Everton defender Lucas Digne emerged as Carlo Ancelotti’s hero of Thursday evening’s 1-0 win away to West Bromwich Albion after delivering an outstanding box-to-box display.
The full-back was awarded his 18th start of the Premier League campaign at The Hawthorns as the Toffees sought to put the pressure on Liverpool and Chelsea, who faced one another at Anfield later in the night, in the race for Champions League qualification.
A goal from Richarlison midway through the second half was enough for Carlo Ancelotti’s men to secure their ninth away win of the top-flight season, with the Brazilian heading home his fourth goal in as many games from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s delivery.
Is Lucas Digne captain material at Everton?
Yes, let him have the role
No, he isn’t a natural leader
No side has won away from home more often in the Premier League this term than Everton, who have played one game fewer on the road than Leicester City, who boast the most points on their travels with 31 from 14 fixtures to the Blues’ 29 from 13 matches.
Ancelotti can credit Digne with a key role in Everton’s win over Sam Allardyce’s relegation-threatened Baggies, with the £29.7m-rated full-back often intent on setting the pace for the Toffees to try and match.
Digne heavily dictated the flow of the game on the Blues’ left-hand channel, despite teammates frequently struggling to pick out the defender during either half.
Centre-back Michael Keane also deserved a wealth of praise for his performance at The Hawthorns, having kept a handle on West Brom forward Mbaye Diagne for a majority of the game, winning five of his six duels overall.
The England defender produced an exceptional performance as the lynchpin of Everton’s three-man centre-half line, soaking up the pressure to protect Jordan Pickford’s goal and coming on strongest in the closing stages.
Diagne did manage to find the back of the Toffees’ net in stoppage time after controlling a pass and firing home, but was correctly adjudged offside with a narrow margin of his boot beyond the last man when the initial delivery was made.
Keane also had strong support from Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey on either side in Everton’s three-man backline, with their pair offering their fair share defensively as the Goodison Park natives sought to protect their one-goal lead – the former won six tackles while the latter recorded four blocks and five clearances, per SofaScore.
Digne was the real hero for Ancelotti, though, as he took control of the left-hand channel to provide a threat at both ends of the field.
The 34-cap France international offered a joint game-high two key passes with Blues striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin and West Brom midfielder Conor Gallagher, while attempting 57 total passes – only Andre Gomes (70) and Keane (61) played more for the visiting side, per WhoScored.
Digne also offered the second-most successful tackles by any player who featured, with three from four attempts to Holgate’s six from six. The full-back also made four clearances, a vast improvement on his average of one per game in the Premier League this season.
The ex-Barcelona defender additionally eclipsed his average 44.5 total passes and matched his average of 2.4 successful tackles and 1.4 key passes per game, per WhoScored.
He even won all five of his aerial duels and five of six ground contests to better his average 3.4 (50%) on the ground and 2.8 (71%) in the air, despite turning over possession 29 times – the most by any Everton player who started at The Hawthorns, per SofaScore.
Ancelotti will have been delighted with Digne’s performance having awarded the captain’s armband to the 27-year-old, who more than lived up to the challenge of leading the Toffees to victory.
AND in other news, Everton eye a £22.5m-rated speedster who is “hungry for success”…