News broke earlier in the week that Everton had met Idrissa Gueye’s release clause of £7.1m and the midfielder emerged as the favourite to be Ronald Koeman’s first outfield signing of the summer. It will be underwhelming for Everton fans after being linked with Gini Wijnaldum, William Carvalho and Kalidou Kouilbaly, but this could be one of the bargains of the summer. He may have played in one of the worst Premier League sides in history at Aston Villa. However, he stood out and achieved some great numbers in terms of interceptions and tackles won.
He arrived in England with a similar reputation to Ngolo Kante, and the similarities between the pair were clear. Gueye has an excellent work rate and his reading of the play is superb. Even Kante would have struggled in that Aston Villa side and it has been surprising that nobody tried to sign Gueye earlier in the summer. It is clear that the manner of the side’s relegation has tarnished every player’s reputation and Gueye is no different, but if you look deeper into his performances, the midfielder actually had a very good debut season.
Kante’s stats for the season were amazing, with the midfielder making 156 inceptions and winning 125 tackles. His ability to win the ball back was crucial to Leicester claiming the league title, and every Premier League side will now be looking to source a player with similar qualities. He represents a new profile of defensive midfielder, one that covers every blade of grass and wins the ball back at an impressive rate. A player being utilised in this role won’t just sit in front of the back four, they will be aggressive and try to win the ball back all over the pitch. Idrissa Gueye can fulfil this role, and if it wasn’t for him last season, it would have been even embarrassing for Aston Villa.
In comparison to Kante, Gueye’s ball retrieval numbers are still very good. He made 140 interceptions, in addition to winning 108 tackles. The midfielder was among the league leaders in winning the ball back and if Kante wasn’t in the Premier League, even more attention would have come Gueye’s way. With 28 chances created, the Senegalese international showed that he can be useful with the ball, and he is capable of playing in a two or three man midfield.
Everton already have some good midfield options with Tom Cleverley, Muhamed Besic, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy at the club. It is likely they will go with a 4-2-3-1 formation using a double pivot to help solidify the defence and give the full backs some freedom to attack. In this formation Gueye would be perfect alongside either Besic or McCarthy in the deeper midfield positions. His energy and aggressive style will help Everton retrieve the ball, giving the likes of Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Romulu Lukaku the platform to thrive.
There is a lot of interest in Gueye, especially in France, but he is believed to favour a return to the Premier League. Aston Villa are likely going to fight to keep him as he was one of the few players to come out of last season with an enhanced reputation. They recognise it will be difficult though and this rumoured bid from Everton will only make it more difficult to keep hold of the defensive midfielder.
Everton were expected to have a big summer with three or four players arriving, but there have been difficulties getting targets over the line. Marko Arnautovic was believed to be signing for the Toffees, but he has ended up signing a new deal at Stoke City instead. Idrissa Gueye may not be the big name that Everton hoped to bring in as the first outfield addition, but it relieves some of the pressure building on the club and at £7.1m, it carries relatively little risk.