Abdoulaye Doucoure endured a rapid decline in his performance level with a challenging display in Everton’s Boxing Day victory over Sheffield United.
The French box-to-box engine room monster offered plenty of energy beside Tom Davies as Carlo Ancelotti sought to maintain the Toffees’ push at the top of the Premier League table, with a 1-0 win at Bramall Lane enough to move up to second in the standings.
However, Doucoure failed to match his willingness to run with regular quality on the ball, as the £20m summer arrival often proved wasteful in possession and lacked his usual commanding presence.
Doucoure was widely lauded for his excellence in Everton’s win over Leicester City earlier this month, with the former Watford man stepping up to the task of covering Allan’s defensive duties at a sublime level after the Brazilian was forced off with a hamstring injury.
“What a performance. He was everywhere. He fully deserves Man of the Match, for me. It was intent from the very first moment. He was a little bit offensive in the first-half when Allan was on, but when Allan went off, he sort of went into a defensive role and started to dictate the play,” Micah Richards noted while speaking on Match of the Day.
“This is a position where a full-back goes out [on Everton’s left-hand side], but he’s not afraid to go out there and stop the danger. It was a great tackle [on Jamie Vardy].
“He’s a player I would love to have in front of me because you know he’s going to do all the dogged work. Look at his positioning. It’s intelligence as well. It’s not just making tackles. It’s being in the right position, at the right time.”
Doucoure was a shadow of himself from just 10 days prior at Bramall Lane on Boxing Day, with the 27-year-old losing possession 18 times, dribbled past twice, committing two fouls and failing to register a single successful tackle, per SofaScore.
Ancelotti could only see his summer signing snatch possession with two clearances against Sheffield United, with Doucoure further failing to record any interceptions as he lost six of eight ground duels and two of six aerial contests.
The midfielder’s sole bright spark from the night came in the form of a key pass when Doucoure played Gylfi Sigurdsson in to steal victory in the 80th-minute, marking the former France U21 international’s first assist since matchday four.
Doucoure never came close to doubling his goal tally for the term, either, with the powerful 6ft brute unable to strike a single shot at Aaron Ramsdale’s net whilst losing one of two attempted dribbles.
Ancelotti will hope to see Doucoure shrug off his slack display when Everton return to action at home to Manchester City on Monday, as fixtures come thick and fast with West Ham United bound for Goodison Park next Friday as well.