There were almost too many issues to count in Everton's performance against Watford on Saturday afternoon.

Of course, the low-lights of the entire display came in the closing stages of the match - with the visitors completely managing to dismantle Rafa Benitez's side all too easily.

However, that shouldn't take away from the rest of the 90 minutes, either.

Everton found themselves ahead at two separate points of their latest match at Goodison Park, but apart from the opening section of the game they never felt as if they were in control.

Injuries to key players certainly played a factor in that and perhaps there was one particular absence that was felt more than any other.

Abdoulaye Doucoure has been a revelation over the course of the campaign so far. From what was already a high base, the 2020 summer arrival has added so much to his game to excel even further as a player.

Now the Frenchman regularly finds himself influential at both ends of the pitch for the Blues, marrying some fantastic attacking link-up play with his ever-tenacious attitude in defence.

His inherent qualities have been tough for any midfielder in the Premier League to attempt to match over the course of the season, never mind those in the Everton squad tasked with stepping in for him.

It's almost little surprise that Everton found such an issue in the middle of the pitch against Watford.

Tom Davies was the man asked to take Doucoure's place in the side, with Benitez admitting afterwards that he had told the academy graduate would "have to score goals".

It took him less than three minutes to live up to that promise, running the whole length of the pitch to eventually get on the end of Demarai Gray's low cross and slam it into the back of the net.

From that high point, however, the 23-year-old found out how difficult it would be to fashion himself as a like-for-like replacement for his absent teammate.

Doucoure has been so impressive over the course of the campaign because he was essentially been doing the job of two players, at both ends of the pitch.

For all the qualities that Davies has, he's not the same mould of player to the 28-year-old. In fact, no-one in the Everton squad really is.

If Davies' instructions were to play in a different way than his teammate then that perhaps could have worked, although it was obvious by the end of the game that he was fading.

A failed clearance in the build-up to Watford's second equalising goal was compounded later in the match by an attempt at a 50/50 challenge which was later lamented on social media.

But to place all of Everton's issues in that area of the pitch on Davies would be wildly wrong.

Not only was he given an almost thankless task in replacing such an influential player in the side, but Allan next to him didn't have the best of matches by any stretch either.

Must-read Everton FC news

The Brazilian has, similarly to Doucoure, started the season in strong fashion - but didn't live up to that form at Goodison Park last weekend.

He similarly missed a 50/50 challenge in the same clip as Davies, and was one of the three Everton players who get in each other's way on the edge of their own box in the build-up to Watford's fourth goal of the afternoon.

Benitez learned that setting up his midfield in the next few weeks might take something a little bit different than he might have first expected.

Perhaps, a change of formation might be in the offing instead, as it seems there isn't a like-for-like replacement that can be found in the current system.

The problem that the manager has in that area is that, even aside from Doucoure, options are limited.

Andre Gomes and Fabian Delph, for example, were both injured for the most recent match. The former is now back in training, but it's yet to be seen whether he will be fit enough to re-join the squad for Monday's trip to Molineux.

Jean Philippe-Gbamin is fit again, but the fact that he didn't get on the pitch at all during last weekend's match could easily be a telling glimpse into his current standing in terms of the club's pecking order.

The midfielder has been limited to just the one appearance so far this season, playing the full 90 minutes of Everton's League Cup victory over Huddersfield.

That match proved that he would need time to get up to speed once again, something that Benitez can ill-afford in a situation such as this one.

The other option could be turning to young players, but even that comes with its issues.

Get all the latest Everton news, transfer gossip, stadium updates and match reaction with our daily newsletter.

We'll have all the latest Everton updates as well as comment and analysis straight to your inbox every day with our FREE email newsletter.

Sign up here - it only takes a few seconds!

Tyler Onyango seems like player with the profile that would allow him to play a similar role to Doucoure at both ends of the pitch, but he's only just coming back from a long injury lay-off.

The 18-year-old has a few appearances for the under-23s under his belt in recent weeks and has stepped up to senior training recently- but how ready would he be to make his Premier League bow?

The U23s have a trip to Chelsea to contend with on Saturday before travelling to face Hartlepool United in the Papa John's Trophy the following Tuesday, either side of the senior match against Wolves.

If the decision is made to potentially take Onyango out of those matches to make him available for the first team, for him to then by hypothetically left on the bench, then it would surely be less helpful to his recovery in the long run.

What should be clear after the match against Watford is that something needs to change in that area of the pitch particularly.

Everton's strong base of their attacking play this season has been their transitions, with Doucoure and Allan's influence often being key in the centre of the pitch in turning attack into defence.

For the next few weeks at least, one of those players isn't there. Somehow, he needs to be replaced.

A change in formation should now be the key, but that age-old issue regarding fitness could be the real factor holding Everton back.