In a major blow to Everton its been confirmed by the club that French international left-back Lucas Digne has sustained a major injury and faces a long spell on the sidelines.
This is a huge blow to the Blues as they face a crucial and packed six weeks of games running up to and including Christmas and the New Year.
This season has been charaterized by a series of injuries compounded by the relentless schedule resulting from a compressed set of fixtures.
The Toffees have seen Mason Holgate, Jarrad Branthwaite, Seamus Coleman, Allan, Andre Gomes, James Rodriguez and now Digne suffer injuries and miss game-time so far in this campaign.
To be fair it’s not just a problem for Everton, but as so often seems to be the case, the Toffees do have what appears to be more than their fair share of these issues.
Now with Digne out, manager Carlo Ancelotti has neither first-choice full-back fit with Coleman still not certain to play on Saturday as he continues to recover from his problem. So now he will have to reshuffle his team again to cope.
The Frenchman’s absence is very significant because his attacking influence and experience is so important to the way the Toffees play.
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Last weekend was a perfect example of that, as he contributed two excellent crosses that produced goals for Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Digne’s performance against Fulham indicated that he might flourish even more in the new formation that Ancelotti used in that game with two wing-backs giving him more attacking freedom. Again his absence might make the manager think again about continuing with it.
This news will also impact on Richarlison as his ability to cut inside and link up with Calvert-Lewin, is at least in part supported by the excellence of the overlapping Digne.
His injury also exposes the fact Everton no longer have the experience of Leighton Baines to call on. So now the question is who will step in to replace him.
The obvious and it seems only choice, is Niels Nkounkou. The teenager has impressed in the Carabao Cup games this season where his pace, skill, strength and the quality of the balls he put in from the wing, were notable.
Nkounkou lacks experience of course and this next few weeks are going to be a big test of the youngsters’ mental strength as well as his talent.
The former Marseille player has had only a little time in the first-team this season without making a huge impression, but now he will have to show he can step up. Let’s hope that he can as results in this next four to five crucial weeks could determine the outcome of the Toffees season.