The start of 2022 was not the best for Everton. Having fallen out with then-manager Rafa Benitez, Lucas Digne’s future at Goodison Park seemed grim. Anticipating Digne’s imminent departure, the club moved for a replacement left fullback, bringing in Vitaliy Mykolenko from Dynamo Kyiv on the very first day of the January transfer window. He was joined three days later by right back Nathan Patterson from Rangers in the hopes that the pair could grow together under the tutelage of master tactician Rafael Benitez.
Lucas Digne’s inevitable exit finally occurred on 13 January, the Frenchman leaving Merseyside to join the ranks at Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa. Ironically, just three days later Benitez himself was shown the door, becoming the sixth coach to leave Goodison Park in the past 5 years.
Duncan Ferguson has been named caretaker after Rafa’s sacking, with Frank Lampard and Vitor Pereira among the contenders to take over the job permanently. The Englishman seems to be the fan favorite, while the Portuguese seems to be the boardroom’s frontrunner. The coming days will bring the final choice into sharper focus, and an announcement is expected sooner rather than later considering the club’s table position is a disappointing 16th. For now though, let us set aside the uncertainty swirling at Everton and examine what we know: There are two new fullbacks at Goodison Park.
Born 29 May 1999 in Cherkasy, Ukraine, the left back joined Dynamo Kyiv’s youth system at the age of 13. Three years later he cracked into the first team at Ukraine’s top club, initially spending most of his time at the bench. His substitute performances impressed, however, and he took over a starting position by the end of his first campaign. He played five seasons for Dynamo Kyiv as a starter, totaling 88 matches, scoring five goals, and providing 12 assists. He also started in all 27 of Dynamo’s European ties that occurred during his tenure, scoring two goals and providing 3 helpers. Mykolenko received wide exposure during the UEFA Euro Cup in the summer of 2021. His strong defensive ability allowed Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko to field Oleksandr Zinchenko in a midfield position to capitalize on his attacking abilities.
Mykolenko’s first appearance for Everton came a week after his signing, when he put in a full shift against Hull City as a left midfielder in a 3-4-3 formation in the FA Cup. He helped the club secure a 3-2 victory with a clearance off the goal line. One day before Benitez was sacked, the gaffer fielded Mykolenko as a left back in a 4-4-2 formation where the player’s dynamic performance forced Norwich’s Max Aarons into a booking. Unfortunately, Everton eventually lost 1-2, the defeat sealing Rafa’s fate.
Mykolenko missed Everton’s next match, caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson leaving him out of the squad for the team’s trip to Villa Park. This point brings into question the Ukrainian international’s security of starts, and therefore his fantasy prospects. Consequently it seems prudent to adopt a watch-and-wait posture until the permanent manager makes clear his preference between Mykolenko and Ben Godfrey.
Born 16 October 2001 in Glasgow, the young Scotland international joined the youth system at Rangers at the age of 8. Ten years later he was promoted to the senior team, where he appeared in 13 matches over two seasons, providing one assist. He also played six matches in the Europa League, scoring one goal from the penalty spot for Rangers.
Patterson joined Everton on 4 January 2022, but he may find it challenging to elbow out fellow right back Jonjoe Kenny. Against Hull City in the FA Cup, Rafa left Patterson on the bench, and he was an unused sub in the Norwich match as well. And Duncan Ferguson didn’t even name him to the squad that traveled to Aston Villa.
On Monday 24th January, Patterson was given an hour of pitch time with the U-23 team against Spurs. Everton kept a clean sheet and the new signing delivered the cross to Lewis Dobbin to score the match winning goal. The U-23 coach Jose Baxter explained that “It was important for him to get some minutes.”
Again, then, caution seems wise here with respect to fantasy investment. Patterson has not yet dislodged his competition at the right back position, and accomplishing that task may prove difficult.
Are you planning to draft Mykolenko or Patterson into your fantasy sides, or do you agree with me that they aren’t quite yet ready for prime time? Do you think either has the potential to win a starting role this season under a new manager? Share your thoughts below!