How important has Idrissa Gueye been in Everton’s best ever top flight start?
Having seen Roberto Martinez sacked in the summer after mustering a disappointing 11th place finish in the league last season, the bold appointment from the new owners of Ronald Koeman from league rivals Southampton signalled a fresh start.
Whilst all the attention has been on the high profile appointments of Conte, Guardiola and Mourinho, Everton have slipped under the radar and sit second in the table after winning four of their opening five games.
One man pivotal to Everton’s improvement on the pitch has been summer signing Idrissa Gueye. Having only cost £7 million from relegated Villa, he has already shown that he is more than worth his small fee.
Similar to Kante, Gueye is a workhorse for his team in midfield. Central to Koeman’s success in the Premier League so far has been the implementation of his philosophy, one which demands high tempo and pressing of the ball. For Everton, last year’s pedestrian midfield two; Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, would not be capable of maintaining the high tempo for long periods of time.
The addition of Gueye enables the system to operate effectively, as he covers lots of ground and wins the ball back quickly for his team, as evident by his average of around six tackles a game. His ability to win the ball back frequently in the midfield relieves pressure on Everton’s defence, as shown by only conceding three goals, the Premier League’s second best defensive record.
Additionally, playing alongside Gueye in the midfield pivot has freed Gareth Barry, as the veteran midfielder has netted in victories over West Brom and more recently, Middlesbrough. Without the injection of Gueye’s enthusiasm and intensity, The Toffees would not have accrued as many points as they have.
Outside of the defensive midfielder’s impressive work rate and defensive capabilities, Gueye is also the perfect match for Koeman’s possession orientated style of football. In an Aston Villa team that rarely dominated the play, it was hard to see his real quality on the ball. Since moving in the summer, Gueye has completed an impressive 90% of his passes, in an Everton team that average the third highest amount of possession in the league.
Although it is easy to say that pass completion rates are padded out by sideways passing, the Senegalese international has completed 1.4 key passes a game. This shows the former Villa man is not afraid to play the ball forwards to Everton’s more creative players such as Barkley, Mirallas and Deulofeu to affect the game going forward. Also, his ability to create has also been on display this season, crossing in for one of Lukaku’s goals in his recent treble against Sunderland. Over only the small amount of appearances Gueye has made for Everton, he is clearly key to Everton’s chances of pushing for European qualification this year.
Although the signing of Gueye may not have set the world alight at the time, his obvious qualities in the centre of the park have lifted Everton to the next level. At times in the Martinez era, Everton were woeful defensively, so Idrissa Gueye has provided an increased level of protection in front of the back four.
Furthermore, the defensive midfielder provides similar levels, if not a higher level of quality on the ball than McCarthy, meaning Everton’s possession based football is not compromised.
Tactically, he feeds Koeman’s system by releasing the creative players further up field. For all these reasons, the energetic midfielder has been the perfect match for Koeman and his system.
Off the back of a season where Kante’s work was recognised with a PFA player of the year nomination and a move to Chelsea, if Gueye keeps up his current level of performances, it should not come as a surprise if he is mentioned in the same bracket as Kante.
(All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com)
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Serg Hoholok
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