Everton are currently sitting in 15th place in the Premier League. They have hit the back of the net plenty so far this season, scoring 12 in total, the joint second highest in the league. However, their defence is another story, 14 goals conceded – the highest in the league. It seems as though their backline has gone from one of the strongest in the league, to one of the worst.
Going to Goodison Park was once considered to be a tough fixture, but this season, teams are walking all over the Toffees, as shown in the games against Arsenal, Chelsea and Crystal Palace. Throughout the whole of last season, Everton only conceded 39 goals, 19 of them in home games. So far this season, Everton have conceded 11 goals in three home league games. At this current rate, Everton could be in real danger of slipping down the table if they don’t improve their defensive performances.
Is the ageing of their defensive players the reason behind this? Frenchman Sylvain Distin is coming up to 36 years of age and is the oldest member of the squad. He has featured in every single one of Everton’s home games this season as well as the 2-2 draw against Leicester in the season opener. In the Foxes game, he made a costly error which lead to a Leicester equaliser when the Toffees were 1-0 up. When Englishman John Stones is played in place of Distin, Everton have won away at West Brom and drawn against Liverpool. Stones was in fine form in both of those games, picking up a whoscored.com rating of above seven in both fixtures. So could they perform better at the back by simply getting their team selection right?
Englishmen Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka are also in their, or coming up to their 30s and they have also dropped in form compared to last season. Baines whoscored.com rating has fallen from 7.25 last season, to 7.18 this season. Jagielka on the other hand has had a bigger drop in rating from 7.26 last season, to 6.8 this season. While there mustn’t be any rush to start thinking about getting rid of these two straight away, replacements must be considered for the future. Most defenders hit their peak between the ages of 25 and 32 so Baines and Jagielka are coming near the end of their respective times in the sun.
You could even point the finger at Toffees goalkeeper Tim Howard. He played brilliantly in the Europa League against Wolfsburg, but his form overall has been dropping when compared to last season. In the league last season, Howard earned a whoscored.com rating of 6.89, but so far this season, he has only managed a rating of 6.27. While goalkeepers are usually like fine wine – they get better with age – Howard may be starting to go a little bit sour at the age of 35. Maybe a replacement for him should be considered soon as well?
Everton’s position in the table is all because of their defence. To be more specific, their ageing defence. It’s about time they start looking to the future and the likes of Stones if they are to stop the rot.
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