Lucas Digne: How will Everton cope without mercurial left-back?
Everton saw their unbeaten start to the campaign come to an end on Sunday, with goals from James Ward-Prowse and Ché Adams giving Southampton a 2-0 win, while Lucas Digne was also shown a red card to compound the Merseysiders’ woes.
This means that barring any retroactive inquest, the left-back is set to miss Everton’s upcoming Premier League fixtures against Newcastle and Manchester United, and Fulham, which is hardly ideal, considering his importance to the team’s cause.
The Toffees were without Richarlison – who got a red card in the Merseyside derby – for the clash with Southampton and the Brazil international will also sit out the fixture at St James’ Park and and Goodison Park.
Everton have been one of the most impressive sides in the Premier League this season and they were among a handful of unfancied sides who were punching above their weight to achieve unexpected results across Europe.
They went into the clash at St Mary’s Stadium as the only unbeaten team in the EPL and their early-season form led many to suggest that they could be among the outsiders to win a first Premier League title.
However, Carlo Ancelotti’s side lost the plot and were totally outplayed and did not look anything like the confident side that had conquered all before them.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin was looking to equal Sergio Aguero’s record of scoring in the first six matches of a season but he was on the peripheries throughout the game and did not muster a single shot on target for the entire 90 minutes.
Behind him, the in-form James Rodriguez toiled in vain, while the midfield combination of Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu were effective and outplayed Gylfi Sigurdsson and Allan through the middle.
Although Everton still top the standings, their place at the summit is less assured and their job has been made much harder by the absence of Lucas Digne.
Lucas Digne: The Barcelona flop who rediscovered himself at Goodison Park
After impressing at Roma, Barcelona made the decision to sign Lucas Digne in the summer of 2016 but the France international spent just two years at Camp Nou, as he struggled for confidence and form, leading to his sale in 2018.
His spell at Barcelona is widely regarded as a disappointment but Digne rose from that to play the best football of his carer at Everton.
The former PSG man has shone like a million stars in the Premier League and a case can be made to consider him among the best left-backs in England.
His bursting runs forward and excellent delivery are essential to Everton’s attacking arsenal, while he also poses a threat from set-pieces.
This season, the 27-year-old already has two assists from six league matches and it was his excellent cross that got Calvert-Lewin off the mark in Everton’s opening-day victory over Tottenham.
How will Everton fit without Lucas?
The full-back combination of Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne is arguably second to only that of Robertson and Alexander Arnoldat Liverpool and having already lost Coleman to a hamstring injury in the Merseyside derby, Ancelotti will also now have to make do without his first-choice left-back.
This is a far from ideal situation for the Italian gaffer and he would have to find creative ways to fill the considerable void left by the former Barcelona man.
The only other specialist left-back in the first-team is Niels Nkounkou, while Fabian Delph has also been deployed in the position in the past.
However, Nkounkou is a 19-year-old inexperienced youngster, while the former Manchester City midfielder has played just once since February.
Ancelotti reacted to Coleman’s injury by playing new signing Ben Godfrey at right-back but the former Norwich City man is a center-back by trade and he looked horribly out-of-sorts in the unfamiliar position.
The result of this is that Everton came up short in one of their main attacking channels, which is set to be compounded by the loss of Lucas Digne, while James Rodriguez – who was a pre-match doubt – also showed signs of discomfort towards the end of the game with Southampton.
Calvert-Lewin’s main strength lies in his aerial ability but the absences of Digne and Coleman would limit his chances of getting precise crosses into the box.
A major concern about Everton’s top four push has also been their inadequate squad depth and the absences of their two first-choice full-backs as well as a key forward is about to lay this problem bare.
It is not all doom and gloom, however, and Carlo Ancelotti could well find a way to balance his squad despite the losses – that’s what great coaches do – but it cannot be denied that the suspension of Lucas Digne for two matches could have a serious impact on the club’s ambitions in the coming weeks.
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