Carlo Ancelotti should hand Michael Keane a vote of confidence by starting the Everton defender against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup after his key error in Saturday’s draw with Manchester United.
Keane returned to the Toffees line-up for his side’s trip to Old Trafford at the weekend after being benched for the 2-1 win at Leeds United, where Ben Godfrey had partnered Yerry Mina at the back.
The England defender had been a mainstay of Ancelotti’s plans for much of the season with Keane rarely taken out of the XI, while playing the full 90 minutes in 22 of his 25 appearances in all competitions.
He was hardly missed at Elland Road with Godfrey and Mina offering a composed partnership, with the summer signing from Norwich City rarely putting a foot wrong while the Colombian offered a towering presence to repeatedly head danger clear.
Yet Keane returned against Manchester United only to be caught out by the flight of the ball and leaping too early, allowing Edinson Cavani a simple and unchallenged header at the back post to open the scoring on Saturday.
Marcus Rashford came close to punishing the £25m-rated titan in the second-half, as well, with Keane too focused on the ball sitting at Cavani’s feet to see the run of his unmarked England teammate, whose eventual shot was hit straight at Robin Olsen.
No blame could be directed at Keane for Manchester United’s second and third goals, with Bruno Fernandes majestically lifting the ball over Olsen from the edge of the box in the first half and Scott McTominay heading home in the second period whilst the defender guarded the back post.
Ancelotti now has the chance to offer Keane a vote of confidence in the FA Cup by keeping the 28-year-old in his starting line-up against Tottenham, looking to guide Everton into the Quarter-Final of the competition for the first time in five years.
Ancelotti has previously praised Keane for his ability at centre-back after his efforts to keep top-four hopefuls Leicester City quiet earlier in the campaign.
“Simply because he’s a good defender and a good player,” the Everton boss told The Athletic after the 2-0 win at the King Power Stadium. “He’s focused defensively, really intelligent tactically and that’s why he’s doing well.”
The Italian now has a chance to give Keane a vote of confidence and show the defender that he believes he can bounce back from an up-and-down performance at Old Trafford, as Everton will not need a player like Mina and his aerial excellence against Tottenham.
Spurs rank 15th among all Premier League sides for accurate crosses this season, with Jose Mourinho’s men finding a teammate with just 3.1 of their 13 deliveries a game. That is also the lowest average attempts, with no side taking fewer than 14 a game, per WhoScored.
The north London side have also only scored five of their 36 goals in the top-flight this term from set-pieces, meaning Everton can make do without Mina and his 3.3 aerial duels won per game – the 14th-best average by a centre-back to have played five or more games – and give Keane a chance to rebuild his confidence.