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Everton’s decision to loan out Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway could leave them short of cover in the full back positions.
Will they need to dip into the transfer market to bring in new players, or do they have enough quality in their existing squad to cope with any emergencies in this area?
Both Browning and Galloway have been sent to Sunderland to get some first team experience in the Championship. Manager Ronald Koeman didn’t see them as part of his first team plans, so will instead monitor their progress in the division below.
The club’s first choice right back, Seamus Coleman, is still out with a broken leg which could see his return to action come as late as 2018, leaving the club with two homegrown academy products and new signing Cuco Martina as the Irishman’s possible replacement.
Mason Holgate filled in during Coleman’s absence last season, and can do a job in any of the right sided defensive berths. His ideal position would probably be on the right of a back three, but if he makes appearances on the right of a back four, it’ll be up to him to make sure he becomes more than just an option in the position.
To do so, Holgate will need to add some quality in both areas of a full back’s game, building on some of his promising defensive displays last season as well as adding some attacking productivity in the final third.
Behind him is the relatively untested but potential long term starter in the position, Jonjoe Kenny.
Kenny has only made two Premier League appearances for the Toffees so far, both from the bench, but the 20-year-old was one of the standout players in England’s U20 World Cup win this summer.
There is a bit of a right-sided Leighton Baines about him: good crossing, steady combination play, and a good engine up and down his flank which means he can recover well to defensive positions.
It remains to be seen whether he has the set-piece prowess of the experienced left-back, but there have been signs that he could fill in well while Coleman remains sidelined.
Koeman’s faith in Holgate and Kenny will be tested, and the arrival of Martina could see the pair fighting it out for the role of understudy to their manager’s compatriot. However, given the packed fixture list Everton will have this season, backup players could see plenty of game time.
On the other side of the pitch, the club may need to look for new recruits sooner rather than later.
The aforementioned Baines is the nailed-on starter in the position, but beyond him the squad looks bare.
Utility defender Callum Connolly, who was also part of that triumphant England under-20 side, could be used to fill in when needed, but the club should be looking at an alternative specialist in the position to provide backup.
32-year-old Baines is approaching 400 appearances for the club, but as he reaches his mid thirties he’s even more likely to need resting, especially as the team now have the midweek games in the Europa League to contend with.
A young up-and-coming player with the potential to succeed Baines would be the answer in this position, and it’s likely that the club will have to continue their activity in this summer’s transfer market, which has so far been relentless, in order to find one.
Director of Football Steve Walsh will no doubt have several players on his list for this role, but given the amount of deals Everton have been involved in so far in this transfer window, a few positions might have been put on the back-burner.
With this in mind it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a move for a left-back in August, though given the way Walsh operates it could also be possible to see a relatively unknown name walk up to their Finch Farm training ground out of the blue in the coming weeks to provide competition, and occasional rest, for Baines.
19-year-old Anton Donkor, who arrived from Wolfsburg's reserves, was one such signing, and it’s possible he could end up making appearances on the left, but he’s an attack minded winger who would be suited to a left wing-back role and might not be suitable for the defensive duties of a traditional full back.
On paper Everton are in a good place. There have been plenty of new arrivals, encouraging signs in terms of backing from the owners, a new stadium in the pipeline, and a youth academy which is producing players who can at least challenge for first team roles.
Koeman’s job is to make sure that all of this transfers into results on the pitch, and thanks to help from Walsh and his recruitment team, he’s almost at the point where he has the tools to do so. The only pieces of the puzzle remaining are a physical striker and, it seems, a left back.