Sam Allardyce says vibrant young attacking pair Ademola Lookman and Nikola Vlasic have major roles to play in Everton's future.
The two 20-year-olds have seized recent opportunities to impress manager Allardyce – who is weighing up a recall to the Toffees’ 25-man Premier League squad for left-back Luke Garbutt.
Lookman was sent on from the bench at Liverpool last week and contributed significantly to Everton’s purposeful second-half display. He was instrumental to the creation of Gylfi Sigurdsson’s goal and his pace and dribbling ability were a constant source of concern for the home team.
Winger Lookman also made a strong impression on his only start since Allardyce took charge, scoring twice in last month’s 3-0 Europa League success at Apollon Limassol.
Croatian international Vlasic struck the final goal of that match in Cyprus and subsequently drew praise from his boss after a bright 90-minute performance in the New Year’s Day encounter with Manchester United.
Asked if Lookman’s enterprising outing at Liverpool demonstrated that the former Charlton Athletic player could be a valuable attacking asset for the Blues, Allardyce told evertontv: “Yes, he can. And Nikola Vlasic is the same.
“But they are young and we already have a number of Under-23s playing in the team. I do not think anybody has more [young players in the side] than we do.
“Is that what Everton Football Club wants at the moment: playing five, six or seven young players [together], which leaves you more open to not getting the result because of a lack of experience in the side?
“We have had a terrific run with young players in the team and they have gained a vast amount of experience.
“Young Lookman and Vlasic are players for the future. And we would not dismiss [the idea of] them coming off the bench and making an impression, [and having chances] to gain more time and put more thought in my mind about playing them from the start.”
Vlasic has started four times in the Premier League since joining Everton from Hajduk Split back in August and played from the beginning in three of the Toffees' Europa League group-stage matches.
Former Leeds United player Garbutt, who moved to Goodison Park from West Yorkshire in 2009, last featured for the Blues at the back end of the 2014/15 campaign – as a substitute against Sunderland.
The 24-year-old’s most recent senior action came on loan with Wigan Athletic in the Championship last season, while this term he has played 12 matches for Everton’s Under-23 side.
But, with first-choice left-back Leighton Baines sidelined by a calf problem, Allardyce is keen to add to his full-back options – and ensure competition for starting spots exists throughout his team.
Premier League clubs are permitted to make alterations to the 25-man squads they submitted on 1 September during the January transfer window.
“We have competition for places in most positions,” said Allardyce. “But not in the full-back positions at the minute – because Seamus Coleman is only just coming back and Leighton Baines is still injured.
“I think we are going to bring Luke Garbutt back in to the squad, because he has been out of the 25-man squad.
“We are going to look at him in January to see if he is worth a place in the 25 to go through to the end of the season.
“We have an opportunity to rotate the squad members in January, so it is a good idea for us to look at them training with the first-team squad on a regular basis and see if they are good enough to be brought in to the squad until the end of the season.”