Perhaps the most vexing question ahead of Everton’s Europa League match has been who would make the substitutes’ bench for Ronald Koeman. Indeed, there are a litany of options:
That leaves Dowell, Lookman, and Lennon left to compete for the final spot. We (tentatively) give it to Aaron Lennon who is comfortable in European football, can play on either side of the main striker, and will provide the most defensive cover — which could be important if his team takes an early lead and wants to hold onto the all-important home clean sheet.
However, just hours before the game is set to kick off, it looks like Koeman has made his lineup decision a bit easier by sending Kieran Dowell and Calum Connolly back to David Unsworth’s youth side.
Couple of things ahead of @Everton's game tonight. First is Kieran Dowell & Calum Connolly will drop down to the U23 squad & aren't included— Dominic King (@DominicKing_DM) July 27, 2017
Everton have zero senior team cover for Leighton Baines at left back, however, Connolly never looked quite ready to stick in the first team during preseason. He’s a promising player, but another period in the title-winning U23 side will do him a world of good.
Dowell, on the other hand, seems to have outgrown the youth setup by nearly any metric. An argument could be made that the English youth international was one of Everton’s best players during preseason.
Usually deployed on the right wing-ish, Dowell was active, effective, and competent. He also scored two unbelievable goals, continuing his penchant for the random screamer.
In truth, Kieran Dowell is probably too accomplished at this stage in his career for the U23 side. Everton may be seeking out a loan to a Championship club for the player, but if not, it would not be a huge surprise to see him back at Goodison Park at some point in the 2017-18 season.