Since his appointment as Everton manager in the summer of 2018, Marco Silva has always insisted that selection headaches are the kind of problem he welcomes, as it prevents complacency in the starting XI and shows the depth and quality of a squad.
This season the Blues are deeper in a number of positions across the pitch, but the battle that is ensuing between club captain Seamus Coleman and Djibril Sidibe at right back is a fascinating one to watch.
The venerable Irishman got sent off after picking up two needless bookings during the loss away at Burnley, and Sidibe has come in and made that position his own since then in the subsequent four Premier League games. While the on-loan player doesn’t pose the same attacking threat that Coleman can present opposing defenders, he has been more solid in defence and has only been caught out pushing forward per Silva’s instructions, like late in the Brighton & Hove Albion loss.
Speaking to evertontv today, the manager commended both players for how well they were handling the current situation, starting with the Frenchman who was a late signing for the Blues.
“He’s doing well. Like you know, Sidibe came late and didn’t do the preseason with us, didn’t play even one friendly match with us, and he needs time to adapt to everything.
“The pace of the Premier League is different, even if he is an international player at the high level from the last few seasons. So many other things are different, like the language, he’s making a big effort to communicate better with everyone at the club.
“He had the chance, from the two yellow cards for Coleman, and he did very well. Our team in general had a very good performance against West Ham United. He’s proving his quality and deserves the chance.
“Always with a player behind giving him big competition, because that player [Coleman] is a fighter, is a really competitive player. It’s a good headache for me, and good for us as a football club when we have Sidibe playing at a good level and we have a player like Coleman behind him in this moment.
“At the beginning of the season it was opposite, but it’s good for us. Like you know we’re coming near a tough month-and-a-half, two months, and both of them will be really important for me.”
Silva’s formation relies heavily on the fullbacks to provide width and attacking input, while ensuring they don’t compromise on defence, and he was asked if he saw Sidibe as a good fit for the side and the game in England.
“Yes, and he will improve. He is improving every single match, every single day. I’m demanding from him to keep improving and to keep adapting to our model and our id, and the way we play at Everton. The way you play in the Premier League is sometimes different than in other competitions, but when you have quality it’s easier to achieve that.
“Sidibe is a player with that quality. good knowledge about that position and about football as well. It’s a matter for him to keep working really hard because that’s the only way he can keep his position. He knows what I want from him, he knows what type of player he has behind him.
“In our model and the way we play football, the fullbacks are really important for us, not just to be solid as a team but to support our offensive process as well. It was good to see him provide the assist for our second goal against Southampton, it’s something I am demanding from our fullbacks as well.”
Veteran Coleman has been a leader in the Blues’ dressing room, and the new man Sidibe has talked about how influential the club captain has been, helping him settle in and encouraging him all the time. Silva is not surprised by the Republic of Ireland international’s reaction.
“We have to be fair with Seamus. He is one to put the club above everything else, that is Seamus Coleman, it’s not because he is the captain, not because he has many years at our club.
“He has a big responsibility as the captain, and my relationship with him is so clear. He is a competitor, he wants to play every single match, he is there to help the team always, but first in his mind is always Everton football club.
“Sidibe’s words about him are fair, because he is always helping his teammates, whether they are playing in his position or not. He is always ready to help all of them, and in the meantime he is fighting to achieve what he wants, his position in the XI as well.
“He is everything a manager would like to see in his football players and in his captain. He is a fantastic example for everyone in our dressing room - Everton comes first, and after that come your ambition to play and everything else you want.”
Speaking of veteran leadership, Silva made sure he also added another name that we’ve almost forgotten given how little he’s played this season.
“It’s fantastic for me to have Seamus in our dressing room, and I have to say Leighton Baines as well.
“Leighton is a fantastic example as well. When we have two of our captains behaving like they do, they are two fantastic examples for others to follow.”
With nine games to go in 2019, that strength in depth is likely to be tested with the weather turning colder and a game on average every four days, but the Blues look well set at the fullback position.