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Michael Keane – Big Sam, Wayne Rooney’s influence and World Cup dreams



Michael Keane
Photo: Reuters

Before the start of the 2017-18 Premier League season, there was talk of a revolution at Everton.

The Toffees had been a rejuvenated outfit under Ronald Koeman last time out, only finishing eight points behind Manchester United in seventh place, and the top six was all of a sudden a genuine target.

This was a feeling that was only heightened by the Dutchman’s elaborate spending during the summer – which rose to above £150 million by the time September was upon us – and it seemed that it was now Everton who could be the ones to attempt to ruffle the feathers of the Premier League’s elite group.

One man who was part of this movement on Merseyside was England defender Michael Keane, arriving from fellow top-flight side Burnley for a fee believed to have the potential to rise up to £30 million – a club-record deal for a defender.

It was a move that was hugely justified following a mightily impressive season at Turf Moor, where he helped Burnley comfortably retain their top-flight status after Championship promotion in 2016.

In the space of just ten months Keane had returned to the Premier League, earnt his debut England call-up and been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year, as well as secure his Everton move.

And discussing his decision to move to Merseyside with The Boot Room, Keane said that it was the right move for his career – even though boyhood team Manchester United showed interest.

“I thought I’d get more chance of playing at Everton.

“Manchester United was my Club growing up but I put my heart to one side, thought about it realistically and decided that I would definitely have more chance of playing at Everton.

“Everton is a massive Club, it’s got a huge fanbase, the supporters have been brilliant with me and the manager convinced me to come in the summer – all of these things play a factor and it just felt right.”

It was a move that was merited after an outstanding year at Turf Moor, but it was also a decision that was made with a heavy heart after leading the Clarets back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

As much as nobody wants to be relegated, a year spent in the second division ultimately developed Keane into the hardened and established Premier League centre-half that he has become, and he insists that time in the Championship changed him for the better.

“It was the making of me going back down to the Championship.

“It’s never nice to get relegated but I was only young still and playing week-in, week-out in the Championship is tough – it’s a difficult league – but it built me up as a man. On the pitch I was a lot more aggressive after that year, and winning games gets you in the habit of winning football.

“Looking back it was a massive year in my career, and probably the most enjoyable too – you want to win lots of football matches and win titles and that’s exactly what happened that season. It gives you that hunger to try and do it again.”

But, despite earning his big move over the summer to an Everton side brimming with financial backing and ambition, it has been anything but plain sailing since making the switch to Goodison.

The 25-year-old’s record transfer fee for a defender immediately set expectations rolling amongst supporters, and it is something that Keane confesses he’s had to deal with over the past six months.

“There was [a sense of expectation] but that’s just natural, it doesn’t add any pressure to me coming into games. If anything it spurs you on and it’s a compliment that Clubs are willing to pay that much for you. You want to pay them back and show Everton supporters that you’re worth that

“It has been a difficult start, I want to perform at my best more consistently and to be playing all of the games, but a lot of that has been down to injury as well”

Both Keane and Everton started the year well enough but things began to unravel in spectacular fashion as the Toffees gravitated towards the bottom three of the Premier League table, winning just twice in 12 matches in a barren run between late August and November.

Combine this with a wretched Europa League campaign – earning just the solitary win in six group stage matches – and those pre-season hopes and aspirations of a top six battle swiftly changed into stark relegation fears.

It was a run of form that ultimately cost Koeman his job in charge at Goodison Park, and Keane is the first to admit that his Everton career has had a rude awakening this season.

“It’s been up and down. It started really well when I first came in, we had a good pre-season when the Europa League started and we did well in the Premier League in the first couple of games, but then it went downhill for a few months. We had a few bad results and a lot of the lads – including myself – lost confidence and form which resulted in Ronald Koeman getting sacked.”

The immediate period following Koeman’s departure was just as problematic as the preceding months however, with interim manager David Unsworth overseeing a troublesome five weeks in charge.

The Everton Under-23 boss managed seven first-team games whilst the board of directors searched for a long-term replacement, losing five of these as their demise into the relegation spots continued.

However, they say that every cloud has a silver lining, and it came in the form of Sam Allardyce.

Big Sam’s Premier League pedigree is one that can’t be doubted – after all, last season he came in and miraculously helped Crystal Palace avoid the drop when all seemed lost – and after an arduous first three months of the Premier League season there was a ray of light at Goodison.

Within just seven matches he had pulled Everton away from danger and back towards the top-half, winning four and drawing three as an all-too rare sense of optimism started to return into the Gwladys Street Stand.

And Keane has praised the immediate impact that Allardyce has had since arriving on Merseyside, citing his ability to right the wrongs of the opening months of the season.

“He’s just got us back to the basics, doing things that we weren’t doing well during the few months before he came. We’re defending well now, defending as a team, working harder and he’s got us fitter and harder to beat because we were conceding a lot of goals. Considering the players we’ve got that should never have been happening but we were just a bit all over the place positionally and he’s come in, he’s sorted it out and I think you can see the results straight away.

“We’re definitely harder to beat, we’re looking more of a threat going forward at the minute and hopefully the new signing we’ve made [Turkish striker Cenk Tosun from Besiktas] and maybe one or two more will help us to add to that.”

It is not just Allardyce that Keane credits with Everton’s upturn in form, though, and he points out childhood icon and ex-Manchester United teammate Wayne Rooney as a vital first-team figure.

The former England captain returned to Goodison in the summer and has arguably been the pick of the recent arrivals, leading by example and reaching double figures for goals already.

“I used to play with him at [Manchester] United and England and used to watch him growing up all the time, so there’s no doubting the ability he’s got. There was the question of whether he could play regular games and bring it to the table but he definitely has done and he’s been one of our best players this season.

“He’s scored a lot of goals and set a lot up, and when he’s in the team it’s always a lift. He’s always looking to get on the ball going forward – he’s been brilliant.”

It is not just on the pitch where Rooney has impressed this season, with Keane praising the 32-year-old for the presence he brings into the dressing room.

“He’s a leader. He’s got all the experience and he passes it around, especially to the younger lads, and he’s a great person to be around. He’s a good lad, a good laugh, but he knows when he needs to be serious as well and he’s never afraid to deal with the team at half-time which is what you need.”

Yet, whilst Everton’s – and Rooney’s – form has improved, Keane’s stop-start year has continued.

After picking up an injury earlier in the season the England centre-half was absent from last Saturday’s defeat at Tottenham with a cut to his foot, stalling the momentum that he’d been building up in the back-line.

The former Claret endured a rocky start to life with Allardyce, being omitted from the starting line-up for three successive league fixtures in mid-December, but he returned for the visit of reigning champions Chelsea and showed the new boss just what he can do with a rousing and determined individual display in a 0-0 stalemate.

This performance – allied with another clean sheet against West Brom in his next outing – finally allowed Everton supporters the chance to see their £30million man hitting top-form.

Another untimely injury has forced Keane into pressing the pause button on his 2017-18 season once again though, and he explained the frustration that injuries at the top level can cause.

“It’s hard. To be honest it’s something I’ve never had to do before, so it’s quite new for me to have injuries that keep you out for two or three weeks. You enjoy playing football and training every day on the pitch but when you’re injured you’re on the bike and doing things like that which isn’t nice.

“Other players then play and, if they do well, you won’t get back in the team and that’s something I’ve had to deal with this season. I knew I couldn’t complain but at the same time it is frustrating. You have to work so hard when you’re injured as well to keep that fitness up.

“I just need to get over this one by next week and then hope I won’t have any more.”

Keane’s frustrations at another injury can be understood considering that competition for places in the Everton defence is rife at the moment. With Ashley Williams, Phil Jagielka and Mason Holgate also battling for starting berths there’s big strength in depth – but Keane insists he thrives on the competition.

“We need competition.

“In my position we’ve got four or five centre-halves at the minute at Everton who are all ready to start a game at any time. It’s chopped and changed quite a lot, so there’s not really a settled centre-back partnership yet but that’s good when you’re training, you want to bring the best out of each other. That’s what the manager wants and you’ve got that in our position.”

Whilst the competitiveness for places at Goodison Park is healthy on a domestic front, Keane will no doubt be desperate to re-instate himself as a first-team regular upon his return from injury with the 2018 World Cup fast approaching on the horizon.

The 25-year-old was awarded his England debut by current manager Gareth Southgate in March of last year, earning his first cap in a 1-0 friendly defeat to reigning world champions Germany, and since then he’s featured a further three times to put himself firmly in the reckoning for a spot in the final squad for Russia 2018.

Reflecting on his England bow, he said:

“It was unbelievable – I’ve actually only just got my cap through for the first time.

“It was an unbelievable feeling and I wasn’t expecting it at the time. I was focused on what I had to do and the game came around, went well, and afterwards it was the best I’ve ever felt after a football match.

“It’s a huge honour to play for your country but to do it away in Germany in such a difficult game, even though we lost, was special. On your debut you look more at your own performance and I think I did well, so I was pleased with that.”

He certainly did well enough to impress Southgate, who called on him once again in the final World Cup qualifying match away at Lithuania in October as part of his first five-man defence experiment.

It is a system – likely to be used in June – that Keane has expressed his comfort in.

“I’ve done it quite a few times this season, and done it in the past, and if you get it right it’s a good system to play in. The manager’s made it obvious that he likes to play like that so I feel I can fit into the system. I just need to get back playing for Everton, play well week-in, week-out, get a bit of consistency back in my game and hopefully I’ll be knocking at the door come the summer.”

“It’d be a dream to go to the World Cup. It’s going to be difficult as there’s a lot of competition for places and a lot of the lads are playing well at the minute so all I can do is focus on getting back fit for Everton and playing well there – what will be will be with England.”

It is this final comment that’s one of a player who knows that his immediate priorities lie with Everton, who head into the final stretch of the Premier League season inside the top-half.

Four defeats on the bounce had somewhat stopped Allardyce’s runaway train in its tracks over the past few weeks but yesterday’s draw against West Brom – whilst far from ideal – at least steadied the ship.

Keane – who watched from the substitutes bench – has now called on Everton to end the season strongly ahead of next year,  and he knows how key this period is in order to build for next season.

The England international may not have endured the dream first six months at Everton but the current side is undoubtedly a work in progress, and he predicts that it won’t be long before the Merseyside outfit are once again aiming to compete with the Premier League’s very best.

“Going forward we’ve definitely got the capabilities of getting in the top six and, who knows, maybe knocking at the door of the top four in a year or so.

“At the minute we need to concentrate on getting ourselves back up the table but we can also learn from the start we had to this season and hopefully next year we can hit the ground running.”

It is a bold statement of intent to emanate from a testing few months at Goodison Park but with Allardyce steadying the ship since arriving, and with further additions set to be made in January, Everton have the necessary platform and resources to re-build themselves as a consistent top-seven side – with Keane intending to be a vital component at the heart of it.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.


Arsenal 5-1 Everton: Three talking points from the Emirates

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal dismantled Everton by a 5-1 scoreline.

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

Aaron Ramsey bagged a hat-trick and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored on his debut as Arsenal put Everton to the sword with a swashbuckling performance at the Emirates.

The Gunners were rampant right from the first whistle and 3-0 ahead after 19 minutes, thanks to two strikes from the Welshman and another from Laurent Koscielny.

With the visitors shell-shocked, Aubameyang then capped his debut with a goal before half-time.

Although substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin netted a consolation as the Toffees made a better fist of the second half, Ramsey completed his hat-trick late on to add gloss to the rout.

Arsenal’s win helped them close to within three points of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur ahead of their Super Sunday showdown with Liverpool, while Everton dropped to 10th.

Here are three talking points…

Hat-trick hero Ramsey steals the headlines

In a side containing a wealth of attacking talent following two high-profile January signings, it was an unlikely suspect that upstaged everyone.

Few would have put money on Ramsey scoring once against Everton – let alone three times – but he was deadly in front of goal in a sublime Arsenal display.

The Wales international had an injury-enforced spell out of the side but has regained his place in midfield, with Jack Wilshere sidelined through illness. He will be hard to dislodge now.

There was an element of luck to his second effort, which went in past Jordan Pickford with the aid of a deflection. However, Ramsey has always had an eye for goal and he doubled his tally for the season in just one match.

Of course, the 27-year-old’s main responsibilities are in making Arsenal tick and ensuring they are not exposed at the back.

On that front, tougher challenges than Everton await, whether it’s in partnership with Wilshere or Granit Xhaka.

Sam Allardyce’s tactical switch backfires

The Everton boss’s decision to adopt a back three backfired spectacularly as his side found themselves out of the game with less than 20 minutes on the clock.

The Toffees boss had been attempting to copy the recipe that saw Swansea defeat Arsenal in midweek, but the result here was completely different.

Michael Keane, Ashley Williams and deadline-day loan signing Eliaquim Mangala had been tasked with shackling Arsenal’s attacking riches.

They were dreadful. If it looked like they had never played with each other, it’s because they had not.

Keane was substituted at half-time as Allardyce reverted to 4-4-1-1 and, although the Toffees improved, the damage had been done.

This was Allardyce’s 500th Premier League game as manager but there was nothing to celebrate.

After an impressive start to life at Goodison Park, his honeymoon period is over at Everton, who have won only once in their past nine matches in all competitions.

Arsenal’s new boys hit the high notes

This felt like the start of an exciting new era for Arsenal.

Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan both started alongside Mesut Ozil, who recently put pen-to-paper on a new contract that makes him the highest-paid player in the Gunners’ history.

All three played their part in an easy victory.

True to form, Aubameyang drifted in and out of the match but he underlined his talent by scoring with with a delicate chip over Pickford, even if he should have been flagged offside.

Mkhitaryan, who joined Arsenal in a swap deal with Alexis Sanchez, registered three assists in a very encouraging full debut, while Ozil showed he was revelling in his new-found status as Arsenal’s main man.

Wenger’s reluctance to strengthen his defence may still come back to haunt him, but in the forward department there is no doubt the Gunners can match anyone on their day.

Although they still face an uphill battle to qualify for the Champions League, Arsenal fans can finally look to the future with optimism.

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Why Everton are the perfect club for Theo Walcott to rebuild his career

Rob Meech



Theo Walcott

It is hard to believe Theo Walcott is only 28 years old. He burst on to the scene aged 16 for Southampton in League One and was snapped up by Arsenal shortly afterwards. His inexplicable selection for England’s 2006 World Cup squad, without playing in a single Premier League game, transformed him into an overnight star.

Big things have been expected of Walcott ever since. It’s fair to say that, despite winning 47 caps for England and making 397 appearances for Arsenal, he has failed to live up to the hype. Now, after 12 years, Walcott is bidding farewell to the Emirates and hoping to revive his flagging career under Sam Allardyce at Everton, whom he has joined for £20 million after agreeing terms on a three-and-a-half-year deal.

Speculation that Walcott’s days at Arsenal were numbered had persisted for several years, but his desire to prove himself at the club kept him in north London even when admirers came calling. His 21 goals in all competitions in the 2012/13 campaign suggested he had cracked it, but that proved to be a false dawn.

In truth, Walcott’s decision to sign for Everton was probably a no-brainer. Now in the prime of his career, he simply has to be playing regularly. The reality of how far down the pecking order he had fallen at Arsenal struck this season, when he often failed to make Arsene Wenger’s match-day squad. His last appearance for the Gunners came as a second-half substitute in the 2-1 defeat to Bournemouth.

Everton’s interest in Walcott emerged only recently, but he was clearly one of Allardyce’s top targets. One look at the Toffees’ recent form underlines why. After an immediate upturn in fortunes after the former England boss’s appointment, Everton have embarked on a winless streak that stretches back to December 18.

Lack of pace is a pressing concern and this is an attribute that Walcott possesses in abundance. The likes of Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson are intelligent footballers, but not the type that will blitz opposition defenders. Instead, they have relied on chipping balls over the top for the striker to chase. As such, Everton are one-dimensional and easy to play against, with no player capable of launching a counter-attack.

Also highlighting their urgent need for more firepower is the grim statistic that only rock-bottom Swansea have had fewer shots than Everton this season. New big-money signing Cenk Tosun has increased competition in the striking department but may take time to settle, whereas Walcott’s Premier League pedigree means no transitional period will be needed.

The former Southampton man’s versatility makes him an attractive proposition. For Arsenal, he predominantly featured on the right wing – either in a four-man midfield or a three-man attack – but he is equally adept at playing up top on his own, a position where he tried but ultimately failed to establish himself at the Emirates.

Potential is a word that has long been associated with Walcott. It is no longer applicable. At 28, this is possibly his final chance to realise his ambitions, both domestically and internationally. Everton, a sleeping giant, are a perfect fit. Under the auspices of major shareholder Farhad Moshiri, plans are in the pipeline for a brand-spanking new stadium to enable them to compete alongside the Premier League’s elite.

After being a peripheral figure at Arsenal for so long, Walcott has become the forgotten man of English football. For the sake of his career, he simply had to leave north London. By joining Everton, Walcott, who will wear the number 11 shirt, has the security of working under a manager who rates him highly. Now, he has the opportunity to become the player he always promised to be.

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How can Sam Allardyce plot a perfect January to continue Everton’s recent revival?



Photo: Reuters

It goes without saying that Sam Allardyce has worked wonders at Everton during his short spell in charge thus far. During the ten matches in all competitions for which he has occupied the hot-seat at Goodison Park, he has only suffered defeat in three of them (W4, D4).

This includes a seven match unbeaten run immediately after taking charge, with the Toffees defence which had conceded 46 goals in 24 games across all competitions prior to this, keeping five clean sheets in that spell.

Their good run of form has seen the Merseyside outfit surge up the Premier League table under the tutelage of ‘Big Sam’, putting real daylight between themselves and the bottom three and occupying a spot in the top ten.

It is a remarkable turnaround in particular for a defence that struggled under the guidance of previous manager Ronald Koeman and Caretaker Manager David Unsworth, difficulties that were much owed to lop-sided transfer policy back in the summer.

Aside from the acquisitions of Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane, the Everton rearguard lacked significant reinforcements, the ageing regular trio of Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams and Leighton Baines all unable to string together consistent performances.

That aside, the long-term absence of regular right-back Seamus Coleman following injury on international duty thrust youngster Jonjoe Kenny into the mantle, a bewildering start for any youth product having been forced to deliver in a struggling side.

Mason Holgate, another youngster forcibly thrown into the mix by Koeman to try to stem the tide of conceding goals, also found regular football in the Premier League difficult to adapt to.

Add the obvious lack of a prolific forward to replace the departed Romelu Lukaku to that formula, and it is clear to see where the problems lay. The return of Wayne Rooney, plus the heavy investment into recruiting Sandro Ramírez (Málaga), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), and record-signing Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), appeared a waste of resources.

The trio failed to produce in an Everton side that scored just seven times in the opening nine Premier League games of the season prior to Koeman’s dismissal, a lack of productivity that heaped pressure on another youngster at the club, England U-20 World Cup winning striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who struggled to produce.

Only the recall of Oumar Niasse to the side, a striker that Koeman had essentially left out in the cold, provided the Dutchman with a stay of execution, after the Senegalese struck twice to claim a key 2-1 win over Bournemouth in September. Nonetheless, this was a victory which only papered over the obvious cracks.

Since Allardyce has taken the helm, not only has he been able to tighten one of the Premier League’s leakiest defences, but he has started to coax some goalscoring form from the likes of Rooney, Calvert-Lewin, and Sigurdsson.

With Everton now having gone four games without a win, however, including three successive defeats in league and cup to Bournemouth, Manchester United, and local rivals Liverpool, Big Sam will know that he still cannot take the January transfer window lightly and must recruit wisely to continue the club’s remarkable revival.

Despite reinvigorating the club’s crop of forwards, a striker is still high on the list of priorities as it was prior to his arrival, with the club mainly winning games thanks to its ability to defend rather than profiting from a wealth of ot-and-out goalscorers. However, Allardyce has already gone some way toward remedying that need with the £27 million signing of Besiktas frontman Cenk Tosun.

Described by Turkish journalist Emre Saigul, on the Sky Transfer Talk Podcast, as a forward who is ‘physical, two-footed and works himself into the ground’, Allardyce appears to have addressed Everton’s lack of physicality up-front.

Since losing Lukaku, the Toffees have lacked a presence in opposition penalty areas, and Tosun offers that presence in abundance, as well as fitting in to Big Sam’s defensive philosophy by pressing the opposition on the ball and working hard to track back and help the team defend as a unit.

He is no stranger to finding the goal either, having netted 41 times in 96 appearances in the black and white of Besiktas, as well as scoring eight times in 25 appearances for Turkey.

The signing of Tosun equally demonstrates a more sensible use of the club’s funds, with Allardyce telling BBC Sport that the forward was the ‘best available’ at his price. The new manager is clearly keen to avoid the frittering way of resources on players that was visibly going on under Koeman’s management.

Yet that may not be all for Allardyce’s business in the market in terms of strengthening his hand going forward. Sandro Ramírez has struggled to settle in England since arriving from Málaga, Dominic Calvert-Lewin remains talented but rather raw, and Oumar Niasse despite chipping in with important goals has struggled to earn a consistent run in the team.

With a forward’s presence being of importance to Big Sam as well as his ratio of goals, one option Allardyce could do worse than turn to is that of his former colleague at Crystal Palace, Christian Benteke.

The Belgian forward has struggled to recapture the form that he enjoyed under Allardyce at Selhurst Park this season, but with the service he’d enjoy at a re-invigorated Everton, he may prove the final piece of the attacking puzzle at Goodison.

Not only is he a proven goalscorer in the Premier League, but he provides the perfect alternative to Sandro in terms of offering a physical presence, and much like Tosun and more notably Romelu Lukaku, is proficient in the air, an area where the Toffees have struggled to take full advantage this campaign.

The affiliation of the two from their days at Palace would also suggest that Allardyce already has an idea of how to best utilise the attributes of Benteke in his side.

Of course, Olivier Giroud, a transfer target for Everton back in August, may be back on the list of options, but given his impact from the bench for Arsenal this season coupled with Koeman’s failure to bring him to the club over the summer, renders Benteke the far more realistic venture.

In terms of the remainder of his squad, Allardyce appears to have established a balance in the Everton midfield.

Aided by the return to fitness of both Yannick Bolasie and James McCarthy, as well as the return to form of Morgan Schneiderlin, Idrissa Gueye and Gylfi Sigurdsson, Allardyce is getting the best out of his wealth of options, with Davy Klaassen, Ademola Lookman, Tom Davies, and Nikola Vlasic all options in reserve. It is highly likely, therefore, that any further additions would be in defence.

With Seamus Coleman building his fitness following injury and Jonjoe Kenny having excelled under Big Sam in his stead, the right-back position is already in safe hands. Cuco Martina has also been steady if unspectacular in the injury-enforced absence of Leighton Baines, so he may be tempted to stick rather than twist for the time being. The centre-back position, however, is notably vulnerable.

Michael Keane had enjoyed a run in the first-team under Koeman, but unable to adapt to playing out from the back at Everton, has found himself falling down the pecking order under Big Sam, and he was left out of the Everton squad for the FA Cup Merseyside Derby at Anfield.

Ramiro Funes-Mori remains a long-term absentee with a serious knee injury, and Ashley Williams has struggled for form compared to his exploits the previous season, leaving the inexperienced Mason Holgate the only other option to partner club captain Phil Jagielka in the heart of the defence, a player himself who is at the twilight of his career at the age of 35.

Holgate’s inexperience was harshly exposed during Everton’s most recent outing against Liverpool, the youngster giving away a needless spot-kick which handed the Reds the initiative, before being fortunate to escape a red card following a push on Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino.

With all of this in consideration, Allardyce could do worse than bring in one more centre-half to add some reliability to his options and there are several available options in the market that he could target in January.

Of the options that would command a fee, one may be Napoli’s French centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly. The 6ft 5in left-footed defender is known for his ability to play out from the back, and is accustomed to playing a possession-orientated style of football at Napoli.

Although Everton differ in the way they often dig-in against stronger opposition, Koulibaly’s coolness at the back would help Everton retain the ball rather than rush with panicked clearances, an attribute which could make the Toffees all the more deadly on the break.

Everton would have to invest to secure his services, but it is not as if they lack resources under Farhad Moshiri’s majority ownership, it simply begs the question as to whether Allardyce would be so forthcoming with the resources available.

Another centre-back in a similar mould Everton may turn to is Koulibaly’s compatriot at Athletic Bilbao, Aymeric Laporte.

He is another defender who provides an aerial presence but specialises in playing the ball out from the back, the only pitfall being that the Toffees may struggle to influence the player to move to Merseyside should any interest come from elsewhere in the Premier League or in Spain.

Yet, one realistic option should Allardyce turn to Europe, may be Bayer Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah.

The natural centre-half is able to double up as a left-back to help add more depth in that position, and is a defender that typifies what Allardyce defences are all about, with size and aggression in the challenge giving way to composure in possession, not only helping to win back the ball but then rebuild from the back.

The only pitfall in Tah’s case is that he has never played outside the Bundesliga, and it may be a gamble in terms of how he adapts to the added pace and intensity of the Premier League.

Should Big Sam wish to recruit a defender with such experience under his belt, one shrewd signing he’d do well to make would be that of Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson.

Billed as a future England prospect prior to Middlesbrough’s relegation from the Premier League last season, Gibson has subsequently slipped through the net for the Three Lions amidst call-ups for Harry Maguire, John Stones, and Everton’s own Michael Keane.

The Boro have found life back in the second-tier harder than anticipated, and following the sacking of Garry Monk and the appointment of Tony Pulis as manager, they find themselves eighth and in striking distance of the playoffs, with Gibson still an ever-present.

That elusive England cap may seem a way off, but he remains a perfect left-footed option in defence to slot-in alongside any options Everton currently have, and may be the perfect youthful centre-half to feature next to Phil Jagielka and challenge the struggling Keane.

With age on the side of both, it would represent a significant investment into the future of Everton’s defensive partnership, with Keane and Gibson having the potential to form a formidable duo in the long-term. Gibson’s price-tag compared to the options available on the continent, may also render him a realistic option for Big Sam to pursue.

What is for sure is that with only one signing through the door at Goodison so far this January, Allardyce’s transfer business is far from over.

It will almost certainly take until next season for his mark to really show on this Everton side, but in the short-term given Allardyce’s remarkable transformation of Koeman’s struggling squad, Toffees fans can have much to look forward to as the club remain on course for a top-ten finish and a chance of returning to the Europa League for 2018/19.

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