How long will Abdoulaye Doucoure be injured for, what happened and who’ll replace the Everton midfielder?
Rafa Benitez needs to find the right solution to fill the void of the all-action midfielder.
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Everton have been handed a hammer blow as Abdoulaye Doucoure faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
The midfielder has suffered a stress response in his foot.
Rafa Benitez will be devastated to lose Doucoure, who has arguably been the Toffees' player of the season so far this term.
He's thrived since the Spaniard took charge at Goodison Park. Doucoure's been given more of a free role alongside Allan in the middle of the park, registering two goals and four assists in nine matches.
How long will he be sidelined for?
Everton have confirmed that Doucoure suffered the problem in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to West Ham.
A club statement said: “The French midfielder is being assessed by the club’s medical team at USM Finch Farm and is undergoing further investigation to determine the full extent of the injury.
“Contrary to reports, Doucoure will not require an operation.”
It is thought that Doucoure will be absent for around 5-7 weeks.
Benitez now has to find a replacement for Doucoure. He has several options he could turn to.
The likeliest replacement
As things stand, Tom Davies is the player who'll likely come into the starting line-up.
The academy graduate was linked with a move away from his boyhood club in the summer but remained to fight for his place.
Davies has struggled for minutes so far this season, though. He's played only five times, with his two starting appearances in the Carabao Cup.
However, he's the only Everton midfielder who has remained fit outside of Doucoure and Allan this term.
Davies does see himself as a box-to-box midfielder and is the closest like-for-like replacement for Doucoure.
The 23-year-old came in for criticism in the 1-1 draw at Manchester United when he opted to pass to an offside Yerry Mina rather than shooting late in the game.
However, Davies could now be presented with the opportunity to prove any detractors wrong.
Gbamin to finally step up
Jean-Philippe Gbamin's time at Goodison has been nothing short of a disaster to date.
Since arriving from Mainz for £25 million in 2019, he had made just five appearances because of various injuries.
Gbamin is back from his latest injury and has been on the bench for the past two games.
He’s a defensive midfielder who was known for his ball-winning ability and tenacity when in the Bundesliga.
There's the possibility to play him in Allan's current role and allow the Brazilian to take up the mantle of Doucoure.
Granted, Allan might not have the dynamism as his regular engine-room partner but allowing him to press higher up the pitch gives Everton the chance to win the ball in more dangerous areas.
A change of system
Benitez has primarily played a 4-4-2 formation this season.
However, with Doucoure sidelined, the Everton boss could be tempted to switch to a 4-2-3-1 system.
Allan and Davies or Gbamin could operate as the double pivot and a more natural attacker would then take up the number-10 role.
The most obvious candidate for that role would be Richarlison, who is closing in on his return to full fitness.
Salomon Rondon has struggled so far leading the line but having Richarlison in the hole behind making runs beyond the opposition defence could spark the striker into life.
What about Gomes and Delph?
Andre Gomes and Fabian Delph both remained sidelined with respective calf and shoulder injuries.
It means they're out of the question at the moment.
Are there any youngsters who could play?
Tyler Onyango would have been a contender to thrust himself into the first-team mix, having made his debut as a 17-year-old against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup last season.
The England youth international is highly regarded but he has recently recovered from a long-term injury of his own.
Onyango made his playing return to action for the under-23s in a 4-2 victory over Leeds on Monday night and the Blues will want to be patient to ensure he doesn't break down again.
Isaac Price, who is an England and Northern Ireland youth international, was on the bench for first-team games against Brighton and Tottenham last season.