In Focus: Mangala will look a better player in Everton’s system

According to Sky Sports, Everton are confident of agreeing a Deadline Day deal for Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala.

What’s the word?

Sky Sports claim Everton have been on the prowl for a left-sided defender since the summer – most likely because they have limited cover for Leighton Baines at left-back – and Manchester City’s deal for Aymeric Laporte, confirmed yesterday, appears to have freed up Mangala, who has been a marginal figure at the Etihad Stadium since Pep Guardiola’s appointment in summer 2016. He spent last season out on loan at Valencia and has made just four Premier League starts so far this term.

Why hasn’t it worked out for Mangala at City?

In truth, Mangala was probably never worth the £32million City paid for him and it’s a classic case of a club signing the wrong player for the way they like to play. Even under Manuel Pellegrini, City employed a high line and looked to keep the ball as much as possible, but that philosophy only highlighted the France international’s weaknesses – he’s never been the most convincing on the ball and when the defence is pushed up so high, any mistakes in possession inevitably lead to counter-attacking opportunities. As Mangala’s confidence waned amid heavy criticism of his performances, City reached a point where opposing forward lines were targeting him as a vulnerability.

Can Everton get more out of him?

Most definitely. The 26-year-old isn’t a poor footballer by any stretch of the imagination and Sam Allardyce is the perfect manager to show what he’s really about by reducing his game to a far more basic level – namely, using his beastly physicality to protect the box. There’s a similarity here with Mamadou Sahko; unconvincing and sometimes a liability during his time at Liverpool, but an absolute monolith at the back during Big Sam’s six months at Crystal Palace where vastly improved defensive performances spared them from relegation.

Unlike City, Everton won’t use a high line and they won’t constantly look to build from the back, so there will be far less pressure on Mangala when he’s in possession, and far more support for him if he does lose the ball. That should, in turn, restore Mangala’s confidence and move him something closer towards the powerful defender that was so widely revered during his time at FC Porto. It’s a smart signing from Allardyce and certainly isn’t the first time he’s sought to get the best out of a player whose stock has reached a disappointing low.

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