Carlo Ancelotti must ruthlessly axe Mason Holgate from the Everton starting line-up after a sloppy performance from the defender in defeat to Fulham.
The 24-year-old was awarded a rare start in the heart of the Toffees’ backline on Sunday, but was unable to prevent Josh Maja from netting a game-winning brace at Goodison Park.
Holgate had not opened a Premier League fixture in central defence since a 1-0 loss at home to West Ham United on New Year’s Day, instead earning eight of his prior nine top-flight appearances at right-back.
Should Holgate start vs Man City on Wednesday?
Yes, and at centre-back
Yes, but only at right-back
No, drop him to the bench
Sunday’s meeting with Scott Parker’s relegation-threatened Fulham was, in fact, only the fourth time this season that Holgate has opened a league game in this position, with Yerry Mina and Michael Keane both occupying seats on the bench.
Mina had partnered Holgate at the back during the Blues’ defeat to West Ham earlier this year, while Keane opened a 3-1 loss to Manchester United beside the €20m-rated (£17.5m) ace in November.
Godfrey, too, had opened a league game beside Holgate since his £20m summer switch from Norwich City, though Everton were also beaten 1-0 at home to Leeds United on that occasion whilst Ancelotti fielded a three-man defence including Keane.
Holgate never appeared likely to register his first win, or even claim a point, while playing in central defence against Fulham, with the Cottagers seemingly always holding the upper hand over the former England U21 international.
His performance was slammed by the Liverpool Echo, who noted how Holgate frequently played lazy passes to invite Fulham to attack and failed to sense the danger once Parker’s side began mounting greater pressure on their hosts in the second half – they gave him the joint-lowest match rating of 4.
Adam Jones wrote: “Played too many lazy passes in the first half to give Fulham chances and was not alive to the danger when the visitors eventually made Everton pay in the second half. Not a performance he will look back kindly on.”
And as if to highlight that lack of composure on the ball, the defender lost possession 20 times on the night, much higher than his season average in the Premier League of 12.8 – only left-back Lucas Digne losing it more, and that was more down to the Frenchman’s forays further forward and trying to make things happen with his crossing.
Ancelotti even saw enough from Holgate after 55 minutes that he brought Keane off the bench and moved the Doncaster-born defender over to right-back, replacing Seamus Coleman shortly after going a goal behind.
It could be argued that Holgate was marginally at fault for Maja’s effort three minutes into the second half that broke the deadlock, as well.
The centre-half had the forward in his line of sight, but shifted focus at the wrong moment and allowed the 22-year-old to drift unchallenged and meet the ball at the back post for an easy tap in.
Once Holgate switched his focus to Ola Aina’s overlapping run to connect with Ademola Lookman, he had to commit to playing the 24-year-old’s cross, yet chose to not stick a foot out and rely on Lucas Digne having made a run to block Maja off.
Now, Everton prepare to face title-chasing Manchester City at Goodison Park on Wednesday night without a win in their last four home Premier League games. And if Ancelotti is to oversee just a fifth victory on Blues soil this term, the Italian will have to axe Holgate again.
Ancelotti gave Holgate the perfect chance to shine and really stake a genuine claim for a first-team place, but the English ace let his manager down with a woeful display. The Toffees boss will be fuming that the player he showed his trust in against Fulham, cost him and his team as they look to chase down a European spot for next season.
It would be a ruthless decision to axe him from the starting line-up just one game after putting him back into the team, but it’s the call that Ancelotti simply has to make.
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