Preston North End boss Alex Neil has fired Carlo Ancelotti a huge warning over Anthony Gordon after revealing why the Everton loanee did not face Middlesbrough on Tuesday night.
The Lilywhites travelled to the Riverside Stadium for a midweek clash but returned to Deepdale without any points to show for their efforts, after an own goal from Jordan Storey and strike from Marcus Tavernier saw Neil Warnock’s Boro triumph.
Gordon had been a regular member of Neil’s plans since joining the Championship side on loan for the remainder of the season during the winter transfer market, but played no part in the defeat for only his second non-appearance in 10 games for the club.
Preston supporters were at a loss as to why Gordon was not fielded in the starting line-up on Tuesday and later not given any minutes from the bench, despite their side later being reduced to 10 men following a red card for Alan Browne.
Neil has since explained why Gordon was overlooked against Middlesbrough, in a potentially huge warning for Ancelotti and the winger’s hopes of establishing himself back at Everton next season.
“It’s different being a fan and being a manager, because my job is to try and put the team out to try and win the game,” Neil explained, via quotes by Lancs Live. “Fans want to see exciting players and I understand that, so that’s not lost on me.
“But my job at the moment, certainly with the difficult run we’re on, is to try and get some points and listen – the one thing I can assure everybody and Anthony, because I speak to him regularly, is that if I think he is the best option for a game coming up, I’ve got no reservations whatsoever of putting him in.
“The thing is with Anthony is that he wants to take touches, and against Middlesbrough, they want to lock you in, so you need to limit your touches – certainly if you’re high up the pitch. That’s why I put three runners behind Ched [Evans], so it [the ball] goes up, sticks, gets set back and then guys run.”
Gordon had been noted to have offered a positive impact from the bench in Preston’s prior 1-0 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers last Saturday, but has now not started a fixture under Neil in four possible games and remains without a goal or an assist.
Neil’s reasoning behind overlooking Gordon against Middlesbrough on Tuesday should act as a warning for Ancelotti, and raise concerns back at Everton of what sort of impact the £4.5m-rated forward will be able to offer the European football hopefuls next season.
The Preston boss clearly feels Gordon still has some room to develop before he is consistently making the correct decisions in the final-third, which in turn is likely helping toward his wait for a first contribution to the scoring with the Championship side.
Yet Gordon has shown over his outings for the Lilywhites that he can be a productive member of Neil’s attacking options, even if the chances have not yet been converted, and it is surely only a matter of time before the Liverpool-born talent is influencing games.
Despite taking just 25.9 touches per Championship game over his eight appearances to date, Gordon has offered on average 0.9 shots and created one goalscoring opportunity, including two big chances and missing one clear cut opening, per SofaScore.
Richarlison offers Everton 40.5 touches per Premier League game over his 24 outings so far, for comparison, which have seen the Brazilian produce on average 1.7 shots and 0.6 key passes for six goals and three assists, along with creating three big chances and missing six.
The 23-year-old plays on average 83 minutes a game, while Gordon only registers 49 having made half of his appearances from the bench, to show that the Toffees product is establishing a solid baseline to build on over the final quarter of the second-tier season. However, if he’s not trusted to play in a big Championship clash, then maybe he isn’t close to being ready for the Premier League just yet.