Many viewed Everton’s transfer deal for Michael Keane as one of the smartest swoops of the summer but initial performances – especially when coupled with Burnley’s unexpected improvement in the England international’s absence – suggested that may have been a misguided assumption.
Indeed, the commanding centre-back – who Transfermarkt value at £16.2million – was a member of the Everton sides that suffered humiliations at the hands of Atalana, Manchester United, Lyon, Arsenal and Southampton and while few placed blame on the 24-year-old alone, he became an inevitable correlation.
Keane’s confidence inevitably suffered, but Sam Allardyce has shown how drastically players can improve when they have belief in their manager and the system they’re playing in. The former Clarets man’s performance against West Brom on Boxing Day was far more in line with what we saw from him at Turf Moor last season, earning him the big-money move to Merseyside.
It certainly wasn’t the most exciting game – there were just six shots on target over the course of ninety minutes – but that owed much to how effective Everton were in defence, and particularly Keane at left centre-back.
Alongside one tackle, one interception and one block, the 6 foot 3 defender completed the joint-most clearances and won the most aerial duels of any Toffees player. But perhaps most impressively considering how much he was involved in the action, Keane did it all without committing a single foul.
With Mason Holgate impressing and Phil Jagielka returning to the fold, Keane’s Everton career appeared to be spiralling away from him not too long ago. But the confidence and organisation Allardyce has brought to Goodison Park has put the four-cap international’s Toffees tenure back on the right path.
Now on the home stretch before the 2018 World Cup, that’s great news for both Everton and England fans.