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Talking Tactics

How Holgate has emerged as a Silva starter

Adrian Clarke 14 Sep 2018
Mason Holgate

Adrian Clarke explains why Everton's 21-year-old defender has become an automatic choice under his new manager

Adrian Clarke looks at tactical battles set to take place in Matchweek 5.

Everton v West Ham United

Marco Silva’s summer arrival gave Everton’s players an opportunity for a fresh start, and young defender Mason Holgate has possibly been the main beneficiary.

For much of 2017/18, the 21-year-old was considered the fourth-choice centre-back, or one of several options as an understudy at right-back.

Competition for a starting berth looks even fiercer this term. Summer signing Yerry Mina, a rejuvenated Michael Keane, Phil Jagielka and Kurt Zouma are all vastly more experienced defenders than Holgate.

Yet thanks to impressive displays in pre-season, and across the last four Premier League matches, Holgate has emerged as an automatic pick.

Major improvements

At home to Huddersfield Town in Matchweek 3, Everton weathered an aerial bombardment from set-pieces and long throw-ins.

Holgate took responsibility in dealing with that pressure.

Making 12 effective clearances, eight more than his defensive partner Zouma, he showed courage and resilience.

It was a display that confirmed his growing self-belief.

He has looked more assured than last term and his defending has been more dominant.

Holgate's defending compared to last season
Per 90 2018/19 2017/18
Duels won 7.1 5.7
Aerial duels won 4.0 2.5
Clearances 8.2 6.2
Pass accuracy % 76.8 67.4

Holgate’s bold distribution is another trait that will have endeared him to Silva.

The manager likes his teams to play with energy and enterprise, encouraging his players to spring direct attacks.

Holgate is comfortable in possession and happy to play forward passes, even if it means occasionally giving the ball away.

That style of play is ideal for a side built to use their pace on the counter-attack.

Most forward passes for Everton in PL 2018/19
Player Forward passes
Mason Holgate 79
Michael Keane 52
Seamus Coleman 52
Leighton Baines 50
Idrissa Gueye 42

Holgate's 76.8 per cent passing accuracy is inferior to Everton’s other centre-backs, but this is because he is willing to take more risks.

No player at the club has made more forward passes than him in 2018/19.

If he can replicate the excellent defending and willing distribution he has shown this term, West Ham United could find it difficult to earn their points of the season on Sunday.

Set-piece frailty

Silva is still waiting for a first clean sheet but, in open play at least, he cannot have many complaints about how his side are defending as a unit.

Everton have shown solid organisation, leaking only one goal not from a set-play.

A penalty at AFC Bournemouth and a superb direct free-kick from Ruben Neves are not moments that need to be analysed.

However, Everton have conceded goals from right-wing corners in each of their last three matches.

They have been loose with their marking and slow to react to second balls.

It is an area West Ham could look to target at Goodison.

Also in this series

Part 1: New roles add to Kane and Salah's threat
Part 2: Moutinho at heart of Wolves dominance
Part 3: Hot Lukaku will test Watford to the full

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