Abdoulaye Doucoure has opened up about the difficulties he faced last season, both personally and professionally, but is proud of his contribution to Everton after regaining his place in the team.
Goodison Park was rocking on the final game of 2022/23 as a delighted Doucoure wheeled away to celebrate his crucial winner against Bournemouth that preserved the Blues' proud top-flight status.
That proved a joyful ending to a campaign that certainly wasn't plain sailing for the midfielder.
Prior to Sean Dyche’s appointment as Everton manager on 30 January, Doucoure hadn’t started a Premier League match since 13 August.
However, the Blues boss was quick to reveal his admiration for the 30-year-old and immediately restored him to his starting XI for his first match in charge - the 1-0 win over then-leaders Arsenal at Goodison.
Doucoure would go on to play a key role in Everton's survival, starting every match in which he was available, and also netting goals against Nottingham Forest, Chelsea and two in the 5-1 triumph at Brighton & Hove Albion.
After the season’s nail-biting conclusion, he spoke to evertonfc.com, discussing his battle to rescue a starting spot and the need for the Blues to improve next term.
“The last few weeks of the season were very tense,” Doucoure acknowledged. “Everyone was talking about Everton perhaps being relegated. It was very tense so to score that goal meant everything.
“I worked hard to come back into the team, but the season was very difficult for me and for my family as well. I had some personal issues and as a professional, I didn’t play my part with the first manager.
“I was pleased to have helped the Club on the final day. I’m very happy and proud of myself, and my teammates. Everton are in the Premier League next season, but we need to be stronger than that.”
Doucoure, who continued his three-year stay on Merseyside after Everton activated the option to extend his contract until the end of June 2024 last month, consistently produced impactful performances under Dyche.
Along with Dwight McNeil, the Mali international was the Blues’ top scorer following the appointment of the former Burnley boss, playing a significant part in Everton’s average goals per game increasing from 0.75 to 1.06 after Dyche’s arrival.
Recording an impressive 0.29 goals per 90 minutes, Doucoure ranked in the top 10 across all Premier League centre midfielders for this metric.
Furthermore, the campaign saw Doucoure add a ruthless edge to his game. He scored five league goals from just 20 shots – an efficiency matched by only one per cent of midfielders in Europe’s top five divisions.
The 30-year-old’s most important strike arrived on the final day of the season, when he volleyed Everton to victory, and in doing so, securing the Blues’ Premier League safety.
Reacting to the goal, Doucoure said: “It’s a great feeling. The season was very difficult and we knew the game was massive for us. We needed to win the match, and I’m delighted to have scored the goal. I’m very happy for my teammates and for the Club.
“Everton is a massive club and the fans are great. I always fight for this club, and I was very happy to make my contribution. We’re looking forward now.”