Everton face a tough dilemma over the coming weeks after key midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure was ruled out of action for over a month with a serious foot injury.
The Frenchman had been in fine form in the opening weeks of the campaign, bagging two goals and providing a further four assists in just eight Premier League appearances, and his enforced absence is a major blow for Rafa Benitez’s charges.
To make matters worse, though, both Andre Gomes and Fabian Delph are already sidelined with fitness issues of their own, leaving the Toffees extremely threadbare in the centre of the pitch.
As a result, Benitez may have to get creative while Doucoure is unavailable, meaning 18-year-old academy graduate Tyler Onyango could be in line for a first top-flight outing.
He made his first-team debut as a late substitute against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup last season, and immediately caught the eye, with the Liverpool ECHO’s Adam Jones lauding the youngster on the Royal Blue podcast.
“I’d say he fits into that box-to-box mould, if anything. I don’t think he really compares to many of the midfielders that Everton have got at the minute,” said Jones (as relayed by This is Futbol).
“I think he’s hugely energetic, he’s got a good amount of pace on him himself. He’s very physical for his age, but I think his ability on the ball is what sets him apart.”
And it appears as though Everton agree with Jones’ description, labelling Onyango as a “skilful, athletic midfielder” on their official website, going on to state that he also “reads the game well and boasts impressive stamina.”
The former England U17 international scored two goals and provided a further two assists in 17 Premier League 2 outings last season but suffered a serious ankle injury towards the end of the campaign, ruling him out for six months.
However, Onyango made a successful return to action in the U23s’ game against Leeds United on Monday evening, earning the praise of manager David Unsworth.
“He was great, he played really well,” Unsworth enthused. “He’s been training for a couple of weeks, and he got some minutes in a bounce game during the international break.
“Anything past 60-minutes tonight was a bonus, so to get 80-minutes from him is terrific, and I’m so glad to see him back. The physios have had nothing but praise for him for his work ethic, and he’s a great guy.”
The youngster’s return to full fitness has come just in time for Benitez, providing the Spanish tactician with another midfield option just when he needs it most.
It remains to be seen whether the Champions League-winning manager will put his trust in the rarely-seen teenager, but Onyango’s potential inclusion over the coming weeks could provide a silver lining to Everton’s latest injury blow.