Lucas Digne Enjoying Career Revival Under Marco Silva
January 7, 2019
Everton did not hesitate from backing Marco Silva in the summer transfer market. The Toffees spent in excess of £80m to sign Richarlison, Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne from Watford and Barcelona, respectively, and acquired the services of Andre Gomes and Kurt Zouma on loan and Bernard on a free from Shakhtar Donetsk, with the Merseysiders unsurprisingly in talks with La Liga counterparts Barcelona to make the former’s move permanent.
Everton’s form may have been indifferent to say the least of late – a run of one win in the last eight in the Premier League, that coming in a 5-1 triumph against a relegation-threatened Burnley, has seen them drop to 11th – but there remains a blueprint in place for the Toffees to push on and enjoy future success under Silva.
The new signings have been influential in laying down the foundations for what is to come for the club. Richarlison is Everton’s top scorer with nine league goals to his name, while Bernard has come in and made a starting spot his own on the left. Gomes is now one of the first names on the team sheet in Silva’s favoured 4-2-3-1 setup, ideally alongside Idrissa Gueye to combine the ideal blend of tenacity, attacking thrust and a ball winning capability to add another dimension to the Everton attack and ensure the defence is rarely troubled.
However, while the aforementioned trio have impressed following their Goodison Park arrival, the greatest success story comes in the form of Digne. Leighton Baines’ advancing years meant a successor at left-back was required sooner rather than later and in Digne, they have the ideal defender to provide the attacking impetus the Englishman offered during his peak years on Merseyside.
Indeed, only Gylfi Sigurdsson (11) and Richarlison (10) have had a direct hand in more goals than Digne (5) of all Everton players this season, two of which have been direct from free-kicks, the left-back one of only two players to score more than one in England’s top tier this term. After a disappointing two-year spell with Barcelona, it’s heartwarming to witness the Frenchman return to his best form in Silva’s side. Digne was effectively signed as Jordi Alba’s backup at Camp Nou in 2016 and it restricted the 25-year-old to just 22 league starts in 24 months in Spain.
He needed a chance to revive his career, particularly after failing to make France’s World Cup winning squad last summer, and Digne has grabbed the opportunity to make a name for himself once more with both hands. At 25 years of age, he still has his best years ahead of him, but the player’s confidence will have returned upon his move to Goodison Park and with an extended run of games, both player and club are benefitting incredibly.
Digne’s made more key passes (39) than any other Premier League defender this season and is top for accurate crosses from open play (28) in England’s top tier this term, as per WhoScored.com. The offensive quality was essential for any potential Baines successor and Digne has undertaken what may have been a mountainous task in his stride. At £18m, too, that fee is looking all the more than bargain with each passing week and while Silva rightly eased him into regular game, with the Portuguese boss starting Baines in the opening three league matches of the season, the left-back and Everton are all the better for it.
Digne can’t now simply rest on his laurels, however. His role in this Everton side is incredibly important and any slip in performance levels will significantly impact a Toffees side that maximises the flanks as a means of hurting opponents, focusing their attacks down the right and left wings 39% of the time in the Premier League. From a personal perspective, Digne is now just one assist away from matching his best return in a league campaign and his fine offensive performances have quickly seen him instilled as a firm fans’ favourite at Goodison Park.
Everton’s downturn in form coupled with a series of much-improved performances under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer means the Toffees’ hopes of a top-six finish are all but extinguished, with Silva’s side now 11 points behind Manchester United, and the aim now has to be to finish as close to the European spots to make a sustained push for Europa League football, at the very least, next season. Until then, though, supporters can sit back and enjoy Digne’s superb attacking displays and rest easy knowing that a long-term Baines successor is secured and very much exceeding expectations.
Author: Ben McAleer
Ben is a fountain of statistical knowledge at WhoScored.com and has a penchant for all things Luka Modric. Alongside his role at WhoScored.com, you can also find him at Sky Sports, The Guardian and Swansea City