Andre Gomes was Carlo Ancelotti’s true hero in Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw with Leicester City, as the Everton midfielder stepped up to fill the void left by Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Ancelotti was without his £20m summer signing from Watford with Doucoure suspended after being issued his fifth yellow card of the Premier League campaign at Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the month.
The Frenchman’s continually evolving relationship with Allan had helped to see Gomes forced out of the starting line-up, with his midweek appearance at Goodison Park marking the 29-cap Portugal international’s first top-flight start since November 1.
Gomes was given a run for his money at home to Leicester with the Foxes often dictating the pace of the game as Everton sat in deep to protect their initial one-goal lead, but stood up to the test only to be let down by Jordan Pickford.
Gomes’ efforts in the engine room beside Tom Davies played a key role in the Toffees’ staying ahead following James Rodriguez’s curling first-half opener, struck on his weaker right foot after Wesley Fofana’s unconvincing clearance fell into the Colombian’s path.
Yet another horror moment from Pickford would gift Leicester a draw, having only managed to push Youri Tielemans’ shot on to the post and into his net, despite getting both hands on the ball.
Everton were set to move up to fourth in the table with a win and with two games in hand on the Leicester in third, but ended the night seventh and will host Newcastle United on Saturday looking to claim what will only be a third home victory in eight league games.
Gomes had his work cut out stepping in to the fill the void of Doucoure in Ancelotti’s midfield, with the Frenchman an instrumental aspect of the Italian’s plans with only centre-half duo Michael Keane (64.2) and Yerry Mina (62.2) averaging a higher number of total passes (50.7) per game, per WhoScored, as they set the Blues up to play out from the back.
Doucoure also offers the third-most successful tackles (1.9) among those to have featured more than once for Ancelotti this term, and has the ability to give an outlet in attack after setting Everton up to break with the fifth-most shots (0.8) and sixth-most key balls (0.7).
Gomes may have been unable to match Doucoure’s offensive output against Leicester with the 27-year-old failing to create a single direct goal-scoring opportunity for himself or a teammate, yet he helped to stamp the Toffees’ style on the game with more successful dribbles (5) than any player for either side as he progressed the ball up the field.
His drive to bring play forward, rather than palm off possession, additionally saw Gomes cover the second-furthest distance with the ball at their feet by an Everton player at 174-yards, and with the most progressive carries (4) beyond the defensive 40% zone of the field to push Leicester back into their own territory, per FBref.
But it was defensively were Gomes flourished, with the £18m-rated ace recovering 14 loose balls – more than any player who featured – and with a game-high four tackles attempted and three won. He was also the only Everton player to win possession in the middle third of the pitch (2) and with three-times the number of pressures (9) as any of his teammates in the region, to thwart Brendan Rodgers’ side in many of their countless attacks.
It remains to be seen if his efforts are enough to earn a start in Saturday’s showdown with Newcastle, who won the reverse fixture 2-1, but Gomes’ performance will undoubtedly have given the former FC Barcelona midfielder confidence of a reprieve after months as nothing more than a back-up.