Abdoulaye Doucoure was the unfortunate victim of Carlo Ancelotti’s tactics in Everton’s draw with Burnley on Saturday.
The Italian coach persisted with a three-man defence for the Toffees’ trip to Turf Moor, a similar set-up to the one he used when Everton lost 1-0 at home to Leeds United a week ago, with Ancelotti seemingly feeling the pressure to field three central defenders as he is without first-choice full-backs Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman.
Doucoure opened the action alongside Allan in the core of Everton’s engine room in both fixtures as he stretched his run of 11-straight Premier League starts in Royal Blue, having yet to be benched since joining in a £20million summer deal.
Ancelotti lauded Doucoure following the midfielder’s arrival on Merseyside from Watford, feeling the 27-year-old would add dynamism to a unit he considered a major flaw in the side he adopted last December.
“Abdoulaye is a fantastic midfielder, a complete midfielder,” said Ancelotti, via quotes by FourFourTwo. “He can defend well. He is a box-to-box midfielder. He can bring energy to the club and a different quality.
“We don’t have midfielders with his kinds of characteristics. We have midfielders with quality and midfielders who are tactically good. He is a player with strong character and he uses that in games. These are the reasons he is a good signing for us. He is going to improve the quality of our squad.”
But Ancelotti let Doucoure down on Saturday, as his decision to persist with a 3-4-3 saw the Frenchman struggle to establish himself in a positive light, and even an early tactical change failed to prevent the former France U21 international from being replaced by Gylfi Sigurdsson as Everton chased a go-ahead goal.
It was only the fourth time since his arrival at Goodison Park that Ancelotti sought to replace Doucoure prior to the full-time whistle, feeling the need to inject an attack-minded focus despite the Frenchman providing as many key passes (2) as James Rodriguez, per WhoScored.
Only Richarlison offered a higher level of creativity among both sides at Turf Moor with three key balls, yet Ancelotti’s decision to partner Doucoure only with Allan saw the former Hornets ace labour until an early change of shape.
Doucoure registered fewer touches (22) than all of Everton’s starting defender,s plus wide men Fabian Delph and Alex Iwobi, before a change to a 4-3-3, with his total time on the ball also the same as goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
A change in the system helped Doucoure take more control of proceedings, yet he could still only attempt two dribbles, of which he was successful with one.
His ability to spread play wide helped Everton to create chances that on another day could have moved the Blues into the lead, yet Burnley’s relentless pressure backed the 27-year-old deep into his own territory and forced him to make two clearances, three and tackles, whilst he was dribbled past twice.
Ancelotti will surely need to start with additional support around the core of the field next time out if he is to claim only a second win in eight when Everton host Chelsea, or risk seeing another laboursome display from his “complete” player.