Abdoulaye Doucouré returned to full training on Wednesday, boosting hopes that he can play a key role in strengthening Everton's midfield on Saturday.
The Frenchman suffered a groin injury against Aston Villa last month, the last game Everton played before Frank Lampard took over as manager. He has thus been missing for all four games under the new manager.
The midfielder was pictured having returned to individual training sessions last week, so this appears to be a promising development that could see him selected to start against Manchester City on Saturday, if he is fit enough.
Demarai Gray is also progressing well as he recovers from a hip problem sustained in the defeat at Newcastle a fortnight ago and he, too, could be available for Saturday.
Article continues below video content
Ben Godfrey's return is a little further out but he is said to have resumed light training at Finch Farm with a view to stepping up his training next week.
Reader Comments (67)
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2 Posted 23/02/2022 at 17:11:45
3 Posted 23/02/2022 at 17:12:52
Doucouré might not be a star player but we're much better when he's fit and available.
I expect Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli to look like better players with Doucouré helping out Allan with the hard / defensive work.
4 Posted 23/02/2022 at 17:23:43
5 Posted 23/02/2022 at 17:30:35
6 Posted 23/02/2022 at 17:32:15
Fellow readers will have a field day picking the team for Saturday, just hope that Frank gets it right and Lady Luck is with us. Just think what a good result would do for the players confidence.
7 Posted 23/02/2022 at 17:59:46
Good to see Doucouré back but, in my opinion, he's box-to-box, more of an attacking threat. I haven't seen him tackle or be a defensive player?
8 Posted 23/02/2022 at 18:26:02
9 Posted 23/02/2022 at 18:32:23
10 Posted 23/02/2022 at 19:20:21
A midfield of him, Allan and Van de Beek should allow us to play 4-3-3. While he isn't the defensive midfielder we need, he's a midfielder with an engine and covers ground and allow us to press with more aggression.
11 Posted 23/02/2022 at 19:21:08
12 Posted 23/02/2022 at 19:25:51
13 Posted 23/02/2022 at 19:29:21
14 Posted 23/02/2022 at 19:33:29
15 Posted 23/02/2022 at 19:39:54
Ease him back in.
16 Posted 23/02/2022 at 19:47:08
Anyway, as Fran says, not the holding defensive midfielder we need but better than anything else we have – which helps to knit other bits of the team together.
17 Posted 23/02/2022 at 19:54:02
In a 4-1-3-2 formation, one player can be protecting the back 4, leaving the other 3 players to go on the offensive. But if the opposition operate 4 or 5 players in the middle, that leaves 3 against 4 or 5 players.
4-4-2 is the best system because there can be 4 in the middle, 4 at the back and 2 up front, who have more chance of creating and scoring goals than just having 1 upfront.
Where Everton went wrong against Southampton in a 4-4-2 formation is the 2 wider players didn't support the 2 players in central midfield. Yet, against Leeds, when Everton operated the same 4-4-2 system, everything went right because Everton were on the attack.
18 Posted 23/02/2022 at 20:46:37
19 Posted 23/02/2022 at 20:53:56
I am looking at Saturdays game like the Chelsea away match. If we can raise that kind of spirit and determination we can get something out of it. We did ourselves proud away at Chelsea so why not have a bit of belief.
20 Posted 23/02/2022 at 21:44:23
There's a player there capable of scoring 7-10 goals a season but we haven't seen enough of what he's good at since he's been here.
He's not really a defensive midfielder, he's not particularly neat on the ball in terms of passing.
He's got load of pace and power when running however and he started the season like a express train against Southampton, Brighton away he was immense and Leeds away.
Let him off the leash I say, don't hold him back.
21 Posted 23/02/2022 at 21:52:22
22 Posted 24/02/2022 at 05:18:31
For the Man City game, I like the calls to either have a Back 3 or Holgate as a holding midfielder protecting the back 4.
Coleman Keane Branthwaite Kenny
Van de Beek Holgate Allan
Gordon Calvert-Lewin Richarlison
With Dele Alli, maybe Gray and Doucouré coming on later.
23 Posted 24/02/2022 at 07:10:19
Man City are going to go flat out in the opening stages of the game... man, it's going to be tough. It will sort out who has got the mental strength to take the initiative or, like in the previous game, be intimidated by the opposition.
24 Posted 24/02/2022 at 07:59:26
Coleman, Holgate, Keane, Mykolenko
Van de Beek, Allan, Townsend
Gordon, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison
We need the forward line firing on all cylinders for this one.
If you don't have a go you will never know.
25 Posted 24/02/2022 at 08:38:01
Just one comment from me: Calvert-Lewin will be on the bench. That's my 50p worth. Will be interesting.
26 Posted 24/02/2022 at 08:45:22
I know both have been injured so not many games together for a while but even so.
27 Posted 24/02/2022 at 09:22:45
28 Posted 24/02/2022 at 10:37:30
I actually think our best front 3 is Gordon, Richarlison, & Gray.
29 Posted 24/02/2022 at 11:17:57
30 Posted 24/02/2022 at 11:34:17
31 Posted 24/02/2022 at 11:50:39
32 Posted 24/02/2022 at 11:55:30
Our history is all we have now to be proud of. Any recovery needs to start from a Premier League base. Anything else doesn't bear thinking about. City, Villa, Leeds, Sheff Wed and Sunderland all went to League 1 ffs. Why would it be any different for us? Just hoping it couldn't happen doesn't mean it cannot.
The RS can win the lot and beat us 5-0 in the FA Cup final if it means we can finish 17th this season for me.
This is all about us surviving to fight another day!
33 Posted 24/02/2022 at 11:58:38
Too many coaches try to make the player fir the formation they want rather than vice versa; make the formation suit the players you have.
34 Posted 24/02/2022 at 12:04:50
35 Posted 24/02/2022 at 12:40:56
36 Posted 24/02/2022 at 12:41:47
Personally I think it's too late. Funny how fans look at teams thinking we can beat them. No form, no heart and no desire. You can't change that. We need Top 4 form from this lot.
We have bought players from clubs with less wining mentality than we have. That's why we will be relegated. Simply not good enough.
Our only hope is other teams perform as badly. Saturday, we need to perform, fight... oh, it's Manchester City. Who cares!!! In a hole, ya fight, ya support each other. Play your best team, Frank, every game!
37 Posted 24/02/2022 at 14:23:30
38 Posted 24/02/2022 at 15:28:48
39 Posted 24/02/2022 at 16:34:54
4-4-2 is the best system because there can be 8 players behind the ball with at least 2 players upfront who can create something. But no-one complained about 4-4-2 when Everton beat Leeds 3-0.
40 Posted 24/02/2022 at 16:40:30
41 Posted 24/02/2022 at 16:50:20
42 Posted 24/02/2022 at 16:53:18
43 Posted 24/02/2022 at 17:09:37
44 Posted 24/02/2022 at 17:10:17
Against City, you can't afford to carry any passengers, and you can't afford to lose a player through injury if he is not fully fit.
45 Posted 24/02/2022 at 17:15:16
Some of Everton's players, when effectively targeted, fall to pieces in this regard, which has a knock-on effect on other players.
Players can look good in training but, when targeted in an actual match, are useless. They may be lucky in an odd game not to be targeted, but in the Premier League, they will be in the next game.
Very few Everton players can pull out a performance when the play is tough. This comes from going through the motions in training, but not actually having the necessary application for the job at hand. Add to that a rest and recovery regime and game preparation will fall far short.
So it is not as simple as formation, there are a lot of other dynamics at work.
46 Posted 24/02/2022 at 17:26:32
47 Posted 24/02/2022 at 17:48:57
The point is to play to the strengths of the available players and also enable, open up or block passing lanes and enable or prevent overloads depending on whether you're attacking or defending.
4-4-2 can work. For example, Burnley use it to good effect, because it works well with their very limited players. Ancelotti also used it to very good effect in Milan but, with players like Seedorf appearing (at least on paper) to occupy wide positions and Kaka being one of the two forwards.
This was a much more sophisticated version with intelligent, technical players moving into half-spaces between positions and creating passing triangle opportunities etc. In truth, it was probably a hybrid between 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1, 4-3-3 and others, such was the intelligence and versatility of the players.
Honestly though, if you placed the title-winning Blackburn side in the Premier League now, I think they'd finish about 5th to 7th – and that's only on the basis that Shearer could score from anywhere. The game has moved on. I can't remember our title winning side but probably the same.
These versions of 4-4-2 would encounter the difficulties Man Utd faced in Europe in the early 90s, struggling to contend with 3-man midfields and Number 10s like Zidane.
They couldn't get hold of possession, couldn't figure out who should be marking the player in the Number 10 role, and were passing in predictable straight lines when they did have the ball.
Man City have moved things on to such a degree that their goalkeeper acts as a sweeper and Cancealo plays like a Number 10 who starts in the full-back position. You simply cannot rely on 2 banks of 2 to counter this.
48 Posted 24/02/2022 at 18:01:10
All joking apart, we can't be confident of any points from this game but sometimes miracles happen (just hardly ever for Everton).
After beating two teams in freefall in Brentford and Leeds, there can be little optimism for anything against City and, if by chance they do, then they only help Liverpool.
We are caught between a rock and a hard place here but a win has to be our main concern given our position, and screw RS.
49 Posted 24/02/2022 at 18:12:06
I reiterate my position that there is no good or bad formations and the best one is the one that suits the players you have at your disposal.
But just as Steavey argues for 4-4-2, if pressed, I go for 4-2-3-1 if I've got the players who can play it. In theory, you've always got 6 providing a defensive shield as well as the midfielders creating. And again, theoretically, you always have 4 attacking players. But the 2 midfielders are key to it working.
Best attacking one? 3-5-2, but you totally need to have the right centre-backs and wingbacks or a very good covering midfielder to cover the full-back positions or fill the hole for a centre-back going out there when the opposition hit your channels. Otherwise, you get massively exposed.
Back to the point; play the best formation for the players you have. Don't put square pegs in front holes because you prefer a certain formation.
50 Posted 24/02/2022 at 18:54:03
Having 1 upfront has been ineffective when employed, because the opposition's defence are relieved from marking another attacker.
51 Posted 24/02/2022 at 19:23:09
Van de Beek
52 Posted 24/02/2022 at 19:26:07
Many teams for many decades have achieved success with one striker.
It's what you say though. Regardless of formation, it relies on players working together and working hard.
53 Posted 24/02/2022 at 19:31:42
54 Posted 24/02/2022 at 20:27:48
55 Posted 24/02/2022 at 21:51:08
56 Posted 24/02/2022 at 21:58:34
That doesn't mean 4 in the middle to me. It means 2 central midfielders and 2 swashbuckling wingers getting wide, to the byline and getting crosses in.
57 Posted 24/02/2022 at 22:35:55
When Everton were great in the 1980s under Howard Kendall, there was Reidy in the middle with Bracewell supported by Sheedy on the left and Trevor Steven on the right. Then there was Gary Stevens at right-back supporting Trevor Steven and Pat van den Hauwe supporting Sheedy.
Everton against Southampton was appalling because there was little or no support in the 4-4-2 and the Everton full-backs gave little or no support to those in front of them and vice versa.
58 Posted 24/02/2022 at 23:45:48
My team above is 4-3-3. I wonder Steavey what your view is regarding the potential for Gordon and Richarlison getting back to help in midfield when we haven't got the ball?
By the way, if Doucoure is ready he would start instead of Townsend in my pick.
As has been mentioned above I don't think Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison click in a two up front. If we were to go 4-4-2 I would be tempted to go with Gray or Alli with Richarlison.
I have just watched the highlights of City vs Spurs - Harry Kane is some footballer! He tore them apart. What I did notice is that the City defence looked very wobbly with in swinging balls from either wing.
I also agree with Danny's comment about square pegs in square holes and particularly playing to your strengths. We have plenty of attacking talent – we are actually spoilt for choice when we have a full squad. We have six forwards available for this game If Gray isn't ready. Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, Gordon, Alli, Townsend, and El Ghazi. That is why I think we should go at them. If we sit back they will carve us up.
After watching those highlights, I am even more convinced we should have a go at them.
59 Posted 25/02/2022 at 00:28:07
Back when 4-4-2 was 'new', the top exponents were Man Utd with Coppell and Hill. Now they fitted the bill of Danny's swashbuckling wingers, but these sort sometimes have a tendency to get left up field when the attacking tide goes out. But Coppell and Hill had tremendous engines and were also box to box... well in their case, corner flag to corner flag wide midfielders.
I've always maintained that 'Any full-back is only as good as the player in front of him.' Which fits in with Steavey's Triangle of Pat van den Hauwe, Sheedy and Bracewell... it's just another example of the 'hunting in packs' thing and football is often – or should be – a game of little triangles all over the pitch.
60 Posted 25/02/2022 at 00:42:12
But from a tactical point of view and the fact that a football pitch has physical dimensions that players have to cover to intercept the opponents, a tighter formation of 4-4-2 allows players to cover more of the pitch, especially, in defensive areas. 4 players at the back provide more defensive cover than 3 at the back. 4 players in the middle offer more cover than 3 in the middle. Yet, there has to be at least 2 upfront to provide something of an attacking threat when other players can't get forward and provide attacking support.
Before Richarlison came to Everton from Watford, he played on the left side of mid-field and provided an attacking threat. It could be beneficial if he played there instead of playing directly upfront with Calvert-Lewin.
Calvert-Lewin is important winning headers when Everton are on the attack and when Everton are defending corner kicks and free kicks. Such is the lack of authority in the Everton defense.
I agree Demarai Gray should play up front with Calvert-Lewin, because Gray has a good eye for goal and has pace that unsettles most defences.
61 Posted 25/02/2022 at 01:18:43
Some one will have to explain what Top 4 form actually is because, at the moment, only 2 teams seem set apart. Everyone else seems to be beatable most weeks.
Yes, we need application, concentration and nerve to be dredged up from somewhere but the way the opposition play seems to matter more than our ‘formation' (do four players really stick unerringly to the middle zone when playing 4-4-2?) from what I've seen.
Any team that has a genuine high press, ie, really closing us down in our own half, has better than even odds of unsettling our defence and stifling our midfield. The high press is risky if there are players who can cope with the pressure and feed willing runners (Spurs against City); unless Frank can train that into them, then we are easy meat for teams that use it against us.
If teams are content to mass ranks in their own half and give us time on the ball, then we can do alright (if early chances are converted) Are ‘miracles' really more common for other teams? If every time someone said we were doomed, we were actually really in peril, then we've had more miraculous escapes than anyone!
There is a lot of football yet to be played before anything is decided this season. I'd say anyone not yet north of 30 points this season has a chance of it all ending disastrously for them in May.
62 Posted 25/02/2022 at 02:59:26
Perhaps we can play 4-4-2 with Richarlison on the left of midfield because I agree (despite the fact that, in my opinion, he is a better striker than Calvert-Lewin), Richarlison's best position is coming in from the left of midfield plus he has a terrific work ethic.
So, assuming Gray isn't fit for this one but Doucouré0 may be able to start, we could set up in a 4-4-2 like this:-
Coleman, Holgate, Keane, Mykolenko
Doucouré (Gordon if unfit), Allan, Van de Beek, Richarlison,
Alli (Gray if fit), Calvert-Lewin
I don't know why but I am not feeling the same trepidation going into this game as I have been. Maybe it is because nearly everybody expects us to get hammered.
Edit: I just noticed I left Iwobi out of my list of available forwards – so it should be seven?!
63 Posted 25/02/2022 at 09:21:56
In reality, many of these formations are just variations on each other. As Slaven Bilic has said, we're often just talking about a 10-yard difference in starting position.
The real issue is how it suits the players, some of whom like Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli have been exposed by 4-4-2 and perform better in 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3.
64 Posted 25/02/2022 at 11:01:36
65 Posted 25/02/2022 at 13:41:06
On 4-4-2 in the traditional sense, I concern over the perception you create more chances because you have 2 up front occupying defenders.
Games are won / lost and chances mostly created from midfield. In the modern game, if you are a man light and overrun in midfield, you can stick as many people up front as you want, but if you don't control the midfield, it won't matter. Strikers create chances through runs, but they have to be supplied. Usually from midfield.
It's all down to opinion and belief. Mine is play to the strengths of your available players, not always your philosophy or preference.
66 Posted 25/02/2022 at 16:39:30
Here's another go at the link. It's Tifo football on YouTube: a guide to 4-4-2
They've done a series of generally very good analysis of formations.
This isn't to pick in 4-4-2 either. They also look at why the traditional German sweeper system has fallen out of use with the back pass rule and other issues.
67 Posted 25/02/2022 at 16:47:27
68 Posted 25/02/2022 at 16:54:05
Something for those that run the academy to ponder over.
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