Everton secured their first win in nine games on Monday night, seeing off Arsenal 2-1 in the Premier League, but it wasn’t a completely harmonious affair.
Before the game, there was a shock as first-choice left-back Lucas Digne didn’t appear in the matchday squad, with Rafa Benitez refusing to give a clear reason behind his absence.
However, it’s now become apparent that the 28-year-old and his new manager had a falling out before the fixture against the Gunners, leading to him being dropped in place of Ben Godfrey.
That’s according to The Athletic’s Everton reporter Patrick Boyland, who provided a concerning update on the intriguing situation.
He tweeted: “Understand Lucas Digne was available to play against Arsenal. #EFC full back left out after disagreement with Benitez.”
News that Digne and Benitez have had a major disagreement will leave the Everton fans fuming, giving the left-back’s importance to the first-team squad.
The France international has been one of the Merseyside outfit’s standout performers since his arrival from Barcelona back in August 2018, scoring six goals and providing 20 assists in 127 appearances.
And although he’s failed to have a huge impact in the final third of the pitch this season, he’s still averaged 1.2 crosses in his 13 top-flight outings, 1.7 key passes and 2.5 tackles, placing him second compared to his teammates for each metric, as per WhoScored.
Boyland went into further detail regarding the full-backs absence in his report, stating that he was not injured or unavailable, but was omitted “after his already fractious relationship with Benitez took another turn for the worse.”
It’s claimed that the creative talent has been growing ever frustrated with his more defensive role in Benitez’s setup, feeling his new responsibilities limit his ability to influence games, and being taken off set-pieces was another significant blow.
This latest revelation is bound to infuriate Everton’s weary fanbase even further, and they’ll be hoping a compromise can be reached between their manager and one of their most important players.
After all, they have already lost one key creative influence this year in the shape of James Rodriguez; they cannot afford to see another crucial cog in the wheel walk through the exit door.