Ben Godfrey is quietly becoming Everton's sharpest tool in defence

04 February 2021 05:00

Yes, Everton's Premier League title charge might be over, but there is still potential for the Toffees to finally achieve an exceptionally high finish.

God forbid, they might even break into the top four with some luck.

Inconsistency has - like for many sides - been their downfall this season, with consistent injuries halting Carlo Ancelotti from ever being able to play his strongest XI in a consistent run of games. This didn't matter against Leeds, though, where all 11 players dug in deep and executed the game plan perfectly to grind out a 2-1 victory.

The win meant a lot to the Toffees who sit sixth in the Premier League | Pool/Getty Images

The Toffees were happy to sit back and soak up the advances of Leeds who, for all their possession, always looked capable of conceding a goal. While all the credit goes to Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin for their game-winning, counter attacking strikes, it was Ben Godfrey who led the charge from the back.

While Marcelo Bielsa's side were firing blanks in the first half at Elland Road, the second half was a different story. Unrelenting spells of possession constantly tested the defensive attributes of Everton's backline to wavering success. Mason Holgate cracked under the pressure which put Leeds back in the game, but a fine display from Godfrey alongside the more experienced Yerry Mina was enough to force Patrick Bamford out of the 18-yard box.

Granted, it wasn't all on Everton's summer acquisition - the entire team dug in deep - but it was yet another impressive performance in a debut season where he has flown under the radar, despite excelling under pressure.

When he signed from relegated Norwich for £25m, the expectation was that the 23-year-old would gradually bed in and provide competition for his new colleagues. A debut in the Merseyside derby as a 31st minute substitute was quite the opposite of that, though.

Merseyside derby debut - no pressure, then | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Godfrey gave a solid account of himself as he was thrown in at right back, earning the trust of his manager early on. Injuries to Everton's full backs meant that Ancelotti went full Italian manager and often deployed a back line of four centre backs - to limited success - but it was Godfrey who stood out. A competent passer coupled with a fine reading of the game for his age, he exceeded expectations out of position and contributed to victories over Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester and picked up three clean sheets along the way when including the Boxing Day win against Sheffield United.

For a relegated defender in the previous season, Godfrey has stepped up seamlessly for a side well and truly in the hunt for European qualification. His performances are consistent, and his ability to anticipate danger and snuff it out is impressive for a young player. While at times he isn't the cleanest tackler - he currently sits on four yellow cards from 13 league appearances - he still averages an impressive 1.7 tackles per game and an even better 2.9 clearances per game.

It's exactly these kind of stats that indicate the extra level Godfrey already possesses, which was on show against Leeds. His on-pitch performance is coupled by a sense of leadership and authority, taking responsibility for those around him and setting the tempo for defensive colleagues. He won 100% of his aerial duels at Elland Road, made seven clearances and popped up at the other end with an assist. It was another complete performance where he could have easily shied away behind Mina, but didn't.