Defensively, Everton have faltered consistently this season, and after Lucas Digne’s departure to Aston Villa in January, the left-back area remains light, despite the signing of Vitaliy Mykolenko who hasn’t yet hit the ground running.
In fact, Jonjoe Kenny has started the last three matches in that position, and despite not entirely convincing fans and averaging a rating of SofaScore rating of a mere 6.5 in that time, it seems manager Frank Lampard trusts him the most there.
The new boss is well-known for giving a chance to his youth team prospects when he is in need of reinforcements through the season, but if he waits until the Summer, the return of Niels Nkounkou could solve his left-back dilemma.
The former France U19 international, who arrived at Goodison Park on a free transfer from Marseille in the summer of 2020, has been working hard on-loan at Standard Liege in the Belgian Pro League, and has made 18 appearances so far this campaign.
Despite averaging a fractionally better SofaScore rating than Kenny (6.67) so far since making the move, he has been dropped to the bench in recent weeks. However, the experience Nkounkou has gained from the spell will please Lampard, who himself has often utilised the loan market to develop talent.
His former teammate at the Ligue 1 club Jordan Amavi, who also played in the Premier League for a short while with Aston Villa, praised him last year, saying: “He has a lot of qualities, I find that he is a powerful player, technically he is quite comfortable.”
Like Digne, the left-back is a strong tackler who also loves to bomb forward and is comfortable on the ball, as well as being able to take a man on and deliver a cross. His 1.9 tackles and four duels won per game this term certainly supplements that.
Former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock suggested the 21-year-old even could have replaced the now Villa star last season, saying: “Niels Nkounkou is some player. A magnificent find. Bright future ahead and Digne has someone pushing him.”
Everton will be hoping their exciting talent continues to receive regular first-team football, as he could eventually save them millions in the transfer market by stepping up and becoming a regular senior player.