Football Features

Idrissa Gueye to PSG could destroy Everton’s project… or enable the next step

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 12:55, 26 July 2019

Idrissa Gueye has been linked with a move away from Everton this summer.

The Senegalese midfielder is apparently on his way to PSG, with Sky Sports reporting that a fee of £28m has already been agreed. The Parisians tried to sign Gueye in January so it should be no surprise that they’ve come back in for him, especially as for all of the quality in their squad, they are lacking a dedicated defensive midfielder.

Everton fans would hate to see him go given that the club are seriously building a side to try and compete with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United for that sixth spot in the league table. The Toffees have long tried to break into the grouping of big clubs that heads up the Premier League, but they’ve usually fallen just short.

When there was a “big four” Everton finished fifth three times in seven years. And since it’s become a “big six” they’ve managed one seventh-place finish. Hell, the only time they did break into the clubhouse, finishing fourth in 2004/05, Liverpool won the Champions League and got back into Europe’s premier competition anyway, while Everton were cruelly dumped out in the qualifying rounds. The Toffees have had no luck with this endeavour.

But last season, they showed flashes of just what they can do. Under Marco Silva, they have become a lean, mean side. They defend with rigour and attack with great passion if not clarity. Obviously, they are lacking a top goalscorer but even despite that, they manage to remain competitive. Why? Because of their defensive prowess.

Gueye made 10 tackles against Arsenal last September, the highest single-game total of any Premier League midfielder against a ‘Big Six’ side across the whole of 2018/19. Their big game record last season – where they essentially held Liverpool scoreless over two games (bar Jordan Pickford’s inexplicable stoppage time error), smashed Manchester United 4-0 and beat both Chelsea and Arsenal – was seriously impressive. Across those games, all of which Gueye started, Divock Origi’s goal for Liverpool was the only time Everton conceded.

Their defensive prowess owes oh so much to Gueye, who functions as the side’s engine in the middle of the park. Gueye joined the Premier League in the same season as N’Golo Kanté and, in fact, put up similar numbers to the Frenchman. But whilst Kanté won the title and was beloved, Gueye got relegated with Aston Villa and was ignored. So, Everton snapped him up for a very reasonable £7.1m.

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Since joining Everton, Gueye has won more tackles than any other player in the Premier League. The Senegalese has won 282, which is a remarkable 55 more than second-place Wilfred Ndidi and 82 more than the legendary Kanté.

What’s even more remarkable is that Gueye has a tackle success rate of 71.39%. That’s considerably more than everyone in the top 10 bar Shkodran Mustafi (who has won 148 fewer tackles than Gueye). The Senegalese has also completed 218 interceptions during his time at Everton, which is also more than any other Premier League player in that time.

 

Essentially, Gueye is the defensive counterbalance that allows Everton’s entire attacking system to function. Last season, the Toffees made 440 tackles. Gueye made 20.2% of those with 89. But what’s interesting is the next highest midfielder is André Gomes with just 23 won. The drop-off is staggering.

Of course, the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson (36), Richarlison (34) and Bernard (29) are closer to Gueye. And that gives an illustration of Everton’s style. Their attacking midfielders are able to press hard because they know that even if an opponent manages to bypass their line, Idrissa Gueye will be waiting in the heart of the pitch to cover for them.

Losing him to PSG would absolutely devastate Everton’s midfield. There would need to be a similarly miraculous bit of scouting to replace him as the only viable options available in the Premier League are Kanté and Ndidi, neither of whom will be signable.

Idrissa Gueye is such a brilliantly unique defensive talent that it is very obvious why PSG want him but just as obvious that if he were to actually leave Goodison Park, he would leave a cavernous hole in his wake. And opponents would, of course, run into that hole and threaten the Everton goal.

The alternative view: has Gueye been holding Everton back? (Chris Smith, staff writer – @CJSmith91)

Idrissa Gueye’s defensive ability and importance to Everton is not and never will be in question. The Senegal international is a rock at the heart of the Blues’ midfield that will take some replacing.

However, as we know all too well, to become an elite footballing side, you simply must have players who can do more than just break up play. Sergio Busquets is just as good on the ball as he is off it for Barcelona, N’Golo Kante is an absurdly underrated ball carrier and even Manchester City, last season’s domestic overlords, have upgraded on the ageing Fernandinho with Rodri, who just about ticks every box you’d want from a deep-lying midfielder.

Gueye made 8.67 failed passes per 90 minutes last season, of Everton’s regular midfielders, only Tom Davies (9.41) has a worse record here. Generally speaking, Gueye is a neat and tidy little player but on multiple occasions last season, left Toffees fans pulling their hair out with misplaced five-yard passes or lampooning a long ball straight into the stands.

And a quick scan over the stats perfectly highlights Gueye’s deficiencies with the ball at his feet. The 29-year-old had a lower pass accuracy (84.36%) than Fernandinho (87.46%) and Kante (87.88%) last season, with that number dropping significantly lower when passing in the opponent’s half (78.42%). He also created fewer chances (18) than the aforementioned pair and had more failed passes (272).

All of this isn’t to say Gueye is a bad player. Of course, he isn’t. PSG generally don’t target bad players. But Marco Silva and Marcel Brands may well see this as a chance to spin a profit on a player who is now 29 years old and will only be on the wane from here, while they can also go out and target a young playmaker who offers far more in possession. If that is the prerequisite for an elite midfielder and Everton really have designs on breaking the English football monopoly, this is surely a no-brainer.

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