Everton fans’ defensive summer transfer window fears could come true - what may be solution for Rafa Benitez?
The Toffees could be without both of their first-choice full-backs against Norwich on Saturday.
It was a potential crisis that plenty of Evertonians feared when the summer transfer window slammed shut.
Despite the 11th-hour capture of Salomon Rondon to bolster Rafa Benitez's strike force, it failed to allay supporters’ trepidations over the depth in the rearguard
Central defence was well stocked, but it was who flanks the likes of Yerry Mina and Ben Godfrey that was light of numbers.
Granted, it was always going to be unlikely yet the question was pertinent: what happens if Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne suffer injuries at the same time?
Now those hypothetical queries may well become a reality.
Coleman is currently sidelined with a hamstring setback and is out for the next couple of weeks, at least.
And in Tuesday's night's penalty shootout loss to QPR in the Carabao Cup, Digne limped off with a problem of his own.
Benitez wasn't too concerned about the France international's issue and he was due to be assessed today.
But if Digne is absent for Saturday's visit of Norwich, the Everton boss will have a quandary on his hands.
Failed right-back search
James Rodriguez's protracted transfer saga dominated the column inches throughout the summer.
But the prominent sub-plot was whether Everton would recruit another right-sided full-back to provide cover and competition for the 32-year-old Coleman.
Several names were linked with a move to Goodison Park.
Denzel Dumfries was one of the earliest to emerge but he instead opted for Serie A champions Inter Milan.
Meanwhile, Rangers rejected bids for Nathan Patterson late in the window, Arsenal blocked Ainsley Maitland-Niles joining on loan and enquiries for Kyle Walker-Peters at Southampton were rebuffed.
It left Jonjoe Kenny as Coleman's support act despite Everton making him available to buy.
Kenny had somewhat of an underwhelming loan spell at Celtic last season and also struggled to take his chance at QPR.
In the 3-0 loss to Aston Villa, Ben Godfrey played as a makeshift right-back but also showed flaws.
There was a mixed reaction when Niels Nkounkou was allowed to leave on deadline day to join Standard Liege on a season-long loan.
In 2020-21, the France youth international managed only six appearances in all competitions. He was nowhere near close to usurping the undisputed first-choice Digne.
There were obvious concerns that playing back-up for another year would see his progress stagnate.
Had he been allowed to depart earlier in the window, it would have been sensible. Everton would have had time to recruit a replacement to deputise for Digne when required.
Yet the Toffees left themselves with no time to do so.
What's more, the decision to let Nkounkou exit came after Thierry Small - the youngest player in the club's history - had already decided to quit Goodison Park for a switch to Southampton.
Had Small stayed around, there's a chance he might have been handed an opportunity should Digne be confined to the physio room.
What's the solution?
Should both first-choice full-backs be absent against the Canaries, Benitez has a dilemma to ponder.
The Spaniard could keep faith in Kenny or again turn to Godfrey at right-back. However, he could also hand the role to Mason Holgate, who has played there before.
Perhaps even Tom Davies could prove an auxiliary option. He would offer energy and tenacity going forward.
On the left-hand side, Godfrey will be in Benitez’s thought process, having filled in there superbly last term.
Jarrad Branthwaite is a left-footed centre-back that could be shuffled across. The 19-year-old was handed that duty against Huddersfield in the Carabao Cup second round.
Much could depend on the fitness of Fabian Delph, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury. The former Manchester City midfielder also played there are times last season when Digne was injured.