Marco Silva says the fast-maturing Tom Davies boasts the talent and composure to be a key player in Everton’s midfield.
Academy graduate Davies grasped his opportunity to shine in Everton’s past three Premier League matches after waiting eight months for a recall to Silva’s team.
The England Under-21 international was purposeful and industrious playing in an advanced role against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
He was excellent in tandem with Andre Gomes at the base of midfield on his return to the team in Everton’s victory over West Ham United last month and impressed again the following week despite his side’s defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Davies could potentially be poised for an extended run in the side, owing to a combination of his own terrific form and fellow midfielders Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin being ruled out with injuries. Silva revealed Fabian Delph is also "a big doubt" for Saturday's trip to Southampton.
And the Blues boss insists his hunch that Davies was ready to shoulder greater responsibility in his team is being borne out by the player's dynamic form.
“Tom is [ready for a pivotal role] – but he was before, even if he was not starting the games,” Silva told evertontv.
“That was the feeling I had, even if I decided to start with different players, and I can prove that feeling was right from seeing the past few games he played.
“Even mentally, I think Tom in this moment is a different player.
“Last season he had some moments being captain and that was an important thing for him. It was a big pressure on his shoulders but I think it is important for him to feel this type of natural pressure in football.
“And he did really well.
"When he started this season not playing, he handled the situation very well.
“When I took that decision [to start Davies] against West Ham, I felt Tom was more than ready and he played at a very good level.
“Even against Brighton [he played well], against Tottenham he had a very good game again – taking responsibility in some moments of the game.
“He got his chance and he looks more mature. It is up to him to keep working hard and to keep showing that during the matches.”
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Davies’s start against West Ham was his 50th in the Premier League just four months after his 21st birthday.
He made his senior debut as a 17-year-old in April 2016 and last season became Everton's youngest captain when leading the side in a Carabao Cup game against Rotherham United aged 20 years 60 days.
Davies skippered Everton a further five times – all in the Premier League – but had to be patient before getting his chance this term.
The 21-year-old made four tackles and gained possession eight times against Spurs. He was Everton's most progressive player in possession, finding his target with a team-high 85.7 per cent of his passes in the attacking half.
One vignette when Davies bumped Dele Alli off the ball before slicing open Tottenham with a measured 40-yard pass inside left-back Ben Davies epitomised the Everton player's assertive and skilful display.
“He is developing really well,” continued Silva.
“He was not playing as often as he would have liked, for sure, like he is working to achieve. It is a process and there is a lot of competition.
“In certain periods of last season he had some very good performances and was really important for us.
“But in one moment we settled on two different players – two midfielders behind Gylfi [Sigurdsson].
“But Tom was always working hard.
"We had some chats during pre-season. I was clear that our season would be tough and everybody would get his chance to play, then it would be the moment to show [his ability].
“These type of moments [players injured] are tough. But when they start to happen – not just one but two or three in the same position – it is a moment for the other players to show, ‘I am here, I am ready, I want the chance’.
"And Tom did that.
“He is taking his chance and I am really pleased to see it.”
Silva has three fit senior midfielders in the shape of Davies, Morgan Schneiderlin and Fabian Delph.
Accordingly, he is urging Under-23s pair Beni Baningime and Dennis Adeniran to press their claims for squad places.
Baningime, 21, and 20-year-old Londoner Adeniran have both trained with the senior team this term and Baningime was named on the bench for last month’s meeting with West Ham.
“Beni and Dennis have started working more with our first team,” said Silva.
“They have to show me they are ready and prove they are able to work with the team every single day.
“Beni started to work well with us. And now we have some injuries in that zone, it is a moment for Beni and Dennis to work with the team.”