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Schneiderlin has most to prove at Everton as poster boy of Koeman tenure

Priorities are elsewhere for the most part, as Everton prepare to close out their Europa League campaign in Cyprus without new manager Sam Allardyce and several first-team players. First-team coaches Craig Shakespeare and Duncan Ferguson will instead take charge of a much-changed team against Apollon Limassol on Thursday.

Focus is rightfully on the upcoming Merseyside derby at Anfield on Sunday. Quickly thrust into the role, Allardyce had little time to work with the squad before overseeing a 2-0 win over Huddersfield in his first match. This practical decision allows more time with the bulk of the first-team and the chance to fine-tune his approach as Everton chase a first win at Anfield since 1999.

For those players heading to Cyprus, however, this is a chance to respond to the 5-1 humbling suffered at home to Atalanta in the last round of Europa League group games. A belated group win at the sixth attempt would also send Everton above their hosts and avoid the double humiliation of finishing bottom of the group and creating an unwanted club record of seven consecutive European games without a win.

This is also an opportunity for players to stake a claim with this European tie starting a run of three successive away games in seven days. After the Anfield derby, a midweek trip to Newcastle rounds out the trilogy. Similar fixture congestion extends through the festive period and beyond and Allardyce needs to be able to trust the remainder of his squad without fearing the outcome.

But while this match potentially opens the door for those on the fringes, in some cases, inclusion for this match does not reflect well. Among this mixture of players working their way back from injury, new signings still finding feet or youngsters aiming to push on, the presence of Morgan Schneiderlin in the squad shows how quickly his stock has fallen.

Under normal circumstances, especially with central midfield one of the few areas of the squad in which Everton possess numerous options, Schneiderlin would be among those staying behind and preparing for the Merseyside derby on Sunday. However, the £20 million January signing has struggled for form all season and appeared a shadow of the player that burst onto the scene last season. The midfield masterclass he delivered against Stoke on his full debut in February feels like a lifetime ago.

With Gareth Barry moving to West Brom in search of the regular football former manager Ronald Koeman could not guarantee at the time, Schneiderlin had the platform to take centre stage and become the midfield focal point of this team.

MorganĀ Schneiderlin has been the poster boy for the Koeman tenure.

However, the reality has been somewhat different and poor performances are the unwanted hallmarks of this current campaign. There were momentary flashes of his ability earlier in the season, but his rapid decline has even outmatched that of the team in general.

Home defeats to Tottenham and Burnley saw the midfielder at fault in the build-up for three of the four goals conceded, making telling errors inside the penalty area. Whether it is weakness in the tackle or failure to react to the situation developing around him, the France international has looked well off the pace.

With two red cards to his name already, it has been that bad that there is a case for dismissals outweighing good performances to this point. If there was an element of misfortune to his red card against Manchester City in the league, the red card picked up against Lyon in the fourth group game of this competition highlighted the petulance and indifference that has seen supporters rapidly lose faith in the player.

Two needless bookings and the subsequent one-match ban as Everton crumbled to a 3-0 defeat in France typified his performances thus far and Schneiderlin has been on the periphery ever since. Dropped from the matchday squad for the 3-2 win against Watford, Schneiderlin played just 45 minutes in the 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace before suspension kept him out of the Atalanta debacle.

His return to the first-team setup since then has been just as unconvincing, providing minimal protection as Everton shipped four goals in defeat at Southampton. Then, unused as the Toffees eased past West Ham to record their biggest win of the season, the midfielder appeared as a substitute in the Huddersfield win. This 25-minute cameo underlined his fall from grace as a mixed welcome from the terraces preceded a performance in which the midfielder recorded no successful tackles or interceptions.

With a rapid rise in the opening months prior to this sudden fall, Schneiderlin has become the poster boy for the Koeman tenure. From Goodison prince to pauper in less than a year, this dramatic downturn needs fixing. With Allardyce no doubt keen to assess the squad while potentially making space for new signings in January, Schneiderlin has the most to prove.

Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.

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