Mason Holgate has broken into the Everton first team under Ronald Koeman and it is great to see a young English defender being given a prominent role in the Premier League. He joined the club from Barnsley in 2015, following a similar career path to John Stones. The comparisons to his former team-mate are inevitable, but he is his own player and should be viewed as such. Ronald Koeman has put his faith in the defender and he looks set for a prolonged run in the first team.
The young defender played 20 times for Barnsley before moving to Everton, therefore he doesn’t have a great deal of experience. However, he has looked assured during the opening two matches and doesn’t seem phased by the step up in quality. This is impressive and suggests that Holgate possesses a good mentality, which is crucial in the modern game. At the age of 19, nerves would have been expected and clubs will have targeted that, but Holgate has passed every test and looks set to make a name for himself over the coming months.
His versatility makes him a great squad option for Everton. Holgate is unlikely to stay in the first team for the whole season as Everton are looking to bring in another defender, but he will get opportunities this year. He can play at centre back and full back, which will help him get minutes over the coming months. During the opening two fixtures, he has already featured in both positions, while he has also been used in a back three. The Englishman is learning a lot of different roles under Koeman and this experience will be invaluable as he progresses.
Defensively, Holgate has been excellent over the first two matches, despite Everton failing to keep a clean sheet in either. His positioning and reading of the game belie his age, as displayed by his five tackles and four interceptions over 180 minutes. Moreover, he has made seven clearances, which shows that he isn’t going to try to be too clever when he does retrieve the ball, looking to play the percentages first. Although he needs to bulk up before he dominates aerially, he has won three aerial duels. He is good enough to play in the Premier League and his performances to date justify his selection.
On the ball, Holgate is exciting to watch and it is easy to see why comparisons to John Stones are being made. He is comfortable under pressure and likes to bring the ball out of the back four. This is important in a system with three at the back as it helps to transition from defence to attack quickly. His ability to launch attacks make him the perfect defender for the system that Koeman is trying to play, but the fact he is playing shows that the manager trusts him.
During his time at Southampton, Koeman was accused of not trusting the youth players at the club. However, he does use them if he believes they are good enough and ready for stresses of the Premier League. That is clearly the case with Holgate and that is encouraging for Everton supporters.
Mason Holgate has emerged at the beginning of this season and announced himself as a Premier League quality player. In a period where Premier League clubs are throwing money around in the transfer window, it is reassuring to see a talent like Holgate get a chance in the first team. If a player is good enough, they will be given opportunities and that should motivate young Englishmen at every club. It is early days for Holgate, but if he is managed correctly, he could develop into an excellent defender under the tutelage of Ronald Koeman.