Football Features

Lucas Digne: Merseyside’s most underrated finally getting his dues ahead of Everton v Liverpool

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 15:25, 16 October 2020 | Updated: 13:58, 5 December 2022

Everyone knows Liverpool have the best full-backs in the Premier League. But, do they?

Obviously in terms of a full-back duo, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are the top dogs in England and perhaps the world, but in terms of individual full-backs are they both the undisputed best the division have to offer, or is there another contender?

Well, take a walk across Stanley Park and you’ll find the only man who can challenge the hegemony of Liverpool’s full-backs: Lucas Digne.

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The Frenchman joined Everton in the summer of 2018 after being labelled a flop with Barcelona (in truth, he was never given enough chances to put together a run of games) and basically emerged in the same season that Liverpool’s duo exploded as well.

While Alexander-Arnold and Robertson have been hoovering up all the accolades and the titles, Digne has been right there, keeping pace with them in a much inferior side. Well, maybe not so inferior now, as under Carlo Ancelotti the Toffees sit top of the table.

James Rodriguez has supercharged Everton into what appears to be (right now, anyway) a team capable of sticking around near the top of the table for the whole season. He’s raised the club’s level to that of, well, Lucas Digne.

Lucas Digne stats

And few teams lean on their left-back like Everton, who funnel oodles of attack play through Digne. Since he joined in 2018, only two players across Europe’s top five leagues have attempted more crosses than his 582 (Alexander-Arnold and Filip Kostic). Even more impressively, only one player (Alejandro “Papu” Gomez) has completed more crosses than his 165. Digne is constantly available (he missed just 385 league minutes last season) and doesn’t just send in an endless barrage of balls, but sends them in with supreme quality with relatively high frequency.

To that end, Digne has created a staggering 151 chances since he joined Everton. That is more than any other full-back across Europe’s top five leagues (Joshua Kimmich has 165 chances created but has split time between midfield and right-back). Even when you remove the positional limit, Digne’s massive total lands him an impressive 15th among all players, still ahead of luminaries like Angel Di Maria and Mohamed Salah.

It’s rare for a full-back to be so creative that he can produce on a par with elite wing talent and No.10s, but that’s exactly what Digne has been doing. Of course given the calibre of player he’s mostly been working with, Digne only has 11 assists to show for his consistent production (Alexander-Arnold has 25 in the same timeframe). But considering James’ arrival has elevated everyone at Goodison Park, most notably striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, you’d expect Digne’s assist number to only go up.

Moreover, he’s a strong presence defensively. It isn’t his strong point but his 155 tackles places him 10th among all full-backs in Europe’s top five leagues since the start of 2018/19, his 108 interceptions also sits 10th and most impressively his 199 clearances ranks sixth. He’s ready, willing and able to pitch in defensively, though of course he’s at his best in attack.

And that’s the thing; at 27 years old, Digne is at the peak of his powers and with Everton improving around him one can only wonder the level of consistent production he’ll manage to come up with now. Maybe he’ll be able to keep up with Liverpool’s wondrous full-backs in terms of assists, and maybe then he’ll finally get the praise he deserves, because he’s been doing work comparable to those two this whole time.

Digne has been whipping in crosses and creating chances at an absurd rate; matching Liverpool’s lads and making Merseyside the European capital of crosses. Reds and blues unite in their love of the cross and their intense skill in pulling it off, and teams dread the trip up there, fearing the aerial bombardment.

And despite getting none of the glory owed him, Digne one of the very best full-backs in the Premier League and all of Europe.