Sylvain Distin and Antolin Alcaraz’s departures from Goodison Park have put the focus on the long-term plan for Everton’s central defence, revealing it to be missing a key ingredient.
It’s an issue that is nothing new at the club and it is arguable that it should have been addressed earlier than now, when Phil Jagielka and John Stones are the only first team operators on the books.
David Moyes’ tenure will have left Evertonians in little doubt that the best defensive partnerships are built on stability and get stronger with every game played together.
Jagielka long and lauded alliance with the departed Distin is testament to the fact, which is what makes it all the more surprising that there is no clear successor to the captain in place.
The England international, 32, has just signed a one year contract extension at the club and looks set to continue alongside Stones, 11 years his junior, next term.
Surprisingly the pair have started just 33 games together across the past two campaigns, meaning realistically they will never get the time together to hone their understanding to the levels Jagielka and Distin enjoyed.
At 32 the captain’s powers, of which searing pace was never exactly one, are only going to plateau at best, if not begin to downgrade in the not too distant future.
The missing ingredient in Everton’s central-defensive succession plan is a player approaching the peak of his powers, able to nurture Stones’ undoubted gifts into full bloom across several seasons.
In recent weeks the names of Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann and Augsburg’s Ragnar Clavan, 28 and 29 respectively, have been linked with the club suggesting that they are finally addressing the issue.
Shorn of the extra pressures of Europa League football next season the Toffees are intriguingly priced for a top-four finish at 12/1.