12th September 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
Everton’s astute signing of Idrissa Gueye from Aston Villa for just £7.1 million, having activated his release clause, has undoubtedly been one of the signings of the season so far.
Although Aston Villa suffered the indignity of relegation, Gueye emerged as one of the Claret and Blue Army’s shining lights in their season of darkness, with his reputation well and truly in tact. Joining Everton certainly served as a brilliant reward for all his tireless, battling work for Villa.
By the numbers, the former Lille man was exceptional last term. He successfully completed 4.1 tackles per game and a vital four interceptions pg, which remarkably placed him second in the league behind only N’Golo Kante in both metrics (as per Whoscored). Moreover, the fact he won over 53% of his aerial duels, completed 1869 passes at an impressive 85.6% completion rate and ran over 10kms a game suitably amplified his tremendous contribution.
New Everton manager, Ronald Koeman, knew he needed some additional defensive solidity and protection, as the Toffees conceded a hefty 55 goals in the Premier League last term, and identified Gueye as an ideal candidate to fulfill a role in front of the Everton backline.
“Idrissa will provide quality in our squad in the midfield and we want to increase the quality in the team,” Koeman explained.
“He was one of the players last season with the best record in interceptions and pressing in the midfield.”
Gueye himself was delighted to join Everton too, saying: “I have played a season with Aston Villa which was a hard season but I think my style is good for the Premier League. You have to fight every game. All the teams are strong and you have to concentrate all through the game.”
Already, after just three EPL matches, Gueye’s move to Goodison Park is certainly looking like a match made in heaven. The 26-year-old has been outstanding, with his innate ability to read the play and his overwhelmingly physicality providing a formidable platform for him to undertake his work with the utmost effectiveness.
Gueye’s showed a great deal of clarity in his decision making, as his judgement when to press or hold his position has been nigh on perfect. In addition, his aptitude in this regard has also been transferred over to situations when he’s actually making his interventions, with his precise ability to time his challenges ensuring he’s an extremely efficient regainer of possession.
Meanwhile, once he forces the turnover, his thoughtful, accurate and usually uncomplicated distribution has meant he quickly releases the ball to Everton’s more technical polished players without hesitation.
Aggressive, tenacious yet intelligent, the diminutive 5ft 8in enforcer, who currently leads the league for tackles per game with 5.3, is quickly going about endearing himself to the fans and repaying Koeman’s faith in him. The Dutch manager is also demonstratively happy with the way he’s rapidly formed a strong, complimentary partnership with Gareth Barry. “Idrissa’s the kind of player that puts a lot of energy [into his game], he’s aggressive and he wins second balls,” Koeman said.
“He can play good football. With Gareth and the second balls of Idrissa, that makes the team strong. The cleverness on the ball in midfield comes from Gareth but one of Idrissa’s qualities is to put that energy into the team, to win second balls and to press at the right moment.”
Although it’s still early days in his career at Everton, the way Gueye’s integrated so smoothly into the squad and adapted to Koeman’s methods has been a key factor in the Toffees’ positive start to the season.
If the durable Senegalese international can continue to combine brains and brawn so effectively, there’s every chance to suggest that Everton can improve on the disappointment of last season.
The signing of Gueye really couldn’t have worked out any better so far.
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