New-Look Everton Can Provide Perfect Platform for Arch-Creator Lucas Digne

Declan Houten
Digne curled in an excellent free-kick against Spurs at the weekend
Digne curled in an excellent free-kick against Spurs at the weekend / Alex Pantling/Getty Images
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Be honest, Everton fans, when was the last time you could justifiably claim bragging rights of any description over Liverpool?

Could it be said that you've won the last two consecutive summer transfer windows? Or that your currently hypothetical stadium is better than Anfield? Or that you have more former Barcelona players than them? None of these are exactly hitting the spot so far...

And yet, if we zero in on one of these ex-Barcelona players, we might (at first glance at least) identify something genuinely impressive that Everton has on Liverpool - the most creative full-back in the world.

Digne had 100 Shot Creating Actions (clue's in the name) to Trent's 83 and Robertson's 84
in 2018/19. Although Trent in particular has rocketed ahead of Digne on a season-by-season basis since then, recording a whopping 151 last season to Digne's 104 (according to FbRef).

However, the fact that Digne has even kept pace with a duo which is regularly heralded as the league's best ever, in a team that has been more or less consistently dysfunctional, has rightly given the Toffees something to shout about at long last (just remember not to mention all the other points of comparison between the two clubs).

Digne and Doherty couldn't be more different as full-backs
Digne and Doherty couldn't be more different as full-backs / Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images

Digne-mania began again in earnest after Everton's surprise 1-0 win against Spurs, a match where almost every player in blue was faultless, but where the Frenchman grabbed the headlines after planting a beautiful curling free-kick onto the head of Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

When comparing him to one of Tottenham's full-backs in the same game, the debutant Matt Doherty, it became very clear exactly what Digne is about, and just how valuable he can be to Everton's Champions League aspirations.

Doherty's game was all about making late bursts into the box and looking to cut back the ball at the byline or have a go himself - in other words, shoot first, ask questions about defensive positioning later.

Digne never quite made the grade at Barcelona, but he has a chance at redemption now
Digne never quite made the grade at Barcelona, but he has a chance at redemption now / Power Sport Images/Getty Images

Digne, on the other hand, was much more focussed on moving on the ball efficiently and progressively from deep positions - he completed 87% of his 63 passes while Doherty completed 82% of his 44 (Sofascore).

At times, it seemed as if the calculating Digne was anticipating the Irishman's exuberance so he could strike at the right moment, as in the second half when he spotted Doherty out of position and floated a wonderful ball to Richarlison which completely took the former Wolves man out of the equation.

If football's archetypal wing-back is Achraf Hakimi, whose direct style and intensity can completely overwhelm a side, Digne is more of a relaxed master of his craft, preferring his trusty left foot to dribbling or lung-busting runs on the counter attack.

This wasn't Digne's first assist against Spurs...
This wasn't Digne's first assist against Spurs... / OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Of his seven assists last season the sheer variety stands out - there are deep floated crosses to the byline (against Wolves), inch-perfect slide-rule passes from behind the halfway line (Southampton), a typical cut back along the ground (Brighton) and even an outrageous first-time cross on the volley to Dominic Calvert-Lewin to set up a last-minute equaliser against Spurs.

This is the best kind of mixed bag, and what makes Digne stand out from his contemporaries, and his unpredictability has a clear effect on defenders, as in Everton's (ultimately banter-filled) draw against Newcastle last season where, because it looks as if he is able to pick out Bernard on the flanks, he is able to slip in Calvert-Lewin unopposed.

Within the context of Everton's swanky but enigmatic new side, which currently seems as likely to finish third as it does 14th, Digne's consistency and accuracy can provide the perfect platform for greatness.

Everton's new-look midfield is ready to help Digne
Everton's new-look midfield is ready to help Digne / Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Working alongside a rejuvenated Seamus Coleman on the other flank, and with a midfield which is no longer about as sturdy as porridge, Digne will find games a lot more stretched, and two energetic, intelligent forwards in Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison ready to capitalise on quality service.

In particular, the creative lynchpin James Rodríguez has shown an aptitude (although the season is young) for switching play from left to right and back again, and with defenders pulled out of position and Everton able to push higher up the pitch, Digne should have time and space to calibrate that left foot to perfection.

And if it all goes wrong? Well at least Everton fans will have the season where he created more than Trent and Robbo.

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