Jon Guy says…
The loss of Evans is a blow.
Apart from the fact that he was a midfield anchor, he was also an experienced head in a young team and clearly a major influence, as both Alex Neil and Tony Mowbray retained him as captain.
The question was who plays with Dan Neil, but the additional question is: where does Neil play?
During a recent interview, he revealed he spent the summer working on his defensive capabilities and he also felt that at the start of the season, he was too defensively-minded. Therefore, it may be that Neil takes the deeper role and we see Edouard Michut and Pierre Ekwah in the advanced positions.
Mowbray intimated that we might look to bring in someone to fill Evans’ boots, but that goes against the long-term nature of the club’s strategy. You could see Luke O’Nien filling the role when he returns and if he does, Neil stays in the middle for me, with either Ekwah or Michut. Also, when fit you’d expect Alex Pritchard to return.
The key is whether Neil assumes the defensive role, which he is certainly capable of doing. He would also give us a decent passing option out from the back.
Malc Dugdale says…
I’m gutted for Evans and this is a major blow, but fortunately we’ve started to see other options emerging in the middle of the park in recent weeks.
Edouard Michut will be robbed of the guidance that an established player like Evans can provide, but this has to be seen as a chance for him to establish himself alongside Neil and really grow into the role.
My main concern is that he’s a young lad with a lot of class but also a lot to learn and plenty of filling out to do.
He’ll get bumped off the ball at times and will make mistakes but we saw what asking too much of a young lad can do, because it happened to Callum Doyle last season. This will need to be very carefully managed if we want to avoid a similar scenario this time.
With Pierre Ekwah signed, he’s probably thinking that a midfielder dropping out gives him more of a chance, but we’re yet to see if he’ll fit into the vacancy left by Evans or if others get a chance before him.
I’d go with Michut and Ekwah to support Neil depending on the opponent, and maybe throw a third man in there when we can to support Neil and his partner. We have to remember that Neil is still developing, but he’s a very good player.
The good thing is that this has manifested itself before the transfer window closes, so any ‘irons in the fire’ might now be pursued with urgency.
We often don’t get that luxury so the timing, for once, isn’t totally against us.