Next up in our review of the past Everton season, in which each area of the pitch will be recapped and rated, is full-backs, featuring Lucas Digne, Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines and Djibril Sidibe.
There are not many areas of the squad that don’t require attention over the summer, but a new set of full-backs is likely to be high on Carlo’s wanted list.
Lucas Digne is one of a handful of players to emerge from this smouldering wreckage of a season with any credit, while his deputy Leighton Baines never let the side down when called upon.
But, on the other flank, Seamus Coleman’s steady decline means he is no longer the attacking threat he once was, while Djibril Sidibe did not do enough to earn a permanent move from Monaco after a patchy campaign.
Much for Ancelotti to ponder, then.
Lucas Digne ended the campaign with eight assists, more than any other player and an increase from the five goals he set up the previous year, though he failed to hit the net himself this Premier League campaign but with the one League Cup goal after four strikes last time out.
The Frenchman also averaged more tackles (3.3) and interceptions (1.6) than any other full-back.
He was also the first player to attempt to come on as a substitute wearing only one sock.
Carlo Ancelotti's reaction to Djibril Sidibe realising he's missing a sock never gets old pic.twitter.com/neRXXdGCZv— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) June 11, 2020
Leighton Baines only managed eight Premier League appearances in what was his farewell season, though he did scored that memorable equaliser against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup.
Digne was first-choice left-back whenever fit, only missing three Premier League games. Coleman and Sidibe rotated more on the opposite flank, making 30 and 28 appearances respectively. Ancelotti also occasionally played both players, with Sidibe pushing forward as a makeshift winger and Coleman playing on the right side of a back three.
Leighton Baines’ retirement has presented Carlo Ancelotti with a headache he could have done without given the glaring holes already present in the rest of his squad. The 35-year-old was the perfect back-up to Digne, who is undisputedly first-choice, but his decision to hang up his boots means a replacement is essential. Teenager Niels Nkounkou has arrived on a free transfer from Marseille but he is likely to begin his Toffees career with the U23s.
On the right, Everton’s ‘good luck’ tweet to Sidibe suggests they will not be pursuing a permanent deal for the Monaco man, a decision most fans could get on board with. Coleman meanwhile should not be first choice going into the new campaign as he is simply not the player he once was, though his experience means there is a role for him in the squad.
And what of Jonjoe Kenny? He has returned from a loan spell at Schalke but it remains to be seen whether he has done enough to convince Ancelotti he is good enough for a first-team place. As one of a precious few saleable assets in the squad, the club may look to move the 23-year-old on and divert the funds elsewhere, as Marcel Brands looks to juggle the twin ambitions of squad strengthening and meeting FFP regulations.
From the transfer rumour front, the interest in Real Madrid’s Diego Reguilon on the left and former Chelsea fullback Branislav Ivanovic certainly leaves more questions unanswered.
It certainly isn’t the weakest area of the pitch (that surely goes to our non-existent midfield) but the lack of options at full-back must be of genuine concern to Ancelotti, concerns no doubt exacerbated by Baines’ retirement.
Digne didn’t quite hit the heights of his debut campaign but he was still one of our better players.
Sidibe looked a dynamic presence going forward but was capable of turning out some pretty ropey displays, most notably in the Anfield derby, when he was hooked after 35 minutes.
Coleman, sadly, is a fading force, through I would be loathed to jettison him too soon given he is also one of only a handful of players who seems to possess some character and fighting spirit.
The last word though has to go to Baines. The 2019-20 campaign was an underwhelming curtain call for a player who gave so much to the Everton cause. But slipping away under the radar is probably just the way he wanted it. His performances suggested he was not yet done as a Premier League defender, and he would almost certainly have had a role to play next season. But he was also a player with an impeccable sense of timing, so maybe he has chosen the perfect time to bow out.