Ancelotti Debating Everton's Digne Cover Options

Carlo Ancelotti is confident Everton boast the depth and flexibility to compensate for the absence of Lucas Digne during a congested period.

Frenchman Digne hurt his ankle training this week and manager Ancelotti expects the left-back to miss “two-to-three-months” of action.

Everton host Leeds United at Goodison Park on Saturday before entering a month crammed with six Premier League games and a visit from Manchester United for a Carabao Cup quarter-final tie.

Niels Nkounkou, the 20-year-old defender whose lone Premier League appearance came at Newcastle United this month, is in contention to deputise for Digne.

Ancelotti – who is also missing injured right-back Seamus Coleman - is weighing up whether to continue with the three-man defence employed successfully at Fulham last week or revert to a back four.

“During a season, it can happen that you lose some important players and we have to manage this situation,” said Ancelotti.

“I think we will be able to adapt to the loss of Lucas Digne.

“We have a good squad, good substitutes in that position [full-back].

“Nkounkou doesn’t have experience in the Premier League but showed good quality in the game he played.

“He is young but has a lot of quality

“We have Jonjoe Kenny on the right, we have the possibility to substitute and we will try.

“Three centre-backs can be an option.

“Alex Iwobi can play on the left as a wing-back without a problem.”

Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Friday, Ancelotti insisted Everton have made notable improvements since his appointment 11 month ago – but are not consistently performing at a level to reflect the quality in their squad.

Ancelotti’s side led the Premier League after taking 13 points from their opening five games.

But the win at Fulham last Sunday was a first success in four matches.

The issue holding Everton back, in Ancelotti’s opinion, is the team’s collective defending – placing the ability to cover for Digne in even sharper light.

Only three teams in the division have scored more goals than Everton’s 19.

Equally, only three teams have conceded more than the 16 let-in by Ancelotti’s side.

“We have to be concerned because we conceded too many goals, from my point of view,” said Ancelotti, who will become the first Everton manager since David Moyes in April 2004 to encounter Leeds in a league fixture.

“We are working on this.

“We scored a lot of goals and were efficient and our strikers did really well.

“But we conceded too much and have to avoid this

“We need to have balance.

“Leeds is a dynamic team.

“It will be an open match, I think, with a lot of intensity

“All Marcelo Bielsa [Leeds manager] teams are like Leeds, they keep high intensity with and without the ball and we expect this kind of game.”

Everton forward Iwobi was instrumental in making the switch to a three-man backline work to good effect in a 3-2 victory at Fulham.

Playing out of position at right wing-back – and making his second Premier League start of the season – the 24-year-old delivered a performance high on both attacking intent and defensive responsibility.

Iwobi’s purposeful response to being recalled was testament to Ancelotti’s policy of maintaining a direct line of communication to players not in the starting XI.

Andre Gomes has latterly found himself out of the team but was reassured by discussions with his boss.

“To manage the players not playing is the most difficult aspect and one of the most important [of a manager’s job],” added Ancelotti.

“Andre Gomes started the season really well.

“He is an important player for us and is going to play and be at his best; this is what I expect from him.

“Sometimes you choose the line-up for tactical or physical reasons, you consider everything.

“I was happy with Alex’s performance [against Fulham].

“He is a good player, he needs to feel confidence when he plays – this is the key point for a player.

“For Alex, it is important to feel he has around him teammates and a manager who have confidence in him.”