Alex Iwobi injury could change Everton’s January transfer business in four ways

Frank Lampard has decisions to make with Alex Iwobi ruled out of games against Southampton and West Ham United.

As Alex Iwobi lay on the Old Trafford turf in agony, Frank Lampard and the Everton fans watching on feared the worst.

After being challenged by Tyrell Malacia in Friday night’s FA Cup third-round defeat to Manchester United, it soon became apparent that the Toffees midfielder had suffered a serious issue.

Not only was Iwobi forced off, but he required a stretcher to do so. That is never a good sight - and heightened woes that the Nigeria international was set for a prolonged period on the sidelines.

Indeed, Iwobi will be confined to the treatment table - but only for three weeks. He’s suffered ankle ligament damage but his problem is not as bad as many initially thought. Most would have taken a 21-day absence had they been offered it at that time. It could have been a lot worse but, instead, Iwobi will miss only two games - albeit against relegation rivals Southampton and West Ham United.

Still, it’s a hammer blow to lose a player who’s made boundless improvements during Lampard’s tenure. And now the Everton boss will be mulling over what the best solution is while Iwobi is unavailable. Sitting 18th in the Premier League table, it’s paramount the correct decisions are made in his absence. It could be the difference between staying in the top flight or suffering the drop come May.

It’s not just Iwobi who is absent for the rest of the month, either. James Garner is not scheduled back until February as the summer signing from Manchester United struggles with a back issue.

That leaves Lampard’s current engine-room options depleted. And that could well impact Everton’s January transfer business in more than one way.

Certainly, Abdoulaye Doucoure’s future may well change. The midfielder has proven a frustrating figure since arriving for £20 million from Watford in September 2020. Doucoure’s shown his ability, particularly at the start of last season, but has struggled for consistency. This campaign, Doucoure has made 10 Premier League appearances but just two have been from the outset.

The Mali international is out of contract in the summer, although the Toffees hold the option of an additional year. In truth, it’s difficult to see that clause being activated as things stand. Doucoure has been linked with a potential Goodison Park exit this month. Premier League rivals Fulham and Nottingham Forest are said to be keen, while there is reported interest from the Middle East and Turkey.

In truth, a permanent exit for Doucoure may have been discussed. Fetching a fee for a player who’s into the final few months of his deal rather than him leaving for free is prudent. But a potential exit for Doucoure has now likely been put paid to until Iwobi is out of the physio room. What’s more, his performance off the bench against United offered some hope he could have a part to play in the relegation battle.

Tom Davies, linked with a switch to Rangers, could be in a similar position. The academy product has made nine top-flight outings this term but hasn’t started since the 0-0 draw against Liverpool on 3 September.

Perhaps even a loan exit for Isaac Price could quite possibly be shelved. The 19-year-old is highly regarded by Lampard and under-21s head coach Paul Tait has admitted several youngsters could leave to get senior experience this month. Price has bagged four goals for the young Blues this season and came off the bench in the 4-1 loss to Brighton.

More intriguing is whether Lampard’s recruitment plans change tack. Everton covet additional firepower, having registered just 14 goals in 18 matches. Iwobi has scored only once but has recorded an impressive six assists. In essence, the Blues have lost their most creative player.

Lampard now has to ponder whether he brings in a new attack-minded midfielder or sit tight for Iwobi to get back to fitness.

Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gana Gueye will be missing their regular midfield partner against Southampton this weekend. How the void of Iwobi is replaced will be at the forefront of Lampard’s thinking ahead of the clash.