Does Everton’s Abdoulaye Doucoure deserve a France squad call-up and the five players he could replace

The midfielder has started the 2021-22 season in outstanding form and has desires to play for his country.

Abdoulaye Doucoure has started off the season in dazzling fashion.

The midfielder is thriving after being handed new Everton responsibilities under Rafa Benitez, with both reaping the dividends.

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The Toffees sit fifth in the table on 13 points, having won four of their opening six fixtures.

A key reason behind Everton's superb opening has been Doucoure.

Having been confined to a holding-midfield role under former manager Carlo Ancelotti, the £20 million signing from Watford has had his shackles removed since Benitez took the helm.

He's been given a licence to maraud forward more frequently and is rising to the Blues boss' challenge to score more goals.

Doucoure's man-of-the-match performance in Saturday's 2-0 win over Norwich was rewarded with a second Premier League goal of the season.

Already, he's matched his league tally of last term in 23 fewer appearances.

Abdoulaye Doucoure celebrates in front of the Park End after scoring Everton’s second goal against Norwich. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

That's a stat

Doucoure's statistics also back up what Evertonians already know.

According to WhoScored, the former Rennes powerhouse is the Blues' second-best performer this season. He has an average match rating of 7.33, which is only bettered by Dominic Calvert-Lewin (7.66).

It's not just compared to his Goodison Park team-mates that highlight he's a canny performer - but the rest of the top flight.

Wyscout rank Doucoure as the second-best central midfielder in the league so far this season.

Crystal Palace's on-loan Chelsea star Conor Gallagher comes out on top but Doucoure is ahead of Manchester City's Bernardo Silva, Leicester pair Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson among plenty of others.

National ambitions

So, given the high levels that Doucoure is performing at, could he expect a maiden call-up to the France squad for either the upcoming international break or following on in November?

He represented his country at youth level but has always found himself in the wilderness when it comes to the senior squad.

Didier Deschamp's side can have no excuses if they’re not aware of Doucoure.

Lucas Digne is a regular for Les Bleus and they'll be monitoring his progress closely. Surely, then, Doucoure must now have come on their radar if he already wasn't.

Everton defender Lucas Digne in action for France. Picture: FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

It's not like he doesn't want to play for Deschamps men, either. Last year, Doucoure reportedly snubbed the chance to represent Mali, who he's eligible to play for through his parents, due to his Les Belus desires.

With the 2022 World Cup around the corner, there’d be no better time to break into the fold.

Who is Doucoure battling for a place?

France will surely be looking to freshen things up after their underwhelming Euro 2020 campaign.

Being the World Cup holders, they unsurprisingly were favourites to complete the double for the second time in their history. Instead, they crashed out to Switzerland in the last 16.

Part of their squad was Moussa Sissoko, who was omitted from their set-up for last month’s international break. Now at Watford, he may well find himself out of France’s plans from now on.

Last month, Deschamps called AS Roma's Jordan Veretout into his squad for the first time. He came off the bench in 1-1 draws against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Ukraine respectively.

Moussa Sissoko dejected after France’s Euro 2020 exit. Picture: Pool/Getty Images

The ex-Aston Villa midfielder is highly likely to be included in France's forthcoming set-up. Veretout has been in outstanding form for Jose Mourinho's outfit so far this term, recording four goals and three assists in nine matches. Roma are fourth in Serie A.

Bayern Munich's Corentin Tolisso made three appearances at the Euros and was included in his country's last squad.

He had to pull out, however, because of a calf injury and has not played since. Tolisso is unlikely to be available yet again.

N'Goglo Kante also left the last France squad due to a setback. As a result, Marseille's Mattéo Guendouzi and Juventus' Adrien Rabiot were late replacements.

The latter hasn't been at the forefront of the Old Lady's plans so far this season.

To make matters worse, Juve languish 10th in Serie A and Rabiot has recently been carrying a knock.

As for Guendouzi, he's notched a goal and an assist for Marseille, who sit third in Ligue 1.

Who's Doucoure unlikely to dislodge?

Kante is regarded by many as one of the best centre-midfielders in the world.

The Chelsea midfielder has relentless energy, dynamism and, most of all, brilliant ball-winning ability.

N’Golo Kante in action for France at Euro 2020. Picture: BERNADETT SZABO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Then there's the enigma that is Paul Pogba. At Manchester United, he's blown hot and cold far too frequently.

But as we witnessed during the Euros, he's a different player for France.

In fact, he's everything United fans have yearned for.

Meanwhile, Aurelien Tchouameni is very much the future of Les Bleus.

The 20-year-old, who plays for Monaco, earned his first three caps during the most recent international break and Deschamps will be keen to further expose him to action.