Come next August, it’s highly likely Everton Football Club will be venturing into the transfer market to grab themselves a new right back. But maybe, they just might not need too…
Jonjoe Kenny has gone from benchwarmer at Everton to the next Philipp Lahm over in the Bundesliga and the next 12 months of progression could just end up saving Everton a lot of money.
His Everton career so far has been fairly decent. He’s had some really good spells, some bad ones, some fairly average ones too. The usual storyline for a youngster coming through the ranks at a top-flight club. But his adventure over to Gelsenkirchen could be the perfect move.
And so far, it has been.
8 starts, 2 assists, 1 goal. That is not bad at all.
This in-depth scouting report of the Kirkdale Cafu, will take a closer look at how our number 43 is doing down that right-hand-side.
The Flying Wing-Back
Maybe lesser known for this side of his game, but Kenny has excelled so far in an attacking sense for Schalke.
Perfecting his final ball, improving his runs off it and advancing his ball progression are arguably the three main areas that Kenny needs to improve if he’s going to make at Everton. Three areas that Coleman was best known for, the exact area he’s excelled in this season.
Already, Kenny has almost doubled his output in offensive zones.
He’s improved in almost every area so far, picking up 1.14 key passes p90 (double Coleman’s), while he’s nearly matched his xA (expected assists) from last season; 0.78 to 0.84.
The statistical representation here already demonstrates a drastic turnaround in form for Kenny. His output is clearly on the up, and while fitting within the league’s average, a further 12 months down-the-line could lead to even further progression.
The Eye Test
And yet, while the stats show up quite well, he passes the eye test too. Particularly in those three key areas I was talking about.
Here, for instance, Kenny picks up the ball, intuitively plays a one-two and carries the ball to the by-line before picking up an assist. Ball progression is key for a full-back, especially in a system that has Richarlison, Iwobi, and Bernard who all prefer to play as “inside forwards”. This still, as well as the clips below, prove that he has the ability to dribble the ball from deep and it needs to be exploited a lot more, as it did with England u21s, and now with Schalke.
Again, Kenny shows signs of clear improvement. This time stopping the ball dead, waiting for the right movement off the ball, and threading through to one of the runners in-behind. Schalke score again.
Another key area that Kenny’s improved in is his passing, especially in his range and an increasing reliance on actually using his vision to play the right pass (as above). In doing so, Kenny has improved his average xGChain90 to 0.37 from 0.26, which is so far matching Coleman’s return. While his xGBuildup90 is at 0.25 from 0.17, which is a fair distance ahead of Coleman while being fairly level with the likes of Ricardo Pereira and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Decent.
If anything, his strong point. He blossomed from the defensive style of the u23s under David Unsworth and has since played under a wealth of pragmatists. In an era in which a crunching tackle is sometimes celebrated more than a goal at the Park End, Kenny has been discovered as a bit of an unsung hero for some Evertonians.
Statistically, his defensive ability while at Everton was decent which isn’t surprising.
Last season, for instance, he plucked up some good stats. 1.3 blocks p90, 1.9 interceptions, 2.4 tackles. Tis good.
So far, he’s proved himself as a solid right-back, often coping easily with 1v1 situations, one of Coleman’s biggest flaws. And at Schalke, that’s continued. Dribbled past just 0.7 p90, bettering Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s record this season.
The David Wagner Impact
Kenny’s flying. That’s clear. But maybe his recent improvement in Germany isn’t just down to him. I like the Bundesliga, if anything it’s probably the most comparable league you can get to England’s top-flight ~ but that doesn’t mean there’s no drop in quality.
Opposing sides aren’t as strong and players still have more time on the ball, but technically and tactically the Bundesliga is top tier. And given Kenny’s managerial catalogue currently consists of Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce, 12 months of tactical tuition will probably do a lot of good.
Though David Wagner: big Jürgen’s love child ~ is probably finer than you think. Taking Huddersfield from the depths of the Championship to the Premier League is good, and then not coming right back down is probably even better.
Possibly, 12 months under the German’s stewardship while constantly playing games against the likes of Gnabry, Werner, Hazard and Reus will benefit him more than watching Seamus Coleman struggle as Everton’s starting right back.
There’s potential Kenny is simply just benefitting from a more conservative system, a structured 4-4-2 definitely plays to the strengths of the Scouser, as seen by how well he flourished in Unsworth’s rigid u23 formation.
Similarly, Wagner’s Schalke defines itself primarily against the ball. Their flexible 4-2-3-1 uses high and intense counter-pressing, often with the majority of players behind the ball. The more aggressive defensive approach has, so far, improved the sides overall performance, as well as Kenny’s.
Clearly, Kenny comes across well but there are still question marks and lessons to be learned surrounding his overall game. But that’s exactly why he’s on loan, and next summer, he could make that right-back spot his own quite easily.
But realistically, Everton should and probably will go into the market. Kenny’s only boost here is that the right-back market is a shallow one, and an expensive one.
For a potential shortlist, I’d probably go with; Derby’s Jayden Bogle (decent, but young), Ajax’s Noussair Mazraoui (good), Gladbach’s Stefan Lainer (also good), Genk’s Joakim Maehle (very good) and Chelsea’s Reece James (obviously).
Okay, it’s not that short, but on a serious note maybe only three of them are possibly gettable. But all are miles better than the options Everton currently have, and in the modern game, the right-back spot is increasingly becoming one of the most important on the pitch.
Just can Jonjoe be the man? The next 12 months will definitely tell us.