Forget Jarrad Branthwaite - Everton's ideal transfer replacement is right in front of them

Everton are likely to lose Jarrad Branthwaite this summer - but they have a high-class replacement in their sights.
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The development of Jarrad Branthwaite has been one of the bright patches in another gloomy season at Goodison Park. As Everton battle against relegation and behind-the-scenes problems, the towering centre-half has grown in stature and put in a string of superb performances. The bad news is that he might not be around for much longer.

Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have both been linked with a transfer bid for Branthwaite - who has been one of the best young players in England this season - and even if Everton manage to survive, they face a tough battle to keep hold of their brightest young players, the 21-year-old among them.

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The likelihood of Branthwaite’s departure is presumably the reason that Everton have reportedly started sniffing around Hull City’s star centre-back Jacob Greaves, who at the age of 23 has already made more than 200 appearances for the Tigers. But as rumours of a summer move intensify, what do Everton fans need to know about Greaves, and can he be a difference-maker like the man he might replace?

The son of former Hull defender Mark Greaves, Jacob quickly rose through the youth ranks and became a regular in the 2020/21 season when Hull earned promotion from League One, when he was named the club’s young player of the year – as he would be for three consecutive seasons. He has since stood in as captain on occasions and established himself as one of most reliable defenders in the Championship.

As a replacement for Branthwaite, he would be close to like-for-like. Like Branthwaite he is tall and strong, variously listed as either 6’3” or 6’4”, and an imposing presence at the back who very rarely loses an aerial battle and is exceptional at set pieces. Greaves is also used to operating on the left-hand side of a central pairing and can play at left-back when required, giving him some useful versatility.

He’s also got similarly impressive anticipation and makes a significant number of clearances by getting into the path of crosses and through balls, and his tackling is improving – in the early part of his career, he was perhaps too aggressive in the tackle, but his judgement has become much more sound in the past year or so. In other words, Greaves excels at the more old-fashioned elements of the art of defending, much as Branthwaite does.

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Where Greaves may have an edge over Branthwaite is in his confidence on the ball, and especially with his passing. It would be a reach to call him an exceptional technician but he is a calm presence at the back who handles pressure well and uses the ball economically, with the capacity to make line-breaking quick vertical passes through the middle of the pitch.

If Branthwaite has that capacity, then he has used it sparingly. Sean Dyche’s system does not encourage quick passing moves from defence and he plays a very high percentage of long balls downfield, and while he has been better with the ball at his feet in recent matches, Branthwaite’s pass completion rate is still nearly 10% lower than Greaves’ overall.

If Everton continue playing with the same style as they do now, Greaves’ distribution and ball control may be less relevant, but he still adds an extra dimension to Hull’s back line and could do the same in the Premier League. But while this may all sound like it adds up to a player who is simply an improved version of Branthwaite, there are caveats.

Greaves may be strong but he isn’t especially fast and his turn of acceleration is not brilliant by elite standards. That means he suits defences that run a low block, at least, which Everton do under Dyche, but the speed of some top-flight forwards is likely to trouble him.

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There’s also the simple question of the quality of the opposition he has faced. Branthwaite has excelled against some of the best attacks in the Premier League, and his quality at the highest level is proven. Greaves has excelled in the Championship, but there is always room for reasonable doubt as to how he would make the step up.

But if Everton are looking for a like-for-like replacement, they could do a whole lot worse. No fee has been mentioned by the reports, which include an article from The Daily Mirror, but Greaves is under contract until 2026 and it’s reasonable to assume that he wouldn’t be too cheap – although they would still surely turn a substantial profit if they sold Branthwaite and signed Greaves, which is important given the club’s parlous financial state.

There’s also every chance that Hull complicate matters by getting promoted. At the time of writing, they occupy sixth place in the table which would qualify them for the play-offs. There is a world in which Everton get relegated and are forced to watch Greaves going past them on the way down.

But while even the sunniest outlook has them looking for a replacement for Branthwaite, in Greaves they have found someone who looks like the perfect fit. They may yet face competition for his signature, but Everton looks like a ready-made landing spot for him if they can maintain their top-flight status. Some transfers simply look and feel right – Greaves to Everton is one of them.

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