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Everton supporters have been in fine voice in the Transfer Tavern in the last week or so after seeing their side secure a vital three points in their previous Premier League encounter courtesy of a 3-1 success over Crystal Palace.
Sam Allardyce’s men went into their clash with the Eagles last weekend off the back of a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, a result which saw them slip to just seven points clear of the division’s relegation zone. Yet the Toffees put greater distance between themselves and bottom three as goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson, Oumar Niasse, and Tom Davies secured a routine victory over Palace, who did net late on through Luka Milivojevic but ultimately were unable to produce a remarkable comeback to deny the hosts all three points.
Thus, there have been many happy Evertonians in the Tavern in recent times, several of whom are hoping that the victory over Roy Hodgson’s men can act as a springboard for a run of form which puts any lingering relegation doubts to bed.
In the meantime though, there has been much for our resident Toffees supporters to get their teeth into, not least recent reports suggesting that Arsenal are eyeing up a move for Manchester United centre-back Chris Smalling, who hasn’t enjoyed a great couple of weeks for the Red Devils.
Yet Allardyce’s Everton must seek to hijack any Gunners move for the England international, as the Toffees themselves are in need of quality defensive reinforcements to aid in their quest of gate-crashing the top six next season.
Ultimately, Everton have been pretty poor at the back this season, with their tally of 46 goals against in 27 Premier League games better than just three other sides (Watford, Huddersfield Town, and Stoke City).
No other team in the top half of the division has conceded as many as Allardyce’s side, while Arsenal’s tally of 36 goals against is the most of the teams currently in the top six, with Manchester United’s the least with 19.
Clearly, they are the sort of numbers Everton have to be striving towards if they are to challenge those sorts of clubs next season, but when one takes a look at the current centre-back options at Goodison Park, it’s difficult to see those regular clean sheets coming.
Phil Jagielka will turn 36 in August while fellow defender Ashley Williams will be 34 just a week or two later, both of whom see their contracts expire at Everton in 2019 (as per Transfermarkt) to suggest that a large overhaul of centre-backs could take place in little over a years time.
Michael Keane hasn’t quite hit the heights since his move from Burnley in the summer, while young defender Mason Holgate has done reasonably well but has still made errors which will be of concern to Allardyce – Ramiro Funes Mori is slowly coming back from injury, and it remains to be seen whether he can help solidify the backline if and when he returns to the side.
Thus, it’s clear that the centre-back options at Goodison Park need bolstering, and while Smalling hasn’t enjoyed the best few weeks of his career, he must be doing something right to have played 274 times for United, and to have won two Premier League titles with the club.
But when all the centre-backs at United are fully fit, the 28-year-old is unlikely to be Jose Mourinho’s first choice, and at the age of 28 and still with much time left in his career, he’ll want more regular first team football to aid his club career, and indeed his international one.