Talking Tactics

Keane and Mina forming effective pairing at Everton

By Adrian Clarke 21 Aug 2019
MIna, Keane, Everton

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Michael Keane and Yerry Mina are developing into a formidable pairing at the heart of Everton's defence.

Marco Silva's men face Aston Villa on Friday night looking for their sixth clean sheet in seven Premier League matches.

The form of Keane and Mina has been key for a Toffees side yet to concede this season.

The physically imposing duo only played six times together in an orthodox back four in 2018/19.

But they have now paired up again and produced composed performances against Crystal Palace and Watford, handling Christian Benteke and Troy Deeney with little fuss.

In eight Premier League starts as a central defensive duo, they have been part of five shutouts, with two of those coming home and away against Chelsea.

They have lost just one fixture together, and even in that match Everton kept Liverpool's free-scoring front line at bay until Divock Origi’s fortuitous late winner.  

Keane and Mina in tandem
  2018/19 2019/20
Back-four starts 6 2
Wins 2 1
Draws 3 1
Losses 1 0
Clean sheets 3 2

Keane and Mina are a powerful pair but can sometimes be caught for pace on the turn.

They are occasionally susceptible to mobile strikers running in beyond them, as Watford's did on occasion last weekend, so they like to adopt relatively deep starting positions. 

This was reflected in the way Everton performed in their 1-0 victory over Javi Gracia's side.

The Hornets had 55.9 per cent of possession but the Toffees sat back and expertly defended their 18-yard box.

Sound in their positional sense and strong in the air, Keane made nine clearances while Mina made eight, totalling 17 between them.

Aston Villa may find it futile to simply sling high balls into the box.

Dean Smith's side would be better off trying to create chances with fast football and sharp movement.

Most successful clearances 2019/20
Player Club Total
Tyrone Mings AVL 23
Ben Godfrey NOR 16
Yerry Mina EVE 13
Michael Keane EVE 13
Harry Maguire MUN 13
Jan Bednarek SOU 13
Jack O'Connell SHU 13

This central defensive partnership offers obvious benefits, but it may hinder Everton’s ability to squeeze up the pitch to press.

Last season Silva's men were ranked third in the Premier League for the most possession won inside the final third. 

But, perhaps concerned about leaving too much space behind Keane and Mina, the Toffees did not close down Palace or Watford with quite the same intensity as they did last season.

Ave. possession won in final third
Everton Per 90 PL rank
2018/19 5.1 3
2019/20 3.5 11

Facing a Villa side who like to dominate matches at home, I would anticipate a relatively deep defensive block from Everton on Friday.

With the likes of Wesley, Trezeguet, Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn all eager to make runs beyond defenders, this tactic could help the Toffees record a third clean sheet of 2019/20.

Also in this series

Part 1: Young Arsenal midfield can test Liverpool
Part 2: Long-range Wilson gives Cherries new dimension
Part 4: Classy Cantwell can spring Chelsea surprise

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