Carlo Ancelotti has today been quoted saying that left-back Lucas Digne is ready to put pen to paper next week on a new contract to extend his current deal and keep him at Everton.
This is big news for Everton as Digne has established himself pver the past three seasons as perhaps the best all-round full-back in the Premier League.
He’s also a critical source of attacking creativity and has more assists since he joinied the Toffees than any other full-back in the Premier League, apart from the two Liverpool players Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Digne has been the club’s leading creator of goals the past two seasons and is once again the Blues leader in assists so far this campaign.
The Frenchman has become a firm fan favourite with his consistently excellent performances and his signing a new contract will certainly be greeted with virtually universal approval.
This season Digne has had a spell out with injury and his absence was keenly felt by the team especially when James Rodriguez was also unavilable.
Although Digne has been outstanding since he first joinied from Barcelona, recently it’s become more evident Everton will struggle to play two attacking full-backs and when he and Seamus Coleman are both in the team using the 4-3-3 formation that Ancelotti first employed.
This was becasue both were bombing on and leaving space behind them and Rodriguez in particular was not able to cover and plug that gap on the right behind Coleman.
As we’ve said and as everyone knows, the Colombian wasn’t bought to be a defensive midfielder! But it did leave the team very open and put further pressure on centre-backs Yerry Mina and Michael Keane who lack the out-and-out pace to cover the full-backs.
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This was not so much of a problem when Everton had Allan playing in midfield alongside Abdoulaye Doucoure. They were both able to track back cover the full-backs, especially Coleman and screen the defence.
With this and when the attack was scoring freely at the start of the season, the issue was masked to some extent although the Blues were letting in a lot of goals while winning games.
But after that great start the attack faltered following the first international break and with injuries as well, that defensive weakness was then much more exposed.
Since Ancelotti went with a new emergency back four out of neccesity becasue of the injuries to Digne and Coleman in December, it has proved very strong and consistent and enabled the Blues to get their season back on track after it had started to come undone in October and November.
Now both full-backs are back fit and ready to play he has returned to a more orthodox-looking defence. But that defence has been conceding goals again all too often as we saw in the last two matches against Manchester United and Spurs.
I think the Toffees can only play one of those two at the moment and that player would be Digne as Everton need to find a solid, consistent defensive base.
While the Frenchman is a good defender, his greatest asset is his creative flair and a position further upfield would perhaps get the most out of talents while ensuring that defence was strong enough behind him.