Trying to assemble an Everton side capable of challenging for a place in the top four has become a bit like trying to fix a leaking dam with masking tape; no sooner have you solved a problem in one area has another problem arisen that you thought you’d already fixed.
When the Toffees made the lofty acquisition of Gylfi Sigurdsson back in 2017 they looked to have found themselves a tried and tested Premier League creator, someone who could feed Romelu Lukaku and propel the club to the upper echelons of the top flight – the only problem is they’d just gone and sold Lukaku, silly sods.
The Merseysiders struggled to replace the Belgian’s goals, yet the emergence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin this season has finally banished their centre forward woes; the only problem is now they’ve got no-one in midfield to supply him.
Sigurdsson has endured a marked drop off in form since the start of last season, registering just two goals and four assists in his previous 43 league games. However, fear not Everton fans – there’s no need to go splashing millions on yet another replacement midfielder, the answer to the problem may be right under your nose.
Bernard’s arrival at Goodison Park in 2018 was met with little fanfare given the club had recently secured the services of Barcelona’s Lucas Digne and club-record signing Richarlison.
However, anyone who’d followed his career at Shakhtar Donetsk would know there was just as much reason to be excited about his arrival as there was his fellow summer signings. The midfielder was given licence to roam at Shakhtar, playing off the front man and finding pockets of space where he would look to create chances, and he looked an absolute class act, receiving international recognition with Brazil.
His spell on Merseyside has seen him afforded no such freedom, being stuck out on the left of midfield where it’s difficult to see how he can impact the game.
He’s not particularly quick and he’s never going to run in behind, yet with a towering striker like Calvert-Lewin in the middle, Everton should be fielding pacy wingers who can reach the byline before delivering to the England man.
With Sigurdsson struggling to produce quality performances in the centre of the park, now is Carlo Ancelotti’s chance to move Bernard inside and see what he can do.
In recent years the move would have represented something of a risk, with the Brazilian unlikely to be afforded any sort of protection from the likes of Tom Davies and Andre Gomes. However, with Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure now marshalling the Toffees midfield, there’s a much more physical look to their team and Bernard would be given the opportunity to express himself.
The 28-year-old has proven himself to be a quality operator with the ball at his feet, and so bringing him infield would allow him the chance to replicate his role at Shakhtar, playing on the half turn and looking to feed his teammates.
Not only would the change in position undoubtedly increase his influence on the game, it would also give him the chance to link up with fellow South American James Rodriguez, both quality players who could cause Premier League defences a lot of problems.
Given the reported £40m Everton splashed on Sigurdsson, there’s perhaps a stubbornness in the constant selection of the Icelandic midfielder, as though they’re desperate to be proved right in forking out such a fee, while the Bernard – who arrived on a free transfer – is forced out wide and told to sink or swim.
However, if the club have genuine ambitions of mixing it at the top end of the table - which they should have given the unpredictable season we've experienced so far - then a player of Bernard’s quality needs to be better utilised.