Despite his standout performance and two goals in Monday night’s 5-1 demolition of Brighton, Everton midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure might still leave Merseyside this summer.
After being frozen out by Frank Lampard in the last few months of his rein, the Mali international has been rehabilitated and become instramental in Sean Dyche’s team since he took over as manager at the end of January.
Alongside Idrissa Gueye and Amadou Onana, he made up an energetic and athletic central midfield three that helped Everton have much more control in the centre of the pitch and provided better protection for the erratic and leaky defence.
In addition, playing in a three, the ex-Watford player was able to get forward a lot more, which maximises his qualities, and this provided some further attacking threat and goals, something a desperately anemic attack really needed.
And so when Dyche was forced to do without the 30-year-old for three games after his sending off against Tottenham, it hugely impacted the team forcing the Blues’ boss into changes that undermined the previously effective tactics he had used.
The Toffees’ suffered badly for it and without Docoure in particular, succumbed to damaging defeats against Manchester United and Fulham at home.
Doucoure’s absence was compounded by Dyche’s decisions to change his team and formation and this combination had it seemed, perhaps fatally undermined the chances of Everton surviving relegation.
That looked particularly true after the Newcastle United match (which followed a lacklustre 0-0 at Crystal Palace) when the Blues’ fell to a humiliating 4-1 home loss that seemed to me might well have cooked their goose.
Although he had returned for that game, Doucoure was out of sorts and didn’t produce anything like his best against the Magpies.
Then came a match away at Leicester City that while it ended up as a 2-2 draw, could and should have been won by the Toffees’.
Now, after his man-of-the-match level efforts at the Amex Stadium, Doucoure looks to be back to his barnstorming best, just in time for the critical last few weeks of the season.
Given all that, it does seem a no-brainer for the club to activate the additional year that he has on his contract starting this summer. So far though, nothing has happened.
Doucoure has said he would be very open to potentially staying at Goodison Park for next season at least.
So, it seems to me the club need to get this situation sorted quickly as replacing Doucoure, especially if Onana moves on, would be a big ask given the severe financial limitations Everton are working with.