Everton’s dead rubber Europa League encounter with FK Krasnodar is the latest testing ground for the theory that they can no longer win without James McCarthy’s assistance.
The hamstring complaint that kept him out of action for the Republic of Ireland’s most recent internationals has recurred, causing him to miss the last three Premier League games.
His stature within the ranks has grown steadily since arriving as the second most-expensive signing in the club’s history last September.
Now it seems he has become so essential to the Toffees’ modus operandi that they cannot win without him in the starting XI.
Roberto Martinez has sent out a McCarthyless side on seven occasions so far this season failing to gain so much as one win in the process.
Instead the ledger reads three draws and four losses, with (as if to underline the importance of his role as midfield marshal) all bar one of that quartet of reverses coming by a single goal.
Alongside Gareth Barry the 24-year-old provides the pass-proliferating basis for Martinez’s possession football, averaging 63.4 distributions a game in the league this season.
Without him in the side Everton are robbed of one half of their ball-retention axis and destabilised.
The Toffees remain 17/20 for a victory, which, given the absence of such a seemingly decisive player, appeals far less than the 23/10 Krasnodar holding them to a draw, or the Russians’ win odds of 7/2.
Meanwhile, Aleh Konanow’s side can be backed at 91/100 to avoid defeat by either of the aforementioned methods.
McCarthy is expected to return to action in some capacity when QPR visit Goodison Park on Monday, a match the Merseysiders are as short as 9/20 to win against a side that have neither scored nor avoided defeat in eight road games this season.