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Ancelotti tips Doucoure for France, lauds Everton defensive concentration

Manager’s pre-match press conference for visit from Arsenal

Everton v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Everton welcome Arsenal to Goodison Park tomorrow looking to keep their winning streak going. Speaking ahead of the game, manager Carlo Ancelotti was quizzed on his opinion after the number of players that can be on the bench was raised from seven to nine yesterday, though the total number of substitutions remains fixed at three.

“Nine substitutes on the bench is really good news. It is difficult to leave players out of the squad, so having more players on the bench means more players are involved and of course the manager can have more choices for substitutions.

“Three substitutions are enough to change the game. To have five substitutions, can change the intensity of the game. I understand some managers want five, but if you think a player needs rest, then you don’t play him.”

Youngsters like Anthony Gordon and Niels Nkounkou will be particularly pleased to hear this rule change.

When asked if Everton are a better team without James Rodriguez in the side, especially defensively, Ancelotti was quite adamant in his response.

“No! I don’t think so! We’ve had three clean sheets, it’s true two were when James was not there, but also the first clean sheet of the season was against one of the most difficult opponents, Tottenham. They have two fantastic strikers but we had the clean sheet with James.

“We had a period where we didn’t defend well as a team. Our defence’s ability does not depend on if James is there or not, it depends on concentration and the fact that we have to work together, all the defenders and midfielders.

“It’s true we had a low block in the last clean sheet to leave less space, and that was the reason for the clean sheet, concentration and the low block.”

After Allan left the game injured on Wednesday, Abdoulaye Doucoure continued his sterling work from the first half supporting Andre Gomes in the middle, and remained indefatigable until the final whistle as the Blues ran out 2-0 victors at Leicester City.

“The skills that Doucoure has, he can play everywhere on the pitch. He can play number 10, in behind, in front of the defence, his work defensively is really good, it’s appropriate.

“He is learning a lot tactically as well, He has a fantastic ability for the transition when we catch the ball. He is fantastic box-to-box.

“I am really really pleased and really surprised. I didn’t know him as well as what I have seen this season. I think he is one of the best French midfielders around and I think if he can continue like this he can go to the national team because he is a fantastic midfielder.”

Richarlison looked very relieved to get on the scoresheet midweek, picking up only his second league goal of the season, and his first from open play.

“For him it’s really important [to score]. When he doesn’t score we suffer a little bit. What he does defensively is important work.

“I ask him, like [Alex] Iwobi, to do a lot of work defensively and so he is not always fresh in front of the box, is not so clinical when he has to shoot, but the work that he does is really important for the team.”

When pressed about James Rodriguez’ injury and whether it was serious, Ancelotti was dismissive.

“We have games every three days! He misses three games because there is three games in a week.

“It is a problem with his calf. Nothing special.”