Lucas Digne interview: Everton full-back relishing the return of fans amid faltering home form at Goodison Park

In an exclusive Sky Sports interview, Lucas Digne assesses Everton's season of contrasts; follow West Ham vs Everton live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event on Sunday from 4pm; kick-off 4.30pm

Everton full-back Lucas Digne spoke exclusively to Sky Sports
Image: Everton full-back Lucas Digne spoke exclusively to Sky Sports

"I am waiting! I am waiting."

Lucas Digne leans back in his chair, arms outstretched, and wears a smile as wide as the River Mersey as he considers the prospect of supporters returning to Goodison Park this month.

For Everton, the Premier League season has been one of contrasting fortunes and missed opportunities, but the club confirmed this week that 6,500 fans will be welcomed back with open arms for the visit of Nuno Espirito Santo's Wolves side on May 19.

It is hard to quantify just how much Everton have missed their supporters; the team rank 15th in the Premier League's home table but sit fourth with a game in hand on most other sides after 16 away league matches. The home fixtures against Chelsea and Arsenal in December, where the easing of coronavirus regulations allowed 2,000 fans to attend, resulted in two victories.

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Carlo Ancelotti's side have won one of 10 home league games this calendar year, collecting just six points, and Digne acknowledges that performances have failed to match those on the road in the absence of a packed Gwladys Street.

"It's amazing the feeling we have with the fans," the full-back tells Sky Sports. "It's not the primary reason we've had bad results at home, but maybe it's played a big part. We can't feel their noise and their love. It's nothing like the feeling we have at home normally. It's not an excuse but it's certainly played a part."

Thankfully for Everton, this weekend sees them travel to face West Ham, live on Super Sunday. Ancelotti's side have secured four wins from five games in London, already beating Tottenham, Crystal Palace, Fulham and Arsenal in the league this term.

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Everton have never won five matches in the capital in a single season, but there is little need for added motivation as they head south again, with the goal of achieving European football now heavily on the line.

"We've shown this season that away from home we're more compact," Digne assesses. "We've defended well and we've shown that we're sometimes more focused.

"We have to do better at home because we miss chances in some moments and in others we've made mistakes, so we have to be more focused for the whole game.

"When we play at Goodison, we tend to have more possession so we have to be better prepared."

Digne missed nearly two months of the season through an ankle injury
Image: Digne missed nearly two months of the season through an ankle injury

Digne missed the 1-0 home defeat to West Ham on New Year's Day having undergone ankle surgery, part of two months spent on the sidelines, but the Frenchman returned ahead of schedule and has started each of the last 17 Premier League games.

It is over two years, however, since his last league goal - the third in a thumping 4-0 win over Manchester United, but when it comes to his role in Everton's supply line, there is an overreliance on his crossing ability.

Digne's pinpoint delivery was showcased once more in the 2-1 home defeat to Aston Villa, with his corner leading to Dominic Calvert-Lewin's first-half equaliser.

Ancelotti's son Davide, Leighton Baines and club legend Duncan Ferguson are among the coaching staff who have worked with Digne to hone this area of his game, a powerful tool that has helped preserve Everton's top-half position in the table in spite of their poor home form.

Duncan Ferguson celebrates the derby win with Digne
Image: Duncan Ferguson celebrates the derby win with Digne

"Duncan has a big role and is really important for all the players," Digne says. "He's someone who pushes us and is part of the club for many years. He has the identity of the club and he helped me a lot personally with my crossing in training. I really appreciate him.

"Since I signed, Leighton helped me a lot. He gave me a lot of advice in my first year. He knew all of the players so he taught me what to look out for from right-wingers in the league.

"He told me a lot about the league, and we're good friends. Now, he's helping the staff and the players and is watching on as part of the training. He's a really good guy and has helped the entire team."

Leighton Baines memorably scored two free-kicks against West Ham in 2013
Image: Leighton Baines memorably scored two free-kicks against West Ham in 2013

Everton led the table in late October, and while Manchester City have gone on to leave competitors in their wake this term, it has been a season for one of the less-established clubs to emerge and challenge the elite.

While West Ham have maintained their push to qualify for the Champions League under David Moyes, Everton's eighth home defeat of the season against Aston Villa felt terminal in the club's hopes of being part of the conversation, despite it still being mathematically possible.

Ancelotti has always seen finishing in the top four as more of a 'dream' than an outright objective this season, but missing out on Europe entirely would be viewed as a major disappointment given the impressive start to the campaign.

Sunday will be an important game for us if we want to achieve our goal to be in Europe next season. We've shown our quality, but it will come down to small details.
Everton full-back Lucas Digne

"Of course, everyone was angry after the Villa result," Digne admits. "It was not the result we expected but this week everyone has been fully focused on West Ham. We want to win and show it was just a bad mood last weekend.

"Sometimes, we've been a little bit unlucky where the performances have been good but the results haven't matched them. We've played well without getting the win, but we have to be more consistent and more focused for the full game, and the results will follow.

"Sunday will be important for us if we want to achieve our goal of being in Europe next season. We've shown our quality, and it will come down to small details. We have to prepare well in order to do the right thing but we shouldn't put too much pressure on ourselves.

Lucas Digne graphic

"If we do the right things at the right moment, I'm sure with our quality we can improve."

The drop-off in results has coincided with the absence of Abdoulaye Doucoure with a fractured foot, but the Frenchman is back available after returning to full training. Doucoure was quickly identified by director of football Marcel Brands as someone Everton needed last summer to bolster their midfield, and the team have registered just one win in eight games without him compared to a 56 per cent win rate when he has been present.

Since March 8 - the defeat to Chelsea - Everton have won possession in the final third just 21 times - only three teams have done so on fewer occasions (Sheffield United, Wolves and Newcastle), while their shot conversion rate is down at 6.9 during that period - again, only Wolves, Fulham and Sheff Utd have fared worse.

Chances created in open play have also dried up - ranked 11th in the last seven games (54) - with teams such as Aston Villa, without Jack Grealish, and Brighton having been more productive.

Lucas Digne graphic

With Aaron Cresswell now back from injury for West Ham, Sunday's encounter could be decided by fine margins - and a set-piece goal. When it comes to scoring from dead ball situations, Everton (17) and West Ham (18) rank among the league's leading exponents of the skill, with only Chelsea having scored more (19).

On his own form, Digne is rightly content - and with this summer's European Championships now on the horizon, Ancelotti will hope his entire team matches the concentration and consistency shown by his marauding left-back during the run-in.

"I'm happy with what I'm doing, but I want to do better," he says. "I'm happy with the stats as it's part of my job. I'm a defender so I have to defend well, but I also have to attack and help the team when they need me.

Lucas Digne graphic

"Hopefully, I'll be part of the squad for France this summer. I've been doing my best throughout the season to be part of the national team, and hopefully we can do something together in the Euros."

Before then, however, Everton have five league games to play, and everything is still at stake. An 11th away league win of the season this weekend would revive European hopes, and reignite the prospect of finishing above Liverpool for the first time since 2013.

Approaching the end of Ancelotti's first full season with the club, opinions can start to be formed on how Everton are progressing under the Italian. With the green light for a new £500m waterfront stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock in time for the 2024/25 campaign, Digne is convinced the club is heading in the right direction.

Lucas Digne graphic

"Playing in Europe would speak for itself," says Digne, who earlier this year committed his future to the club until the end of June 2025. "I'd love to be back playing in European competition as it's where ultimately all players want to be testing themselves.

"Everybody watches on the Tuesday, the Wednesday and the Thursday nights so it would be amazing playing for Everton in Europe.

"I've felt at home here since my first day, and for me it was like the perfect wedding. It's amazing to be here and to be part of this club. We have a big project, and I re-signed because I believe in it."

Lucas Digne graphic

How to follow West Ham vs Everton

West Ham vs Everton

West Ham vs Everton will be shown live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event from 4pm; kick-off 4.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app.

Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.

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