April 19, 2024

Abdoulaye Doucoure celebrated his 100th Premier League appearance for Everton with the game’s first goal in a 2-0 victory over Chelsea. “It’s a good number for me so far, I just want to keep going,” he exclaimed. However, the player and his style of play have changed significantly under manager Sean Dyche.

Doucoure has netted 15 times for Everton in his century of matches in the competition, giving him an overall strike rate of a goal every 6.67 games. However, 11 of those goals have come in the last 26 matches, to produce a goal every 2.36 matches, an incredible rate for a midfielder, especially when you consider that the Blues’ main striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s 50 Premier League goals have been over 193 appearances, for a goal every 3.86 games.

Other than being Everton’s “Johnny on the spot” as Dyche has called him – Doucoure was again in the right place at the right time to stick the ball in the net against the Londoners after Calvert-Lewin’s initial shot was saved – just how has his game actually altered since the change of management at Goodison Park?

When Doucoure first arrived on Merseyside in 2020 from relegated Watford, he served notice of his intentions by saying: “I can bring my energy – I am a powerful player, I can run a lot, all the game. I can add goals as well, I will try my best to score goals and help the team.”

Prophetic words indeed but he recorded Premier League goal returns of just two for both of his first two seasons. Indeed the man from Meulan-en-Yvelines on the banks of the River Seine, some 30 miles north west of central Paris, was deployed as quite a different player.

Doucoure was considered “the other” addition to the new-look midfield trio, even though he had been signed during the same transfer window as Allan and James Rodriguez, who had both previously played for Carlo Ancelotti. But the great Italian manager came to value his work, and the following March, before a match against Southampton, he admitted that at first, he wasn’t even interested in purchasing him.

“Doucoure was on the club’s list when we started talking about the transfer window,” Ancelotti stated. Although he wasn’t on my list, we had a conversation and decided to sign him together. After six months, I believe it was a truly great signing since Doucoure is performing incredibly well.

Perhaps so, but maybe not in the manner to truly exploit his skill-set. Ancelotti’s successor Rafael Benitez, deployed Doucoure in a more-creative role at times in his own short-lived tenure but the player had fallen out of favour completely by the end of Frank Lampard’s reign and had even been frozen out of the first team squad after a well-publicised spat. Speaking about his personal situation on the BBC’s podcast series Everton: Nothing Will Be The Same, Doucoure, who is understood to have been made to train alone in January, claimed to have been left in the dark over the reasons behind his fallout.

He said: “It’s been a fresh start for me. Everyone knows what happened, obviously I was not very happy to not play. To be honest, I did not really understand what had happened between me and him (Lampard). Last season when he came, I was playing every game and I think I showed everyone what I’m capable of.

“We stayed up and we had a great relationship at that time. Sometimes it happens and I’ve just got to be calm, to train well and to just wait for my chance and it happened with Sean Dyche so I was happy.”

An examination of his statistics on Comparisonator actually shows a sharp contrast in Doucoure’s recent performances to how he was playing under Dyche’s predecessor before being dropped. When looking at the 30-year-old’s displays in his 16 Premier League games so far this term against the 10 outings in the competition he had under Lampard last season, his offensive parameters have increased across the board.

It’s not just a case of showing a dramatic upsurge in scoring but Doucoure has more assists per 90 minutes and shot assists – figures of 0.12 and 1.04 respectively as opposed to nil – while also going up in terms of his shots (1.39 to 0.63); shots on target (0.75 to 0.31); successful dribbles (0.81 to 0.63) and successful attacking actions (1.74 to 1.25). All of this combines to see his expected goals figure skyrocket to 0.34 having previously been 0.04.

On the flip side, other than cutting the number of ball losses in his own half (2.14 to 3.14) despite having more ball losses overall (8.62 to 7.84) – explained by him spending less time in his own half and getting at the opposition instead – Doucoure’s defensive parameters are all reduced. His ball recoveries have halved to 4.46 from 9.72 while he is also averaging fewer interceptions (2.14 to 2.82); defensive actions (8.97 to 10.35) and successful defensive actions (5.85 to 8.15).

That’s not to say that the midfielder has lost any of his appetite for helping out his side when not in possession though. The enthusiasm he showed when embarking on a celebratory chest bump with Amadou Onana after ushering Chelsea’s Mykhailo Mudryk to the byline and forcing a goal kick on an afternoon that Everton as a team topped the Premier League for defensive actions over the weekend, 516 ahead of second placed Nottingham Forest on 499 (the Blues are averaging second for the season on 498.88), demonstrated that.

Doucoure though has become such a much more potent weapon under the current manager though and these numbers show how. No wonder his gaffer was so pleased when the player committed himself to a new contract until 2025 last month. Dyche said: “I have long been an admirer of Doucs’ qualities and, from the moment I became Everton manager, I was keen to get him into our team and for him to show what he can do.

“He repaid that decision with some excellent performances and crucial goals, not least the winner on the final day of last season which sealed our objective for that campaign to stay in the Premier League. Doucs has continued to impress this season and we are confident he will remain an integral part of our squad going forward.”

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