Carlo Ancelotti must unleash Andre Gomes in Everton’s FA Cup tie with Sheffield Wednesday to see if the Everton midfielder can fill the void of Abdoulaye Doucoure.
The Toffees are set to be without Doucoure for their crunch Premier League meeting with Leicester City on Wednesday night through suspension, after the £20m summer signing was issued his fifth yellow card of the season at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
An Everton victory over the Foxes will see the Goodison Park natives close the gap between themselves and Brendan Rodgers’ side to three points and they’d have two games in hand, as they battle for a place in the top-four and qualification for the Champions League.
Doucoure has played more often in the top-flight this term than any other member of Ancelotti’s squad, with the 28-year-old featuring for 1,452 of a possible 1,530 minutes after starting all 17 of their fixtures to date.
Gomes, in contrast, has fallen out of favour on Merseyside this season, with the former FC Barcelona maestro boasting only the 15th-highest total game time by an Everton player after accumulating just 573 minutes of action over 12 outings, of which he’s started five.
The last of Gomes’ Premier League starts came in November’s 2-1 loss to Newcastle United when Ancelotti sought to find a new role for him, with the £18m-rated man fielded in an advanced role in behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin before being hauled off on the hour mark.
He has struggled to impress when given the chance in the cup competitions too, with Darren Bent claiming Gomes was exposed for his lack of pace and physicality against Manchester United as Everton lost 2-0 in the Carabao Cup quarter-final.
“Gomes, on the ball, is kind of your Rolls Royce footballer that gets on it, links play, not scared to take the ball in tight areas and different scenarios. I was disappointed in Gomes because he’s a wonderful footballer,” he told Football Insider.
“There are times when the opposition’s midfield are quite quick, they’re dynamic, they get about, I think that’s where Gomes lacks real legs in the middle of the park.”
Gomes again was questioned for his performance when fielded from the start against Rotherham United in the FA Cup third round win earlier this month, with the Liverpool Echo claiming his passing was often sloppy and that his poor tackling should have been punished.
Doucoure’s absence against Leicester will be a big miss for Ancelotti, with Bent further lauding the Frenchman as a “top, top player” who “there isn’t anyone like” at Everton as he brings a powerful presence to the engine room.
That presence has also returned among the highest number of progressive passes at Goodison Park this term (39), with only James Rodriguez (82) recording a significantly higher total of passes that moved play closer to the opponent’s goal in Premier League fixtures, per FBref.
Doucoure also stands strong at the other end of the pitch to make a higher number of tackles (19) in the defensive third and the second-most pressures (298) by a Blues player. Gomes, on the other hand, has offered just one more tackle in the defensive third than attacker Alex Iwobi (8) and pressures opponents (127) as frequently as Rodriguez (122).
Gomes will have big shoes to fill against Leicester if he’s the one selected, thus he must be unleashed against Sheffield Wednesday to shake off any cobwebs against a side sitting second-bottom of the Championship. Otherwise, Ancelotti will be throwing him in straight at the deep end on Wednesday.
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