Everton face a potential injury headache ahead of their trip to AFC Bournemouth this weekend, as the Cherries could be without central defender Chris Mepham, according to the Daily Echo.
Mepham joined Eddie Howe’s Vitality Stadium natives from Championship outfit Brentford in January, with the South Coast side splurging £12million (Sky Sports) to complete the deal.
Bournemouth are facing an anxious few days in the build-up to Everton’s arrival at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday, as Mepham was withdrawn in the 77th minute of Wales’ international friendly against Belarus on Monday with a suspected injury.
Howe is already without a plethora of options going into the Toffees clash, with Simon Francis, Charlie Daniels, Lloyd Kelly, Dan Gosling, Lewis Cook, Junior Stanislas and David Brooks all sidelined with various injuries.
Additionally losing Mepham would be a concern for Howe, as the 21-year-old has been a key figure of the Verwood-born head coach’s backline this term – playing the full ninety minutes in each of his three Premier League appearances so far (WhoScored).
However, the Wales international missing Everton’s trip to the South Coast could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Howe, and leave Marco Silva as the manager with a tactical headache and frantically altering his tactics to best deal with the altered line-up his side may now face.
Mepham’s absence from the side that beat Aston Villa 2-1 on August 17 came as a tactical decision by Howe (Daily Echo), who preferred to alter his formation to a 4-4-1-1 with Steve Cook starting alongside Dutch international Nathan Ake in the centre, and won their only game of the campaign so far.
Howe had preferred a 3-man defence against Premier League new boys Sheffield United in the opening day, but were held to a draw, and a shift to a four-man backline with Cook partnering Mepham resulted in a 3-1 defeat away to Leicester City last time out.
Now being without Mepham through injury would offer Howe the chance to revert back to the centre-back partnership that beat Villa away from home and conceded their joint-lowest goals tally for a single league game, although he would still face questions over who to play at left-back with Daniels on the sidelines.
A partnership of Cook and Ake would also offer Howe his best options for interceptions, least fouls committed, shots and crosses blocked, and aerial duel success, according to data collected by WhoScored so far this season.
Everton fans, are you more confident facing Bournemouth with an unnatural option at left-back, but the Cherries fielding their statistically stronger central defensive partnership? Let us know in the comments below…Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more Everton notifications!