Everton have had a frustrating transfer window and the sale of John Stones for £47.5m has created a need for defensive reinforcements. Ashley Williams joined on Wednesday for a fee of £12m, which is a good addition and adds some much needed leadership to the defence. They are also looking for another centre back to strengthen the squad, with Lamine Kone a priority target. Everton have already had an £18m bid turned down for the Sunderland defender and could return with an increased bid in the coming days.
Ronald Koeman is an excellent defensive coach and his Southampton side were solid over his two years in charge. Since arriving at Everton, he has obviously identified some problems with the squad in that sense and he is doing his best to address that before the first match of the season. Phil Jagielka is ageing and had injury problems last season, while Ramiro Funes Mori is inconsistent and makes errors at the back. Koeman would have wanted to keep Stones, but the offer was too good to turn down and the money will help fund his own transfer dealings.
Ashley Williams is an interesting signing and one that certainly carries risk. Over the last five years, he has been one of the standout defenders in the Premier League and Everton will be hoping he continues to show that at Goodison Park. He will bring experience and leadership to the back four. At times last season, Everton missed Jagielka’s ability to organise the defence and Williams will provide that. Williams is also good at winning the ball back in open play as highlighted by his 1.44 tackles won and 2.72 interceptions per game last campaign.
However, Williams is going to be 32 this month and has been less effective during the last 12 months. Swansea were one of the worst sides at defending set pieces last season and Ashley Williams struggled in that part of his game. He was targeted by a lot of teams and Everton need to find a strong partner for him to help him in that area, which is why Lamine Kone is a target.
The Sunderland centre back is incredible in the air, as shown by his higher aerial duel win percentage at 61.25% compared to Williams’ 57.26%. They differ in styles with Kone being better in the air, while Ashley Williams is more effective at organising the back four and playing out from the back. If Kone joins Everton, they would complement each other well and could form an excellent centre back pairing. They are also both athletic and good modern day centre backs, which is something they lack at Everton.
It will be interesting to see how Koeman sets up after taking over at Everton. He favoured a 3-5-2 at times last season and he is one of the few coaches who have managed to make it work in the Premier League. If Kone joins the club, it will be possible for Koeman to use him alongside Williams and Funes Mori. As a unit, they would need to be trained to play the formation, but there is enough quality and athleticism for them to work in a three. Also with Williams being able to organise the defence, he will be an asset at the heart of a three.
They are two players who have performed well in the Premier League, but there are risks tied to both. Williams could be on the decline and has showed signs of his age catching up to him over the last campaign, especially at defending set pieces. However, as a short term option, he will bring experience and leadership to the defence. In terms of Kone, he is excellent in the air and would help cover up some of Williams’ shortcomings, but the fees being talked about are steep. There might be more proven players available at a cheaper price than Kone. Although there are negatives, as a pairing they might work together and it is clear why Kone is being targeted to join Williams.