Everton midfielder Andre Gomes must step up for Carlo Ancelotti amid Abdoulaye Doucoure being ruled out for eight to 10 weeks with a fractured foot.
Ancelotti confirmed that the 28-year-old could miss the remainder of the season ahead of last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Burnley, but hopes to have his summer signing back at some stage.
Only centre-back Michael Keane has started as many top-flight fixtures for Everton this term as Doucoure, whose 2,137 minutes of action sees the 28-year-old rank third, also behind 14-goal top scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Former Leeds United forward Noel Whelan believes the loss of Doucoure will come as a big blow amid Everton’s push for a European qualifying berth, and has challenged Gomes and Allan to step up to ensure his absence is not overly consequential.
“They bought a player for £20m, which for him was cheap, and he has become an integral engine in that midfield,” he told Football Insider of Doucoure.
“The way he gets up and down, he challenges, he’s got great physicality and he gets into the box as well.
“Defensively, he’s huge. That allows [James] Rodriguez and Richarlison and your other flair players to get forward knowing you’ve got that security behind you.
“With Allan and Gomes, that is a real formidable, aggressive three in there if you have those guys playing too. They are going to be crucial. But for Everton to lose a player of that stature, they are going to feel it.”
Doucoure has been one of Everton’s top performers this season, as illustrated by performance metrics from WhoScored. He has earned frequent praise from Ancelotti for his efforts, and will leave the Italian tactician with a tough task to replace what he brought to the engine room at Goodison Park.
“It was his best performance [for Everton],” the Toffees boss said following December’s 2-0 win at Leicester, via quotes by Royal Blue Mersey. “He was really intelligent defensively, he understood what to do and also with the ball he had some acceleration that were good for our counter-attacks.”
Ancelotti later described the powerful £75,000-per-week unit as a “really fantastic signing”, and will have to see Gomes step up from his previous efforts if the Portuguese maestro is to establish himself as the crucial cog Whelan expects of him.
Doucoure has averaged a greater defensive contribution for Everton this season than both Gomes and Allan in a number of areas, with the Frenchman offering 1.3 interceptions to his teammates’ respective 0.4 and 0.9, per WhoScored.
He also leads the trio for fewer fouls conceded (0.8 to 1.5 and 0.9), most clearances made (0.9 to 0.5 and 0.9) and the least times dribbled past (1 to 1.7 and 2.4). Allan ranks first in the group for successful tackles (3.1) to Doucoure (1.8) and Gomes (1.4), per WhoScored.
Doucoure is a powerful presence in supporting the attack, too, with a higher contribution than Gomes for goals scored (2 to 0), assists (3 to 1) plus average number of shots (0.6 to 0.5) and key passes (0.8 to 0.5) a game, per WhoScored.
Gomes may have found a home for himself in the midfield of late with five straight Premier League starts, but the 27-year-old has work to do if he is to now fill Doucoure’s void.