Andre Gomes has been met with a huge hurdle to impress Carlo Ancelotti and regain his place in the Everton line-up after a lacklustre cameo at Leicester City on Wednesday night.
The Portuguese midfielder has not started a Premier League fixture since the Toffees were beaten 2-1 at Newcastle United at the start of November, with Ancelotti only feeling fit to field Gomes from the bench in four fixtures over the weeks since.
Gomes had been one of Ancelotti’s first names on the teamsheet when the campaign begun, yet struggled to prove himself on the field and has done little to force the Italian to rethink his plans.
The former FC Barcelona talent revealed last month that he was still feeling the effects of the fractured dislocation to his right ankle sustained against Tottenham more than a year ago, with fitness a key concern.
“The truth is, I am still trying to find my best feeling, to get fit, to get ready to be 100 per cent for all the game,” the 27-year-old said, via quotes by the Liverpool Echo.
“In the past months, with the pandemic, it was hard for me physically. A lot of details can change, my body shape or how fit I feel. When we came back after the first lockdown, I had a really small injury in one place, then something else in another place, because I was trying to compensate coming from the big injury.
“I was trying to get fit and regain power. We had a small pre-season before nine games in two months. Then we had a short break and another small pre-season, when I needed minutes.
“It would have been perfect for me to have all that time to recover and prepare in a normal way. Now, I am working to get as fit as I can and trying to feel better, trying to be confident when we are playing. But, more than anything else, I am trying to improve physically.”
Gomes was given a chance to show himself in a better light at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday night when Ancelotti called on him to replace Allan after losing the Brazilian to a hamstring injury late in the first half.
But the £18million-rated maestro failed to deliver and continues to be met with a huge hurdle to regain a place in the starting line-up, after appearing well off the pace against Leicester in a game his best contribution was in fouling Harvey Barnes to prevent a dangerous counter-attack.
The one-time La Liga winner only came out on top in five of his 10 ground duels in the East Midlands, lost possession 11 times, committed two fouls, was dribbled past once and failed to record any of his 35 touches inside the final-third, per SofaScore.
His only defensive contribution came through two successful tackles, while failing to push forward ensured Gomes ended the night without a shot or key pass beside his name despite boasting a 100% dribble success rate.
Ancelotti may be fearing for the loss of Allan and questioning who can step up when Everton host Arsenal on Saturday, but it would take a Christmas miracle for Gomes to saunter back into the line-up anytime soon.
AND in other news, Everton enter a four-way battle to sign a gritty 21-goal marksman in January.