Everton’s fast start to the season may have been undermined by a string of injuries to key players, but there could yet be a significant silver lining to their recent fitness woes.
Midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure joined the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina on the sidelines after picking up a foot injury against West Ham United, leaving a sizeable gap in the Toffees’ engine room.
Rafael Benitez attempted to plug the gap in the centre of the pitch with Tom Davies and Allan last time out against Watford, but with disastrous consequences.
The industrious pair were unable to cope with the pace and physicality that every Premier League game now produces and were overrun in the midfield, heavily contributing to the 5-2 mauling that the Hornets handed out at Goodison Park.
However, Benitez may not have to search too long and hard to discover the solution to his latest managerial conundrum.
Academy starlet Tyler Onyango has caught the eye with a string of impressive performances in recent years, and the timing of Doucoure’s recent setback could hardly have come at a better time for the 18-year-old.
The former England under-17 international scored two goals and provided a further two assists in 17 Premier League 2 outings last season but suffered a serious injury of his own towards the end of the campaign, ruling him out for six months.
Onyango made a successful return to action in the under-23s’ game against Leeds United on 18 October – just a day after Doucoure picked up his foot problem – before featuring against Arsenal’s and Burnley’s youth sides respectively.
It has led to speculation that the box-to-box dynamo could make the leap to the first team over the coming weeks, with his playing style deemed most similar to that of the absent Doucoure.
The Athletic’s Everton reporter Patrick Boyland tweeted: “In Doucoure’s absence, Tyler Onyango was close to making the Everton squad on Saturday. The teenager has impressed since returning from injury & is seen by some as the natural successor to the Frenchman”.
It seems as though the talented teenager is making a strong case for his inclusion in Benitez’s matchday squad for the upcoming trip to Molineux on Monday night after some standout displays following his return to fitness.
“He looks sharp and has come back really well,” said under-23s coach Jose Baxter recently (as relayed by The Athletic).
“It shows his professionalism returning earlier than expected, right in at the deep end. He’s a great lad and a great professional. You’re seeing it now with his performances.”
Only time will tell if Benitez is brave enough to select Onyango from the off as the Toffees attempt to get back to winning ways on Monday night, but reports that the midfielder is so highly-rated and thriving once again will surely have Everton supporters buzzing with excitement, especially with Doucoure out of action.