Reading have brought in another defensive recruit: Lewis Gibson. The 20-year-old has joined from Everton on a season-long loan, and will be hoping to continue his development after a stint at Fleetwood last season.
To find out more about Gibson, we spoke to Patrick Boyland, who covers Everton for The Athletic. He explained how Gibson’s career at Goodison has gone so far, how his future should pan out, and - most importantly - what he’ll bring to Reading’s team. Many thanks to Paddy for giving us the lowdown on Reading’s new signing.
How would you sum up his time at Everton so far?
Gibson has been one to watch ever since he arrived at Everton from Newcastle in 2017. He won the Premier League 2 title in 2018/19, forging a solid partnership with Morgan Feeney (now at Sunderland), and is highly rated by some key decision-makers at the club. There’s a degree of disappointment that Lewis has not had his chance before now, as well as a feeling that he suffered from Everton’s poor form under Marco Silva last season.
Despite the failure to bring in a new centre back that summer, Silva decided against integrating Gibson into the first-team fold, regularly asserting his belief that he was one short in central defence. With his path to regular first-team games still blocked - Everton have Mason Holgate, Michael Keane, Yerry Mina and the promising Jarrad Branthwaite in central defence - the next step is a loan at Championship level. Reading have done well to sign him given the level of interest, including from Germany.
How much potential does he have?
Plenty. On the ball, he’s probably already Premier League quality. When he signed his new deal earlier this year, Everton mapped out a pathway to the first team that included the promise of two loan moves to aid his development. The hope is that, after a good spell at Fleetwood in the second half of last season, he can push on and play regular games in the Championship before coming back to compete for a place in the Everton team.
What style of defender is he? What are his main strengths and weaknesses?
A ball-playing, left-sided centre back capable of playing out from the back or striding forward into midfield. There’s a lot to like about Gibson in possession, but he does the basics well too and competed well with more physical attackers in League One. Joey Barton would have loved to have had him back this season, but Gibson wanted to test himself at a higher level.
While by no means slow, I’d be interested in seeing him tested against the Championship’s quickest attackers. Like any 20-year-old, Gibson still needs to refine his decision-making. He was impressive for Everton during pre-season but went too tight on occasion against Preston’s physical strikeforce and was rolled a few times. In time, he’ll learn when to commit and when to drop off.
What’s his character like?
Reading are getting a determined, confident defender. He left home at 17 to come to Merseyside, living with a placement family initially, and has grown in stature during his time here. Everton under-23 players get a good grounding from manager David Unsworth and are used to working hard every day on the training ground and in matches. Gibson is no different.
Would you back him to succeed at Reading?
He has every chance if conditions are in his favour at the Madejski. So often, it’s about finding the right environment for young players going out on loan. He’ll hope to have more stability than Joao Virginia did in Berkshire.