Wales captain Ashley Williams was a shrewd summer signing for the Toffees to replace John Stones and has made a huge impact defensively.
It is somewhat ironic that Everton’s defensive woes have been largely aided by the player signed to replace their defensive prodigy.
The Toffees turned down big-money bids from Chelsea in January for John Stones, and produced a display of transfer market stubbornness so strong you might be forgiven for thinking Daniel Levy has assumed ownership of the club.
However, the lure of Pep Guardiola proved even stronger than that of Jose Mourinho, and Everton were consigned to losing their promising ball-playing centre-half – although they were duly compensated to the tune of £50 million.
As a result, incoming manager Ronald Koeman was forced to dip into the transfer market for a replacement, reinvesting the funds in former Swansea captain Williams, and it is a combination of the two men that has created such a drastic change at the back for Everton.
Koeman has instilled defensive organisation across the board – a key weakness of Everton’s poor 2015/16 season – but there is no doubt that Williams has made a massive difference.
He is a strong, aggressive defender, more than willing to put his body on the line for the cause, and certainly not shy to put in a strong challenge.
But he is so much more than just a battering ram of a defender. Williams captained Swansea brilliantly, and is a commanding organiser of the back line. He gets in his teammates’ ears, pulling them into position and letting them know if they are not trying hard enough.
In that respect, he is something of an upgrade on Stones in the short-term. There is no doubt that the young Englishman has the potential to go on and become a world-class defender, but it is currently his passing ability and distribution from the back that has made him so eye-catching, rather than his defensive attributes.
However, Williams is able to plug that gap to some extent as well. Needless to say, he does not possess the same technical ability as Stones, but he is used to playing the ball out from the back with Swansea in seasons gone by under Michael Laudrup and Brendan Rodgers, and is comfortable enough in possession.
All this makes him an exceptionally shrewd purchase by Koeman, who himself has been an exceptional replacement for Roberto Martinez in the dugout for the Toffees.
Sitting sixth and having lost just once in the league, Everton may be quietly confident of a top-six finish and a European spot this season.