Everton were rocked with the news on Thursday that Lucas Digne will likely miss the next 6-8 weeks of the season after injuring his ankle ligaments in training.
The French left-back has been one of the better performers for the Toffees this season, racking up four assists in his eight Premier League appearances so far.
With Everton pushing for a European place after their tremendous start to the campaign, his presence was greatly missed after he was sent off in the defeat to Southampton and while serving his suspension in the defeat to Newcastle United.
As one of the better left-backs in the division, his end product and ability to halt players in one on one situations have been key in allowing Richarlison to flourish in attack with Everton carrying a lethal counter-attacking threat.
After picking up the injury in training, Digne is now likely to miss up to two months of football. Between now and the end of January, Everton are scheduled to play at least 13 games across different competitions and he will be a huge loss to the side.
It does mean a chance for young defender Niels Nkounkou, who signed on a free transfer from Marseille in the summer. Part of the reason for his move to Merseyside was due to a conversation with manager Carlo Ancelotti, who told him he believed in him and wanted to help him develop into a great player.
After some impressive performances in the Carabao Cup, Nkounkou will now have a chance to shine in the top league in the world.
Alongside the Everton first-team, he will have some extra protection with the quality around him and his attacking instincts will be encouraged by Ancelotti. He will have the chance to build a relationship with Richarlison with Digne out for a prolonged period and has a real chance to stake his claim for a more regular role.
Despite that, Everton may have to reconsider their aspirations now. With Digne out, they lose a lot of quality and experience as well as a set-piece taker and leader of the dressing room.
Their form hasn’t been fantastic recently, although they returned to winning ways most recently against Fulham, and the injury comes in a period of the footballing calendar that could make or break a season.