In many ways, he has been the least heralded of the three first team transfer signings Everton made this summer, but in many ways he might yet be the most important of the Blues additions during the window.
Since Carlo Ancelotti’s appointment as Everton manager, one of the weaknesses that would have been the most glaring to his trained eye was the lack of strength and energy in the midfield. And while he was able to get players all over the pitch to put in a shift, the square pegs in round holes in the middle of the park remained an area where well-prepared opponents could (and often did) take advantage of the Blues.
It was no surprise that Marcel Brands’ chief remit during this summer window was to address that, and the club has taken great steps in filling the Idrissa Gueye-shaped void with Allan, and a source of creativity with James Rodriguez. Critically, though, there was a ‘pressing’ need - pun wholly intended - for a box-to-box midfielder who would put in the work chasing the ball whenever the Toffees were not in possession, and linking up play when they did have the ball.
Enter Abdoulaye Doucoure. To his credit, Marco Silva had identified his former Watford FC player as a someone he needed on the Blues even while Gana was still on Merseyside, and once can only imagine how different things could have been at Everton had we had a midfield of Gueye, Doucoure and Sigurdsson. However, that’s the past and the future certainly looks blue-tinted under Ancelotti’s wise tenure.
Blue hearts might have jumped into mouths on Saturday watching Wilfried Zaha streaking away with the ball on a counter attack, but the sight of a gold-clad Doucoure chasing behind him and eventually overhauling the forward to snuff out the threat would filled us with a quiet glee we haven’t felt in a while.
So far this season, every one of the trio has had their part to play in the Blues 100% record, performing the roles they were all brought in for. However, the last signing to be announced before the season started also wants to say that there’s more yet to come from him.
Speaking to evertontv, Doucoure insists he’s only going to get better from here.
“The team is playing very well – we have very good players, so I am really happy to settle in this team. I need more games but so far I think I have done well, I am happy to play every Premier League game.
“I think I can improve more, because I know I am not at my best yet. I can improve on the ball. Against Crystal Palace, I gave the ball away a couple of times, so I am not happy about that. I am a very demanding person and I need to improve.
“But we are all happy with the start to the season. Three wins in a row is very good for us and we need to keep going like this.”
Ancelotti has always insisted that he is not married to a specific formation, and will play what suits his squad best. In that lopsided 4-3-3 set-up, Doucoure has been crucial in his support of Seamus Coleman’s right side. As a #10-minded forward, James often cuts in on his left foot leaving the right wing exposed especially when the Blues’ captain bombs forward. Having Doucoure’s defensive sensibilities present there has ensured that is not a weakness that can be easily exposed.
As fans we’ve all been wowed by James’ ability, and Doucoure speaks for us all when he expressed his admiration for the Colombian superstar.
“James is one of the best players I’ve played with. He has got everything – the vision, the quality of the pass and the intelligence of the game. He has great experience, as well, as he has won a lot of trophies. For us, it is great to have a player like that.
“We have a good front three. It’s great for Dominic, it’s great for Richi to be scoring, too. When you have clinical strikers, they don’t give anything to the opponents. It is very good for the team.”
Even after Palace pulled level over the weekend, this season there is a quiet confidence rippling through the
stands televisions, computers and phones that Everton will find a way. That confidence has been instilled in the squad and is clear to the supporters as well.
“In this team, even when you concede a goal, you feel comfortable. You feel you can still win games. It happened last week and this week as well.
“Against Palace, we didn’t panic [after we conceded]. We controlled the game more. It was a tough game because Palace are a good team. But we played with courage and deserved the victory.”
With tougher tests upcoming, it will be good to see how the Toffees continue to handle and grow from adversity.