Carlo Ancelotti’s first job for Everton this season was to find a tactical plan, and he’s done that.
Plan A this season is a 4-3-3, blending midfield solidity with the flair of James Rodriguez and it’s taken Everton to the top of the Premier League table.
But injuries and suspensions have started to bite now, and some of the players who were kept out of the side by this impressive start are now needed.
We’ll see what Ancelotti’s Plan B is like, and the depth of quality this expensively assembled squad has to offer.
Unless Lucas Digne’s suspension is overturned, Ancelotti will be without his first choice full backs in the coming weeks.
Seamus Coleman is still out injured and Ben Godfrey deputised for him yesterday at Southampton.
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Much of the danger in that 2-0 loss came down the Everton right. Godfrey didn’t play badly but it was clear he was out of position and uncomfortable.
Jonjoe Kenny is coming back to fitness and may be needed. Meanwhile Niels Nkounkou has shone in the EFL Cup and now will get his chance in the Premier League.
It’s a moment of opportunity for the two young full backs. They could prove their quality but similarly, they may be targeted by opponents and defensive familiarity could be tricky in coming games.
Richarlison’s invention was sorely missed at St Mary’s. Alex Iwobi and Bernard each got a half to fill the void but neither managed to make a big impact.
Anthony Gordon has been waiting in the wings for his chance and he might get it in the coming games against Newcastle and Manchester United – before Richarlison returns.
Everything was going swimmingly for Everton and absentees are always a test of a manager and the team spirit he has fostered.
There’s no need to panic but Everton are about to get that test.