Michael Keane is next in our end of season player review series. The Central defender has had a season of ups and downs, after Ronald Koeman signed him from Burnley last summer.
A central defender was an absolute must at the start of the season for Everton. Along with Keane’s development at Burnley, the English centre back looked as though he could be the ideal partner for Phil Jagielka or Ashley Williams before a ball was kicked this season.
In my opinion, Michael Keane took the biggest blow to his confidence out of all the Everton players, through the turgid performances under Ronald Koeman. A dip that not only cost him his place in Everton’s starting XI, but also seen him miss out on a handful of games completely for the Blues before Koeman was sacked.
Overall season rating 6/10
Out of all the constructive and not so constructive criticisms players such as Michael Keane have received this season, I personally find it very easy to point out the missed positives amongst the shaky showings.
Keane’s overall game is drastically different depending on who he is partnered with at centre back. The partnership of Keane and Williams just invited attackers to drive at our defence and I don’t think Williams has displayed an ounce of confidence this season. So, to ask Keane to bed into his new side with other new players in the side and a woeful Williams to partner him in hindsight it was a shockingly naive decision to pair the two together.
Keane’s better games came with Phil Jagielka as his right sided defender and it was clearly an improvement on what had been attempted previously. With Jagielka, Keane had the responsibilities taken off his shoulders and was given the opportunity to refine his game back to basics and just doing his job to his best ability. Although Everton ended up losing at Burnley, the first half of that game was a fantastic showing on Keane’s return to Turf Moor. His positional sense was a lot more progressive and not so deep, whereby he’d be rushed into a decision should a ball come his way. He gave himself time to make a calculated decision and actually played the ball out really well from the back. In that fixture the tactics were changed by Allardyce at half time and it had a detrimental impact on Everton’s defence that seen Ashley Williams red carded and Everton concede 2 poorly defended goals.
It’s worth mentioning Keane’s showings since that display at Burnley, as they have also been a lot more productive for the young centre back. The games against Brighton, Stoke and Liverpool in the weeks that followed provided further evidence that Keane has a place and the ability to maintain it in this team, when partnered with the right centre back partner.
Areas to improve
The area, that if improved, that would give the most benefit to Keane’s game would be related to his own mental attitude. Sometimes it was evident to see that Keane was not mentally up to the challenge and looked as though he was confused with his responsibilities. A little self belief and esteem would go a long way to getting the centre back to the standards that gave him the opportunity to join Everton in the first place.
Along with some positivity from his own perspective, of course there are potential improvements on a playing level. though out the season we’ve seen Michael getting out jumped for a header, something related to a mixture of positioning and coordination. On occasions it is evident that he tries to get too close to the attack when contesting for a high ball, something that allows the opposition players to spin off and beat Keane for pace on the other side if he misjudges the header. it has happened a few times. It would be of benefit for the centre back to watch the ball rather than were the man is and try to prevent dragging himself into unnecessary physical battles.
Ensuring his place in the team under the next Everton manager will now be high on the agenda for Keane and the rest of the squad alike. However, the best thing Keane can do to gain the trust of any new boss would be to provide the signs and showings he has done towards the back end of this season. It would be easy for him to try too hard to prove his point to what will be his fourth Everton manager in his first 2 years at the club.
Appearances 2017/18 – 29
Goals conceded – 43
Clearances – 201
Headed clearances – 142
Tackle success rate – 77%
Duals won/lost – 172/124
Errors leading to goals – 0
In a season that could have easily wound up with Keane falling in the same direction as Davy Klaassen and Nikola Vlasic and being expelled from Everton’s squad, Michael Keane has done remarkably well to turn things around. By no means the reason for celebration, however it is worth mentioning that he has shown more determination to make it work at the club than a few of his team mates have.
Going forward I wouldn’t be looking to replace Michael Keane but instead finding a centre back partner to replace Phil Jagielka in the years to come, if we don’t already have that option in Mason Holgate. There is lots of room for improvement and hopefully the next manager to walk through the doors at Goodison will be able to shape to Keane and the squad into a more composed, clinical squad of players. Keane of course has a future at Everton and one that he will be keen to progress to once again push for a place in England’s national team.