Most teams have a defined centre back pairing and very few teams have three centre backs who compete regularly for the same two places. Slyvain Distin and Phil Jagielka have been Everton’s first choice centre back pairing now pretty much, bar injuries, since Distin’s arrival at the club in 2009 after he was bought as a direct replacement for Joleon Lescott. They have been a good, solid partnership for the club for those years but Jagielka is 32 and Distin is 36 now, however, their ages aren’t the reason that one of them may need to be dropped, it is simply because of how good John Stones is.
John Stones’ age means that leaving him on the bench is the easy option for Martinez as he is still improving, will make mistakes and would accept sitting on the bench so early on in his career. Whilst Distin’s knock forced Martinez’ hand vs West Brom, it would have been interesting to see if Martinez would of decided that this was the time for Stones to come in to the side. Most likely at the expense of Phil Jagielka
Phil Jagielka has been one of the first names on the team sheet now for seven years, a much loved and admired player and captain of the football club. However the club has started to outgrow him and with Stones’ emergence it means that his place in now under threat. During his injury at the back end of last season, Stones thrived with his first team opportunities as did his partnership with Sylvain Distin. With Jagielka’s age compared to Distin’s it would be easy to suggest that Jagielka and Stones maybe the partnership used going forward, however they are both right sided centre backs so one would have to play on the left hand side which may not be totally natural. Although it did account for a clean sheet vs West Brom. I think the left foot/right foot partnership may be the reason that Martinez would prefer Stones and Distin over Stones and Jagielka.
With the amount of games coming up it may be difficult to see exactly who Martinez’ preferred choice will be going forward as even Antolin Alcaraz will most likely feature over the next few weeks. The next match that will really tell will be the Merseyside derby on the 27th of September.
John Stones is at a level now where he is good enough to get in the team ahead of Jagielka and Distin on merit and is now arguably our best centre back out of all three. He has a lot to learn but has immense natural ability, an ability that got us out of trouble vs West Brom on more than one occasion. If he is this good now, it is important to not hinder his development in anyway. Although he has played a decent amount of minutes this season already, you’d hate to see him sat on the bench week in, week out if everyone is fit. For me, he has to play.
If he does come into the team on a permanent basis it’d mean an end of an era for the club in defence but Everton need to move on from the Jagielka/Distin partnership and however harsh it sounds, needs to move on from Phil Jagielka. Just as we moved on from the likes of Tim Cahill.
With Stones, McCarthy, Barkley and Lukaku we’d have a young talented spine of a team with a combined age of just 84 years. We will be able to build around that spine for the next few years which represents a very exciting time for Everton fans and John Stones is at the heart of that.