Selection headaches

When Everton go to Old Trafford in nine days' time, Rafa Benitez is expected to name a starting XI that offers an insight into his thinking ahead of the first game of the season.

The line-up against Manchester United, in the Blues' final pre-season friendly on August 7, is likely to be pretty close to the side that will face Southampton, at Goodison, seven days later.

So what has the two-game tour of the US offered us in terms of hints?

When Jordan Pickford and Dominic Calvert-Lewin return from their breaks following Euro 2020, they will be in Benitez's line-up, but the game with United may yet come too soon for the pair.

Given Everton's search for a new right-back goes on, and with Seamus Coleman having the benefit of a full pre-season in the tank, the club captain is likely to start at Old Trafford.

Next to him? That appears up for grabs. While Ben Godfrey and Lucas Digne started both games in Florida, it appears Benitez has not made up his mind about which one of Michael Keane and Mason Holgate to start.

The make-up of Everton's midfield is unclear too. Assuming Benitez goes for a 4-2-3-1 formation, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure would be favourites but Jean-Philippe Gbamin is fit and has impressed this summer.

Out wide, new-boy Andros Townsend started against both Millonarios and Pumas so looks good to be in the line-up against United a week on Saturday and, therefore, against Southampton.

Alex Iwobi also started both US matches and must be in Benitez's thoughts for the opener - especially with Richarlison still away on international duty - while new arrival Demarai Gray has stood out, both off the bench and from the start.

But then what about James Rodriguez? Can Everton afford not to start him against Southampton, assuming he's still with the club?

Nathan Broadhead and Anthony Gordon have both looked lively in their second-half cameos in the US and hopefully Benitez finds room for both of them in the squad for Southampton.

Decisions, decisions.

Kean eye

Moise Kean may not want to be at Everton but if the club's stand-off with Paris Saint Germain continues, he will still be a Blues player when the window shuts.

And with that being a distinct possibility, it was encouraging to see the 21-year-old find the back of the net against Pumas last night.

Kean's confidence visibly grew on the back of the goal.

Sure, you would have expected him to have finished off Gray's through-ball first time - and the miss will do little to change the mind of his doubters - but the ball squeezed kindly underneath the goalkeeper and allowed Kean to tap into an empty net.

Sometimes strikers need a stroke of luck.

The Italian striker, who missed a good chance in the game with Millonarios on Sunday, suddenly had a spring in his step. He connected with a cross with an acrobatic volley which was blocked by the outstretched arm of a defender. No penalty was given. Had it, then Kean is sure to have stepped up to take it.

Kean was also showing his ability to link-up play too. His best work is when the ball is in front of him, when he is allowed to run the channels and stretch defences, but he also showed a deft touch to play Iwobi into space in the box.

It remains to be seen how much more we see of Kean in an Everton shirt but if he is to stay - which could well happen - then it's important the 21-year-old is confident.

It may only have been a tap-in, but any goal does wonders for a centre-forward.

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Alternative formation?

The belief is that Benitez's favoured formation is 4-2-3-1 but in the second-half the new boss changed things up.

Off the bench came Allan, Doucure and Gbamin and Everton moved into a 4-3-3 system.

Allan, largely, anchored the midfield which allowed Doucoure and Gbamin to push further forward.

The midfield had a solid look about it and with the athleticism of Doucoure and Gbamin, the Blues looked threatening when they went forward and were able to get bodies in and around the box more than they had done.

Carlo Ancelotti's preferred formation was 4-3-3 but the nagging issue for the Italian was who to play alongside Allan and Doucoure, while Marco Silva's second season was dogged by injuries in that area which left him with a patched up engine room.

But Gbamin is now - touch wood - fit and looking stronger and more impressive with each showing. If that remains that way, maybe Benitez will be able to use a system that Silva wanted to and Ancelotti did far less than he would've liked.

Alex Iwobi

It was never confirmed, only inferred, that Ancelotti and Iwobi had that conversation over his preferred position.

But after the manager read Iwobi's cryptic message on social media last season, he played him in a No.10 role against Burnley in the next match.

The assumption is, that's where he wants to play.

It didn't work. Iwobi was poor, as were Everton, but Ancelotti blamed the system around the player, not the player himself.

But the problem hasn't gone away and Benitez has inherited the Iwobi conundrum.

Word from Finch Farm, ahead of the US tour, was that the 25-year-old had been impressing Benitez but will the new manager have liked what he's seen Stateside?

Against Millonarios, Iwobi was not in the game during his 70 plus minutes on the wing, but his 45 minute appearance - as a No10 - against Pumas was better, but he was still very quiet.

At training he's been catching the eye but on the pitch, he looks like a player still searching, not only for a position to call his own, but for confidence too.

Iwobi remains a player still needing to convince many Evertonians while Benitez may be starting to realise that he's somewhat of an enigma.