Gueye a Vital Cog in Everton's Unbeaten Machine


In today’s market, bargains are hard to come by, particularly in the Premier League. The increase in TV money means teams can not only command top fees for run of the mill players, but are willing to pay big money to lure their targets. Paul Pogba’s record breaking return to Manchester United raised the bar higher than ever before, with English top-flight teams spending over £1bn in a summer transfer window for the first time. 


Indeed, the summer of big spending makes Everton’s £7.2m capture of Idrissa Gueye seem all the more shrewd, certainly on first impressions in a Toffees shirt. The Senegal international has taken to his new surroundings like a duck to water, gaining an impressive WhoScored rating of 7.76 from his four league appearances for the Merseysiders, the eighth best in England’s top tier. Despite the 2016/17 season being in its infancy, many are dubbing Gueye as one of the most astute signings of the window gone by.  


Despite having been one of the only Aston Villa players to really put up a fight in their doomed relegation campaign, suitors will have been wary of just how well the midfielder had adapted to English football. While Marseille were credited with an interest in Gueye, and even discussed personal terms over a return to France, Everton eventually won the race to secure his services without too much competition from elsewhere in the Premier League, and they’re all the better for it. Having made the second most tackles and interceptions combined (285) in the top-flight last season, Gueye’s ball-winning ability renders him the ideal midfield enforcer for an Everton side aiming to quickly move on from a disappointing end to Roberto Martinez’s time on Merseyside. 


The Spaniard naively focused all of his efforts on attacking the opposition, which came as a detriment to the club’s defensive solidity. Ronald Koeman was appointed during the summer and quickly improved the side in the defensive third - no team has conceded fewer goals than Everton (2) in the Premier League this season. While the arrivals of Maarten Stekelenburg and Ashley Williams have improved the side at the back, the signing of Gueye has proven to be the most inspiring. 


Gueye a Vital Cog in Everton's Unbeaten Machine


Not only has the team improved defensively, but there is now healthy competition for a regular starting spot in the middle of the park. Martinez was laboured last season in that once James McCarthy and Mo Besic were sidelined for any reason, he did not have sufficient personnel to cover for their absence. As solid as Gareth Barry may be, at 35 years of age, the former England international is hardly going to cover the necessary ground to deny the opposition. 


Gueye, though, makes up for that with consummate ease. He has made more tackles (23) than any other player in the Premier League this season, reinforcing his statistically calculated WhoScored strength of ‘tackling’. His above heatmap highlights just how much ground he covers in any given Premier League match and while Romelu Lukaku earned the plaudits for his hat-trick performance against Sunderland on Monday night, Gueye was comfortably one of the stars of the show at the Stadium of Light. 


His 120 touches in the 3-0 win over the Black Cats was the second most of a player in a single Premier League match this season, while a total of 106 passes was comfortably the most in the top-flight in gameweek 4. It’s little shock that Gueye is one of four Everton players to play every Premier League minute this season given his influence in the middle of the park, rapidly establishing himself as a key player under Koeman. 


Gueye a Vital Cog in Everton's Unbeaten Machine


Essentially, though, Gueye doesn’t readily give the ball away once he has won possession for his side, which is a facet tat has improved markedly since his time at Villa, benefitting from player alongside better, more confident players. A defining trait for any midfielder is their ability on the ball and what they do with it once they have robbed the opposition of possession. Gueye has certainly impressed in this regard so far having made the third most accurate passes (239) in the Premier League this campaign. He's averaging more passes per game (65.8) than any Everton player, while his pass success rate (90.9%) is the fourth best of all midfielders to start two or more top-flight games this term. 


Everton are one of four teams to start the season unbeaten and while much of the focus has been on the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, the Toffees currently occupy third spot, just two points off league leaders City. A key cog in the Everton machine has been Gueye this term and as they look to make a return to European football, he may well have an essential role to play in the middle of the park.  


After admitting upon his arrival that his move to Villa was a mere stepping stone in his career, Gueye is proving justified in believing he warranted regular European action. His stock will only rise further if the Senegalese star can maintain his stunning start to the campaign and haul the Toffees to the Europa League or, better yet, Champions League.


How important is Gueye to Everton in their quest for European football? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below

Gueye a Vital Cog in Everton's Unbeaten Machine