This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Central midfield certainly wasn’t an area of worry for Everton this summer following the transfer business they conducted.
The signings of Andre Gomes, Fabian Delph and Jean-Philippe Gbamin added to a position which already included the likes of Tom Davies and Morgan Schneiderlin, and looked to be one of their strongest in terms of depth.
However, that has fallen apart in recent weeks leaving them short ahead of hosting Watford at Goodison Park on Saturday.
With Delph unavailable for the opening day trip to Crystal Palace after picking up a groin injury during pre-season, and with Gbamin not yet deemed match fit, Marco Silva decided to use a double pivot of Gomes and Schneiderlin against the Eagles.
However, the Portuguese manager ended the game not being able to select either for their following Premier League fixture against the Hornets, with the former suffering an ankle injury that forced him off just before half-time, and the latter being sent off for two bookable offences.
While there has been no official confirmation of Gomes’ injury and how long he will be out for, it seems almost certain that he will miss out at Goodison following an ankle scan this week, and Schneiderlin is suspended.
Delph has returned to training this week but it remains to be seen whether he will be 100% ready to start or risked against Javi Gracia’s men.
That leaves Silva with a choice of using Gbamin – who looked visibly rusty when he came on in south London – and Davies in a pivot, although he could choose to switch formations and potentially use Alex Iwobi or Gylfi Sigurdsson in a slightly deeper role, too.
It may well be expected that the summer signing from Mainz is the man to step up and replace Gomes in his absence, but they just aren’t a similar type of player.
As the Liverpool Echo pointed out this week, the Portugal international may well be bigger and heavier than the Ivorian, but he is weaker when it comes to defensive duels.
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If anyone thinks that he can be a like-for-like replacement for Gomes, who has drawn praise from Kevin Kilbane previously for how he dictated the play, they are likely going to be disappointed.
That brings us on to Davies, who is still yet to really make his mark for the Toffees despite making 90 appearances in all competitions for them, as per Transfermarkt.
He was only on the pitch for 11 minutes last weekend, but he had a passing accuracy of 85.7% to show his capabilities on the ball.
He does have previous of threading the sort of through-balls that Bernard and Richarlison will be crying out for – as he did for Kevin Mirallas against Manchester City back in 2017 – but it simply doesn’t happen enough.
The 21-year-old may not be the guaranteed answer to Silva’s issue this weekend, but it is about time he stood up and took his opportunity to stamp his authority on a game and dictate a lot of play going forward like Gomes often does, with Gbamin staying deep.
Everton will be hoping he takes that chance if he gets the nod.