channel with two clearances, two interceptions, one successful tackle and success in his only aerial contest, while winning one of three ground duels, per SofaScore.
One of Holgate’s three deliveries also found a teammate on a day where he registered a key ball from 33 accurate passes and took 62 touches, only centre-backs Yerry Mina (70) and Michael Keane (64) took more for the Toffees.
Ancelotti will find it hard to drop Holgate when Everton visit Sheffield United on Boxing Day, having also scored in the midweek win over Leicester for his first of the season, with Coleman likely having to utilise Wednesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final with Manchester United to regain his spot in search of match fitness.
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