Carlo Ancelotti must find the perfect role for Tom Davies to occupy in Everton’s midfield, as Allan looks to make his return from injury against Southampton on Monday night.
The Toffees’ £21m summer signing from Serie A side SSC Napoli featured as an unused substitute of last Saturday’s Merseyside derby win at Liverpool, having only returned to the bench for his side’s trip to Anfield.
Allan has not played a single second of Premier League action since December 16 when the Blues beat Leicester City, having limped off the King Power Stadium pitch with a hamstring strain late in the first half.
Ancelotti confirmed ahead of the Merseyside derby that Allan has fully overcome his issue and is now fit to start once the Italian tactician chooses to, but left the Brazilian on the bench with Davies starting alongside Andre Gomes and Abdoulaye Doucoure instead.
Neither Gomes nor Doucoure left the red side of Stanley Park on the back of a top-draw performance, with the Portuguese maestro often a red card waiting to happen before his withdrawal and the ex-Watford dynamo frequently wasteful in possession.
Yet Allan would not be a direct replacement for either in Ancelotti’s currently favoured systems but rather for Davies, with the Toffees product occupying the holding role in his side’s last four Premier League fixtures after earning a reprieve at the start of the month.
Davies has performed remarkably well since returning to the line-up at Manchester United on February 6, after Ancelotti instructed the £14.5m-rated ace to simplify his game.
“The only thing I said to him is to simplify his work and his style of play,” the Italian said, via quotes by the Liverpool Echo. “He plays in a position where, tactically, you have to be really focused.
“Watching the game against United, I think tactically he was perfect. With the ball, he has maybe not the quality of a top midfielder but in that position, we need to play simple passes, you don’t need to over-complicate.”
Those changes were again clear against Liverpool, with Yannick Bolasie noting on Twitter: “Loving how simple Tom’s making the game look.” Ex-Reds midfielder David Thompson also described his performance as: “Here’s a phrase I never thought possible, Tom Davies and brilliant in the same sentence.”
But Davies’ re-emergence as a first-team regular at Goodison Park with fantastic energy, composure and a willingness to get stuck could now be put to the test with Allan returning to the core of Everton’s midfield.
On the left of a midfield three, likes Gomes occupied at Anfield, Davies will have to replicate his perfectly weighted through ball to Dominic Calvert-Lewin at the start of the second half against Manchester United that started Everton’s comeback, and the drive to push the Blues up the field on a much more regular basis.
Just being gritty and snatching back possession will not be enough for Davies to stake his claim to a starting role outside of the holding position, with the 22-year-old offering just 0.1 key passes a game in the Premier League this term, per WhoScored.
His creative record sits alongside centre-back Yerry Mina and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, while some way behind Gomes (0.4), Allan (0.6) and Doucoure (0.8). Davies rarely shoots, either, with just 0.1 shots a game – the lowest average of any outfield Blues player who has featured for more than 100 minutes to date.
If Davies cannot find that added touch, it may be hard for Ancelotti to find the perfect role for the midfielder to occupy in a fully-fit Everton squad.