Everton booked their place in the third round of the Carabao cup last week after a dominate 3-0 win over Salford City.

The fixture had the potential to be a real banana skin for the Blues, especially on the back of their massive win over Tottenham three days earlier. Carlo Ancelotti also made no less than ten changes to the starting 11, further adding to the potential risk of an upset.

However, any pre-match concerns were quickly squashed as the Blues dominated proceedings from the outset and put on a real show for the tens of thousands of Evertonians watching from home.

There were a number of strong displays from more senior players such as Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bernard and Michael Keane but it was the performances of some of the club’s budding prospects such as Anthony Gordon and Niels Nkounkou that was most satisfying to watch.

On the night, Gordon was an ever-present thorn in the side of the Salford defence, attempting no less than seven shots, winning a penalty, hitting the woodwork twice and beautifully assisting Sigurdsson for the second goal of the evening.

In the build-up to that strike, Gordon was fed a superbly weighted pass by Nkounkou who himself had an imposing game for the Blues. It was only the third time we had seen the 19-year-old in an Everton shirt and the first within a competitive game, but yet he looked unphased and proved one of the better players on the pitch.

Although rarely tested from a defensive point of view, on the night, he completed 6/6 attempted dribbles, made seven progressive runs, completed 9/4 attempted crosses and recorded one shot assist.

He and Gordon both worked in tandem as a left-sided duo and they provided the bulk of Everton’s attacking threat on the night, despite the Blues right side boasting more senior first-term experience in the form of Jonjoe Kenny and Theo Walcott.

As highlighted below, nearly half of Everton’s attacks on the night came down their left side, as did the highest proportion of their accumulated Expected Goal (xG) threat.

Everton's attacks vs Salford highlighting how they posed most threat down their left
Everton's attacks vs Salford highlighting how they posed most threat down their left

Their success on the night derived from a great tactical understanding between the two teenagers, the sort you simply would not expect to see in just their first competitive fixture together. An example of this is below.

Despite being  a wide player on paper, Gordon has a tendency to come into central locations both with and without the ball. With the ball, coming inside allows him to cut onto his favoured right foot to create shooting opportunities, whilst without, his movement can often pull defenders out of position, creating openings for others.

This is what we see here as the Salford right-back follows Gordon, leaving a space in behind him. At this point, it’s important that Nkounkou exploits the area, therefore he starts pushing higher up the pitch.

Nkounkou begins to drift up the pitch ready to exploit the space
Nkounkou begins to drift up the pitch ready to exploit the space

By the time Everton’s midfielders play through Salford, Everton’s new young left-back is driving towards the penalty area and open to receiving a threaded pass into feet.

Nkounkou drives towards the edge of the box, ready to receive a pass
Nkounkou drives towards the edge of the box, ready to receive a pass

Nkounkou receives the pass, drives into the box before smartly lifting his head and picking out Sigurdsson with a clever pass who is unmarked in the penalty area. This passage of play leads to three shots and a great save by the Salford keeper to eventually deny Walcott.

Nkounkou carries the ball into the box before playing a good ball into the box
Nkounkou carries the ball into the box before playing a good ball into the box

Although it could be argued that this is a rather standard piece of wing-back play, and that it came against lower league opposition, it’ll still be very pleasing to see for Ancelotti who might now be confident that Nkounkou has the potential to adequately provide cover for Lucas Digne across this coming campaign as he'll look to impress in the Carabao Cup again this week against Fleetwood.

After all, he certainly has the physical attributes. He’s strong, stands at an imposing 6ft and possess both pace and skill, as we see above. We also saw on Wednesday that he seems to possess the other technical abilities required to succeed in the Premier League too.

Should his defensive capabilities match his prowess in these other areas, than the £240,000 compensation fee to be paid to Marseille will look a steal and another clever piece of transfer by the Blues this summer.