Martin Keown ranks Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka’s defensive partnership amongst the best in the Premier League.
The former Blues centre-half – famed for his long-standing combination with Tony Adams at Arsenal - is full of admiration for the way in which the duo have marshalled Everton’s backline this season.
David Moyes’ side have conceded just 35 league goals – fewer than fellow top-five hopefuls Tottenham and Liverpool.
Jagielka is nearing a return to fitness following ankle surgery, but Distin – alongside Dutch international John Heitinga – was at his imperious best to keep champions Manchester City at bay prior to the international break.
“If you look at Distin, he seems to go from strength to strength,” Keown told evertontv during a recent visit to the Club’s Finch Farm training complex. “He is really powerful and no-one ever seems like they are going to outrun him.
“Jagielka has improved big time since he has been at the club. The amount of blocks that he makes – he seems to get in the way of everything – is not done by accident.
“It’s instinctive and he reads the game very well. He has a real chance to play for England in the next World Cup.”
Keown provided three-and-a-half years’ service to Everton before sealing a move back to Arsenal in 1993.
The 46-year-old was plagued with a succession of injuries during his time on Merseyside but still has many happy memories, including a famous FA Cup derby win over Liverpool in 1991.
“The atmosphere [at Goodison] was amazing and it still is,” recalled Keown. “It’s great to be able to go back and it still be the same as it was when I was a player.
“The imagination is stirred every time you go there, and you remember nights like beating Liverpool after the 4-4 game, which was probably the most memorable of my period at the football club.
“It’s still the same as it was then, so it’s really nice to keep it like that and long may it continue.”
Keown’s career flourished after overcoming the injury problems which hampered his progress with Everton.
He became a mainstay in Arsenal teams managed by George Graham, Bruce Rioch and Arsene Wenger, securing three Premier League titles and just as many FA Cup winners’ medals before retiring in 2005.
He added: “To be fair, I had all sorts of back and knee problems and I remember the Everton doctor approaching my later saying ‘were you winding me up when you were here’. Luckily for me, everything seemed to go away.
“I think you harden off as a player when you get to those mid-twenties. Whilst I was at Everton, I spent a lot of time with Les Helm who was a fantastic physio and a great character.
“I enjoyed the Scouse humour and it was a part of me building my character and personality for the future.”