Carlo Ancelotti faces a key decision over his midfield selection at Everton after Andre Gomes impressed once again in Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over Leeds United.
The former FC Barcelona man returned to the starting line-up to open the action at Elland Road beside Abdoulaye Doucoure, having fallen to the bench for Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at home to Newcastle United.
Gomes would have expected to feature from the off against Steve Bruce’s relegation-threatened Toon after turning in a sublime showing against Leicester City last week, while Ancelotti was without his £20m summer signing Doucoure through suspension.
Gomes had to excel defensively to help Everton thwart Brendan Rodgers’ high-flying Foxes amid their battle for a potential top-four finish, but was able to play on the front foot at Leeds with Doucoure dominating from box-to-box.
Lucas Digne was sent flying down the left-hand channel by a perfectly weighted pass from Gomes to kick-off the move which led to Gylfi Sigurdsson breaking the deadlock, with the full-back able get into a dangerous position and deliver a threatening cross into the box.
With Everton rarely seeing the ball, ending the match with just 36.8% of the possession, the visitors had to be safe with it. And no one was safer than Gomes, among those who started in royal blue, with the 27-year-old completing 97% of his 35 passes – only missing a teammate twice, per WhoScored.
Ancelotti singled Gomes out for particular praise following the full-time whistle at Elland Road, given the level of his performance in what was only his seventh start in the Premier League this season.
“In my opinion, tonight, the best player on the pitch was Andre Gomes,” the Italian said. “He played technically, physically, tactically a fantastic game. This is the real Andre Gomes. The real Andre Gomes that we need.”
As well as being safe in possession, Gomes further created one goalscoring opportunity in a game that saw star forward Richarlison depart the action after 80 minutes without a key pass or shot on target next to his name.
Gomes further dribbled past the joint-most players (4) with Leeds’ £23m forward Raphinha on Wednesday night, but from three fewer attempts to the Brazilian’s seven having, emerged successful in all four of his runs at Elland Road. The £18m-rated gem looking at home beside a more resolute defensive midfielder.
Ancelotti now faces a headache in the making over his midfield selection, as he will soon have to decide between benching Gomes, who Darren Bent describes as “wonderful”, for Allan, with the Brazilian expected to be back from a hamstring injury in the imminent future.
Allan had started all 12 of his Premier League appearances since joining Everton from Serie A side SSC Napoli last summer, in which he anchored the side with a team-high 3.4 successful tackles per game, among those to have featured more than once, per WhoScored.
Doucoure would be expected to start over Gomes in a fully-fit side, with only defenders Michael Keane (60.2) and Yerry Mina (59.1) dictating the pace of matches with a higher volume of total passes (51.4) than the powerful Frenchman. He further creates the fifth-most chances (0.8 key balls) and takes the fifth-most shots (0.7) in the Everton squad, among those to have featured multiple times this term.
Gomes does not offer the same creative presence with just 0.3 shots and 0.5 key balls, and he fell out of the starting line-up whilst struggling to thrive in a 4-3-3 at the start of the season.
So, if Ancelotti is to unlock the 29-cap Portugal international’s max potential, he must decide whether to revisit a system that did not suit Gomes’ style, or to axe the midfielder at the moment he is rediscovering the form lost after a horrific fracture-dislocation of his right ankle.
AND in other news, Carlo Ancelotti faces a continued problem in a £9m man after Everton’s January transfer failings…