Everton are in dire straits right now. Just when things started to look good after their win against Arsenal, the Toffees were met with a reality check in a 1-3 defeat away to Crystal Palace. As a result, they have dropped to 14th place in the league with five wins, three draws, and eight losses in 16 matches. Everton have been unable to build upon any of their wins this season and have been inconsistent. Any relief that their win against Arsenal provided soon vanished in their next game, a pattern that sums up their season so far. Before the win against Arsenal at Goodison Park, they were on a winless run of eight games. While injuries have played a major hand in their attacking inefficiencies, they have been equally poor defensively.
Since joining from Burnley in the summer of 2017, Michael Keane has been Everton’s most consistent defender. He has been a prominent feature in the Toffees’ backline amidst multiple managerial changes. Last season under Ancelotti, Keane made 35 appearances and was a regular feature in the heart of Everton’s defense, putting up impressive performances. However, things have taken a turn for the worst this season as Keane’s form has slumped. In their first 16 matches this season, Everton have conceded 28 goals, and Keane has featured in all of those games. Only three teams have conceded more goals and all of them are relegation contenders.
While it’s superficial to blame all of Everton’s defensive frailties on him, Keane nonetheless has performed way below his usual standards this season. In the recent defeat against Palace, Keane was guilty of giving back possession cheaply and was unable to stop the energetic hosts.
Michael Keane 2020-2021 Everton stats
Last season, Keane was a mainstay in Everton’s defense and was one of the first names on the team sheet. The majority of his stats were above the league median value, with the most notable stats being successful defensive actions, average aerial duels and aerial duels won. Keane averaged upward of five aerial duels per match while also making more than five interceptions per match. He finished last season with 111 aerial duels won, which was 10th highest in the league, further indicating his prowess in the air.
Composed with the ball at his feet, Keane was among the league’s top twenty players in terms of passing. In addition to being a goal threat from set plays, Keane is adept at launching diagonal balls over the opposition defenders, as indicated by his pass map. His long passes into the opposition box carry high xT. Keane created two big chances and finished the season with three goals and one assist in the league to his name. As indicated by his pass map, he covered almost the entirety of the pitch with his passes.
Michael Keane 2021-2022 Everton stats
While his defensive stats this season have remained almost the same, Keane nonetheless has performed below his standards and has been guilty of making individual errors, especially in the games against Manchester City, Liverpool, and more recently against Crystal Palace. He has often struggled to impose himself on the opponents’ front line. Keane has averaged more than four aerial duels per match and made upward of five interceptions per match.
Keane’s overall passing stats have dropped below his last season stats although, he has continued to deliver launched passes into the opposition area. His pass map displays the areas of the pitch where he has delivered passes this season. While defensively, he has been error-prone at times, Keane has already matched his big chances created in the last season.
Despite his recent decline in his performances, Keane has remained in Everton’s starting XI, which highlights that Rafa Benitez continues to have faith in him. While his stats remain relatively the same from last season, Keane nonetheless has to step up. Perhaps a more consistent partner alongside him in the defense could elevate his performances back to his usual standards.