David Moyes made some excellent signings in his eleven years at Everton. The likes of Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta and Leighton Baines immediately spring to mind when talk turns to this particular topic. But despite his impending exit, potentially the best signing of the Moyes reign is still at the club, and may well be for many years to come.
For a minuscule outlay of £60,000, Seamus Coleman could well force his way to the top of the “Best Moyes Signing” stakes. The Irish defender goes about his game almost unnoticed on a weekly basis, failing to really draw in much praise from player ratings or post-game reports. For a full-back it’s what you expect, I suppose. But his performance for Ireland against England at Wembley merely emphasized what many Evertonians have known for a while. Coleman’s stock is most definitely on the up.
It’s been a remarkable four-and-a-half year spell for the Irishman. He was picked up by Everton in January 2009 on the back of a recommendation from Willie McStay, a former teammate of David Moyes. An initial transfer fee of £60,000 was agreed with his former club Sligo Rovers and Coleman was on his way to Merseyside.
He made his debut for Everton, of all places, away to Benfica. Out of position at left-back and tasked with handling a rampant Angel Di Maria, Coleman was on the end of a harsh learning experience. Everton’s make shift back-line was torn to pieces and they went on to lose 5-0.
His home debut again came after the Toffees were struck by defensive injury woes. But this time, he gave a truer glimpse of his talent. A marauding, man-of-the-match display from right-back followed, as he was instrumental in Everton fighting back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Tottenham.
A loan spell and regular first team football at Blackpool soon followed, and he went on to emerge as a critical figure in their promotion campaign. Ian Holloway, the then Blackpool manager, was a huge admirer:
“Seamus Coleman is a wonderful young fella who will be a top-quality attacking right-back in the Premier League. I love the way he plays. He runs with the ball and has a great touch.”
Since then, Coleman has gone from strength to strength at Everton. Deployed initially on the right of midfield, he was able to learn about the rough and tumble of the Premier League without his mistakes having catastrophic consequences. Experienced campaigners like Phil Neville and Tony Hibbert slotted in at full-back behind him, often talking him through the defensive side of the game. Coleman has recently alluded to the fact he learnt a lot from those experiences.
But this season, Moyes finally saw fit to give Coleman a run in his preferred role. And a couple of early blips aside, the Irishman rewarded his manager’s faith.
All the talk this season has been about the other Everton full-back, Leighton Baines. But arguably, especially since the turn of the year, Coleman has outshone his teammate. His performances down the right hand side have given Everton an added attacking dimension.
So often reliant on the interplay between Baines and Steven Pienaar down the left, the Toffees have sometimes been accused of being one-dimensional. But with Coleman and Kevin Mirallas lining up on the right-flank, Everton have twin threats from both wide areas. A balance that is crucial to an effective attacking unit.
As for his playing style, Coleman is a bundle of energy. He is tireless in his vertical forays on the flank and a menace on the overlap. He looks to have taken some qualities from his Gaelic football background too, for he is a master at picking angles to drive into dangerous positions. But his attacking qualities have never been in doubt. What has been, is his ability going the other way; when Everton are on the back-foot.
So it is perhaps most encouraging for Evertonians that Coleman has improved significantly as a defender. In terms of his positioning he is much more aware and is beginning to regularly cut out danger early with his robust, front-foot defensive style. He is fierce in the tackle too, and a nightmare to push off the ball.
His man of the match displays against Manchester City, Arsenal and most recently England were more to do with his defensive play than his offensive bursts. They represented a real statement about the strides he has made in this area.
Slowly, and somewhat unnoticed, Coleman has turned into one of the Premier League’s best full-backs. He is starting to strike the right balance between attacking and defending that is tantamount to succeeding as a full-back in the modern game.
Can he get better? Absolutely. Defensively, despite his notable refinements, there is still work to be done. Not to mention, his final ball is still somewhat lacking. This is improving however, as we seen for Ireland’s opener against England, in which he fizzed a fantastic cross onto the head of Shane Long.
And this is what is most encouraging about Coleman, even in the areas in which he can get better, there have been noticeable upgrades in his game. If the early years of his career are anything to go by, in which he has obviously learnt and listened, then expect him to continue getting better and better.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball