It has been a very tough start to life at Everton for midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin, who is still desperately waiting to show why the Toffees forked out €25m for him.
Despite the fact he only made the switch to Goodison Park from Mainz in the summer of 2019, he has already needed three operations (yes, you read that correct). After picking up a thigh injury in only his second game for his new club against Watford at the start of the 2019/20 campaign, Gbamin was ruled out for a number of weeks - but the club had hoped he wouldn't need surgery.
However, after returning to light training, he aggravated the issue and surgery was required. But the problems continued to mount as he soon required another operation, with the problem still not completely solved.
Despite this difficult start, Gbamin revealed he was hopeful of returning after the restart in June. But just two days after revealing this, he suffered a serious achilles injury in training. No, he wasn't on the end of a thumping Seamus Coleman challenge either, it was a non-contact injury. Perhaps this was the most disheartening thing about the latest setback, leaving the player mentally fatigued and unsure when he will next be able to showcase his talents to the Everton faithful and Carlo Ancelotti.
After all, fans only saw the man who was brought in as the Idrissa Gueye replacement play 135 minutes of football before he was sidelined. To make matters even worse for Gbamin, Ancelotti's cries for midfield reinforcements were heard over the summer, with the club bringing in Allan, Abdoulaye Doucouré and James Rodriguez - all of whom have started the season exceptionally.
The excitement surrounding Gbamin has faded through no fault of his own. But while the Toffees have made a flying start to the season with their new recruits leading the way, the 25-year-old could still play a very important role when he makes his return towards the end of November.
Having been out of action for over a year, no one would possibly be expecting Gbamin to come back and immediately go straight into the first team - displacing the quietly outstanding Allan in the process. But what has already been made clear is that Ancelotti needs strength in depth to ensure he isn't constantly relying on his star men.
Allan strained his abductor muscle during the 4-1 Carabao Cup win over West Ham prior to the international break, ruling him out of the Premier League game against Brighton. Tom Davies came into the side in his place, but he simply isn't an out-and-out defensive midfielder, someone who can not only break up play and protect the defence, but also keep his side ticking over.
Gbamin can do exactly this, however. Standing at over six feet, he has a commanding physical presence, but also has the technical ability to skip away from challenges and bring his teammates into the game.
In 2019/20, Ancelotti was often forced to operate with two central midfielders in order to provide greater solidity in the centre of the park as his options at the time weren't typical defensive midfielders. Of course, the Italian has now been able to switch to a midfield three, allowing the Toffees to dominate in the middle third and dictate games.
Gbamin's return will allow Ancelotti to continue utilising his preferred system as he has the understanding and talent to take up such a role.
It would be wrong to expect the Ivory Coast international to challenge for a starting spot right away, he's suffered a number of setbacks and this will - understandably - have taken their toll on him. But once he returns, he will not only add strength in depth, but he will also provide some much-needed cover for the tireless Allan.
In the longer-term, he has the attributes to challenge for a starting spot, with Allan more than capable of operating slightly further up the field in a central midfield position. Ultimately, however, Gbamin's return will provide Ancelotti with greater options and more chances of a selection headache, which is exactly what he's looking for.
Source : 90min