Yes, the charge for Everton’s Premier League title may be over, but the Toffees still have the potential to finally reach an exceptionally high finish.
God forbid, they might even get into the top four with any luck.
The inconsistency has been – as with many teams – their downfall this season, with constant injuries preventing Carlo Ancelotti from being able to play his strongest XI in a consistent series of games. It didn’t matter against Leeds, however, where the 11 players dug deep and executed the game plan perfectly to secure a 2-1 victory.
The Toffees were happy to sit down and soak up the advances from Leeds who, despite all their possession, still looked capable of conceding a goal. While all credit goes to Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin for their winning counterattacking strikes, it was Ben Godfrey who led the charge from behind.
While Marcelo Bielsa’s side shot blank in the first half at Elland Road, the second half was another story. Relentless possession spells constantly tested Everton’s backline defensive attributes for hesitant success. Mason Holgate broke under the pressure that put Leeds back in the game, but a nice display from Godfrey alongside more experienced Yerry Mina was enough to force Patrick Bamford out of the 18-yard box.
Admittedly, that wasn’t all about the summer acquisition of Everton – the whole team dug deep – but it was yet another impressive performance in a first season where he flew under the radar, despite the excellence. under pressure.
When he signed from relegated Norwich for £ 25million, the 23-year-old was expected to gradually fold and provide competition for his new colleagues. A start in the Merseyside derby as a 31st minute substitute was quite the opposite of that.
Godfrey gave a solid account of himself as he was thrown to the right-back, earning his manager’s trust early on. Injuries to Everton’s full-backs meant Ancelotti became full-fledged Italian manager and often deployed a full-back line of four center-backs – with limited success – but it was Godfrey who stood out. A competent passer coupled with a good read of the game for his age, he exceeded expectations out of his position and contributed to wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester and collected three clean sheets along the way including the win the following day Christmas v Sheffield United.
For a defender relegated the previous season, Godfrey has risen seamlessly for a team well and truly in search of European qualification. His performances are consistent and his ability to anticipate danger and extinguish it is impressive for a young player. While he’s not sometimes the cleanest tackle – he currently sits on four yellow cards in 13 league games – he still averages 1.7 tackles per game and even better 2.9 clearances per game.
It is exactly those kinds of stats that indicate the extra level Godfrey already has, which was featured against Leeds. His performance on the pitch is accompanied by a sense of leadership and authority, taking responsibility for those around him and setting the pace for his defensive colleagues. He won 100% of his aerial duels at Elland Road, made seven clearances and appeared on the other end with an assist. It was another full performance where he could have easily hid behind Mina, but didn’t.
Of course, these are still the first doors and Godfrey will put up with drops in form. But Everton have now put together a full roster of defenders who can all strengthen each other when the going gets tough.
Godfrey has proven this season that he can become a top defender and will only continue to improve with more experience and minutes on the pitch.