With Jagielka's injury, we thought we'd re-open this debate by bumping this post up.
The past 16 games have seen Evertonians groan in disgust as yet another depressing goal is conceded by the Everton backline. While all teams concede goals, Everton’s problem has been the manner in which they are conceded. Ignoring the timing of the goals, almost all of them have one similar characteristic; they are against the run of play and involve some atrocious defending.
There is a communication problem between the triumvirate of Everton’s center backs and Tim Howard. David Moyes has tried a combination of Phil Jagielka, Sylvian Disitin, and Johnny Heitinga to different degrees of failure. Many fans like to slag off on Heitinga because of his clumsy nature, but the man does have some talent and was fantastic for us last year. Distin has also had some awkward moments, but then he tracks down a forward who seems certain to be in on goal. As for Jagielka, the man can be a fortress in the center of the defense, but is also prone to some own-goals and ugly clearances. In short none of these men have quite come together like seasons past.
Of course there is also blame to go to Tim Howard. The American international has not had a fine season, but since the option behind him is Jan Mucha, we aren’t going to entertain that delusion here.
Instead it is time for Moyes to trust a youngster and give Shane Duffy an extended look. The Irishman had a brief look last season due to injure and showed the promise that earns him a consistent spot on the bench at the age of 21.
Duffy has the height to be a talented back at 6 foot 4, and at some point Moyes needs to trust the young players. Having completed a grueling Christmas schedule, this is the perfect time to see what Duffy can do. Honestly our defense can’t get much worse at this point, a few inches on some different shots and we would be closer to 10th in the table than we are to 4th.
Ideally a pairing of Duffy and Jagielka would be good to try out. Jagielka obviously brings the experience and late tackling ability to the pairing, and Duffy seems to have a good positional sense and some speed. The two complement each other well and would probably settle Howard some too.
Failing that, Duffy and Distin would be a good pairing, especially if Moyes continues to throw Jagielka out at right back, a problem for another article. Heitinga and Duffy would not ideal just because Heitinga doesn’t seem to b the vocal leader at the back that is nice to have. Jags and Distin do a much better job of filling that role.
It was disappointing to see Moyes elect to go with a central pairing of Distin and Jagielka in an FA Cup game. Predictably the two did not look so great, and giving one of them a match off would have been nice. It would have also been fair to Mr. Duffy who has done well in his limited time over the past two seasons and needs to get some constant football if he wants to prevent his development from suffering.
With a stretch of games including Swansea, Southampton, and West Brom coming up, this is the perfect time for Moyes to take a gamble. With new players unlikely to arrive on Merseyside, this is a good way for Moyes to rest his stars and find a winning defensive combination. With such a tight table every point is valuable, and conceding crappy goals is only going to cost us points.