After losing Idrissa Gueye to PSG, Everton look set to dip straight back into the transfer market with the signing offrom Mainz.
Gueye’s shoes will certainly be big ones to fill: the Senegal international won 282 tackles during his time at Everton, more than any other Premier League player during that time and a whole 55 more than second-placed Wilfried Ndidi. The renowned N’Golo Kante was next on that last, 82 behind.
And Gueye also successfully made a huge 218 interceptions during his time with Everton, another league-high in that period.
In short, the 29-year-old was the defensive linchpin upon which Marco Silva balanced his attacking plans. However, his advancing age and Gueye’s long-standing dream to play Champions League football with the Parisians meant Everton simply couldn’t refuse the £28m fee on offer, especially given they paid Aston Villa just £7.1m for him back in 2016.
So, can Gbamin, who is being linked with a £25m move to Merseyside, really fill the void left by Gueye?
While the Ivorian’s tackling and interception numbers don’t quite hit Gueye-esque levels, they’re certainly healthy. Since Gbamin joined Mainz in July 2016, he has made 182 tackles – the 12th-highest number in the Bundesliga during that time. He also ranks 13th among Bundesliga midfielders during that time for interceptions, making 133.
“Jean-Philippe is seduced by the idea of joining Everton. To discover the championship of England in a club of the top table would represent for him a very beautiful opportunity and a very good stage.”
Defensively, Gbamin is sound. However, that is a minimum requirement set by Everton fans for their Gueye replacement. He became a fan favourite for his lung-busting commitment and timely tackles but, even so, left Toffees blue in the face at times with his lax passing and relative inability with the ball.
And, just like Gueye, this is where Gbamin falls down. Gueye’s passing was perceived as quite unprogressive and sloppy last season but he still managed to play the ball with 84.36% accuracy. By contrast, Gbamin scored at just 80.42% here. And while Gueye made 252 passes into the opposition’s final third, Gbamin made just 190. That translates to 8.03 – 6.39 in Gueye’s favour per 90 minutes.
Gueye’s lack of ambition with the ball resulted in a huge reliance on Gylfi Sigurdsson to create for Everton last season, while Andre Gomes was also charged with carrying the ball into more advanced positions. This resulted in him creating just 18 chances last season, while Gbamin, slightly more relied upon by a Mainz side not in possession of a talent at Sigurdsson’s level, managed to create 23 chances despite playing two games fewer than Gueye.
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Gbamin lost the ball 420 times last season compared to Gueye’s 359 but it’s worth noting that the Ivorian is still only 23. His lack of composure should be easily weaned out of his game over time, playing alongside more technically astute players and under a very progressive manager.
Interestingly, and perhaps vitally for Everton, Gbamin’s talents don’t end at defensive midfield duties. In fact, his agent, Bernard Collignon, said back in June that his client is better at centre-back and that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp even wanted to seal his signature for that very position.
“In January 2018, Klopp called Mainz and wanted to commit him as a centre-back, who also helps out in midfield,” he said.
“But Mainz did not want to let him go in the middle of the relegation battle. In the summer, Liverpool signed on to Fabinho.
“I had meetings with Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Everton and many other clubs. He is in the shortlist. However, not as a top candidate, because his exact position is unclear.
“In my opinion, he is a player worth 60 million euros. It’s time for him to play as a centre-back. There he would be a top player in all four major leagues and would make a great career.”
Centre-back has become something of a problem position in itself at Goodison Park, with Phil Jagielka departing for Sheffield United, Yerry Mina still unconvincing and Kurt Zouma heading back to Chelsea after his loan expiry.
His versatility would give Gbamin a real head-start in his Everton career but for him to truly replace Gueye – as is the main function of his signing – fans must be patient and allow the 23-year-old to grow in confidence, adjust to the demands of the Premier League and develop his footballing intelligence.
However, thus far, Marcel Brands and Silva haven’t got much wrong in the transfer market. You can bank on them uncovering another gem this time around as they potentially take their spending beyond the £100m mark in search of European football.