It’s been a difficult debut season for Michael Keane at Everton.
Although injuries and the Toffees’ collective failings have clearly been determining factors, the England international’s form has paled in comparison to what he produced for Burnley last season – and James Tarkowski, his successor at Turf Moor, rather fittingly look his place in Gareth Southgate’s last Three Lions squad.
But perhaps that’s provided the wake-up call the former Manchester United youngster needed to bring the best out of him once again.
Two appearances ago, Keane produced a dominant performance in the Merseyside derby to ensure a clean sheet and a hard-earned point against Everton’s bitter local rivals. And on Saturday, upon a testing trip to the Liberty Stadium, the 25-year-old proved once again crucial in Sam Allardyce’s side picking up a point.
Indeed, although Everton couldn’t hold onto the clean sheet as Jordan Ayew bagged a late equaliser, Keane made eleven clearances and won an incredible 13 aerial duels – more than twice as much as Everton’s second-highest return in that regard, Phil Jagielka with six.
He also had the most touches of the ball of any Toffees player, although that partly highlights how Everton’s attacking players were far less impressive against the Swans and struggled to truly impact the game.
And this recent uplift in form is coming at just the right time for Keane. Southgate appears settled on England’s defensive system, deploying three centre-halves with quality on the ball, but not so much the personnel.
After being overlooked for the last international break, Keane might just be doing enough to put himself back in the frame for a starting role at the World Cup this summer – but there’s still a long way to go and plenty of competition.
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