Everton defender Michael Keane faces a fight to regain his place in Carlo Ancelotti’s starting line-up after Ben Godfrey delivered a masterclass at Leeds United.
Ancelotti made the surprise decision to axe Keane for the Blues’ trip to Elland Road on Wednesday night, with it only the second time all season that the 28-year-old has not opened a Premier League fixture.
Godfrey, in contrast, has proven to be the Italian’s versatile weapon since his £20m move last summer, with it only the fourth occasion that the former Norwich City enforcer kicked off a top-flight game in the heart of the Toffees backline to date.
Godfrey was joined by Yerry Mina in the starting line-up against Leeds and turned in a sublime display between them, to consistently thwart a Whites side that mounted endless pressure on Robin Olsen’s goal.
Mina continually headed clear the danger posed by United’s stream of corners, and rediscovered his composure after a momentary crack to close to within four points of the top-four places.
Godfrey was sublime throughout in West Yorkshire, with the centre-half rarely putting a foot wrong despite the seemingly endless pressure applied on the 23-year-old. He further provided the assist for Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s goal after heading on Gylfi Sigurdsson’s corner to the far post.
Ancelotti even admitted he was surprised at how well Godfrey had performed against Leeds and all season, as the Italian could only wax lyrical over the York-born beast.
“Godfrey played really, really well as a centre-back,” the Everton boss said, via quotes by the Liverpool Echo. “I am really, really surprised about his performances because all the time he’s always there, playing 100%.
“He’s fast, he’s intelligent, he’s strong. I’m really pleased, really pleased.”
Godfrey recorded among the most touches of the ball by any Everton player who featured at Leeds on Wednesday with 44 and completed 23 of his 28 passes, only Abdoulaye Doucoure (38) and Andre Gomes (33) found teammates more often, per WhoScored.
The versatile £77,000-per-week titan further made seven clearances – only Mina (11) directly dealt with danger more – offered a joint team-high two interceptions, was never dribbled past, took possession with his only tackle and won his sole aerial duel of the game.
Keane has averaged 0.7 successful tackles a game in the Premier League this term from 1.0 attempts, while breaking up opposition play with 1.4 interceptions, wins possession in the air 2.7 times from 3.8 duels, is dribbled past 0.3 times and keeps things simple for 4.3 clearances.
The £65k-p/w England international likely now faces a fight with Godfrey to regain his place in the starting line-up, despite Ancelotti lauding Keane for his consistency just last month.
“Michael this season is really good, really consistent, he never made a mistake,” Ancelotti told EvertonTV.