Everton midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure has said he will not be going to the African Cup of Nations to represent Mali in what will be a boost for Sean Dyche.
Doucoure has just signed a new contract and now he is ruling himself out of playing for the country he recently switched allegiance to, when the tournament begins.
This will be a boost for Everton and Dyche as losing the 30-year-old player in a few weeks time, would have further weakened the manager’s already threadbare squad.
That lack of depth and options, the result of a summer of player sales, was exposed again at the weekend, when the Blues were frustrated by Brighton as they failed in the end to hold onto a slender one goal lead.
As the Toffees tired, it would have been a perfect opportunity to bring on players who could have helped the home side either hold onto the lead or perhaps grab a second and secure the points.
Such a situation could well come back to hurt Everton as the Premier League campaign continues over the next few weeks and months.
Key players need to stay fit and healthy or else this Blues side is in real trouble. I’m thinking particularly individuals like Jordan Pickford, Jarrad Branthwaite, James Tarkowski and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Would Doucoure possibly be considered one of those too?
Arguably yes, because he has become a key part of Dyche’s tactics and formation since he became manager at the end of January.
Doucoure has become a sort of second striker operating behind Calvert-Lewin (or whoever else is playing up front) in a number ten type role.
In that position he bagged some important goals at the back end of last season, including the winner against Bournemouth on the final day to keep Everton up.
This has proved largely effective although at home as I think we saw again on Saturday, the Toffees are inhibited when they play with what is essentially a defensive counter-attacking system.
The Mali international didn’t score on Saturday, but after penning a new deal he will continue to be a key individual for Dyche going forward.