No strikers? Lack of quality around him? Not good enough? I try to look deeper……
Based on the questions and comments from listeners in recent weeks I thought it would be worth getting my thoughts on this “conundrum” down on paper as part of my first blog. All of our regular listeners will know that I am a “fan” of Gylfi Sigurdsson, whom I am going to refer to as “GS” in this blog, but I am going to attempt to be as impersonal as possible and present his current position as best as I can. In order to do this, whilst also go beyond the typical article, I aim to analyse not only his stats, but also his general contribution in games and the reasons why I feel he may not be performing to the levels we all expect of our “number 10”. I start with his stats!
For the purpose of analysing his overall contribution I think this is a good place to start. Below are his key stats from this season courtesy of Premierleague.com:
To summarise the stats I feel are significant here and to put them into perspective I have compared his stats with Christian Eriksen and Ryan Fraser, whom I feel are most appropriate to compare to due to their positions, the teams they play for (one in the top four and one below Everton) and the qualities they posses.
GS has scored 8 Premier League goals this season (6 from open play) vs 4 scored by Eriksen and 5 by Frazer
GS has had 2.3 shots per game on average vs Erikson’s 1.7 shots per game and Frasers 1.2
35% of these shots have been on target (just over 1 in 3), vs 44% of Erikson’s and 52% of Frasers
1 of his 4 crosses on average finds an Everton player (which results in an attempt on goal) Erikson is accurate 1 in 3 times and Fraser in between the two (1 in 3.5)
He has provided only 3 assists- 4 less than Christian Eriksen’s 7 and 6 less than Frasers impressive 9!
Obviously we have to put the stats and comparisons into in to perspective here;
Erikson has Harry Kane, Fraser has Callum WIlson; two of the best centre forwards in the league (in terms of goals and leading the line). This tends to mean that those two will naturally look to provide, rather than shoot, in most situations.
For the same reason, Christian Erikson and Ryan Frasers assists have been alot easier to come by. 4 of Erikson’s 7 assists have been for Harry Kane, whilst 5 of Frasers have been for Callum Wilson. The need for a striker at Everton has been much documented though so I’ll leave that one there! ;-)
Erikson and Fraser are part of established attacking lines and systems which have been developed over 2-3 seasons. This certain helps an attacking midfielder as there is greater understanding between players, you recognise runs and players identify how to get the best from you.
Three of Erikson’s assists and 3 of Frasers assists have come from set plays. Again, most Evertonians will appreciate that our set pieces this season are not quite polished yet and we are yet to get consistent threats from set plays in line with the likes of Nathan Ake (3 goals) and Erik Dier (2 goals).
With all that said, I was actually surprised to see that GS wasn’t disgraced by Erikson or Fraser when it comes to the stats. Particularly as both have been lauded in the media and by their respective clubs! Personally I wouldn't expect GS to be able to assist more goals until we start converting more goals from set pieces and more significantly, until we have a recognised striker!
The impact of Andre Gomes and the evolving patterns of play
Delving deeper in GS’s stats it is pretty clear that he started the season very well. GS scored 3 goals in his first 3 games including 2 goals against against Fulham which earned him Man of the Match. Since then, GS has scored just 4 goals from open play in 19 games. Why? It’s difficult to say but the only addition to the side which seems to have made a marked difference in terms of GS’s output is Andre Gomes. Let me take this opportunity to state that this blog is not a dig at him at all! He has definitely been a massive plus for the team and an overwhelming “net success”, however I watched the Bournemouth game back, notably one of Andre Gomes’ worst performances and the highlights alone help to support my opinion that Gomes’ style of play and general approach are not conducive to getting the best from GS. My main points are below and I will then support these with freeze frames from the game:
Andre Gomes does not look to find GS early enough in my opinion (when he is in space), often choosing to play wide to full backs or back to CB’s
Other players often look to find Andre Gomes rather than GS (Despite GS often being in better attacking positions)
When GS does receive the ball in the attacking half he always looks to play a “through ball”. In the Bournemouth game he received the ball in between the lines 4 times and played 3 successful through balls
Below are the freeze frames which show the moments when GS received the ball, in space. All of which came from a “quick pass” when the opposition was “disorganised”. This is the key to getting the best from any no.10. As you can also see from each frame, every time GS receives the ball, all surrounding forwards attempt to run in behind or into a scoring position. This to me, indicates that his possession of the ball is a trigger and its something Marco Silva and his staff are working on! This happened only once in the first half but several times in the second half. Most notably though, he never received the ball directly from Andre Gomes or following a move when Gomes was involved.
These frames were obviously from one game and in fairness, they came in Gomes’ worst performance (in possession) for Everton. With that said I sincerely hope and trust that Marco Silva and his team are working tirelessly to get the best from these two exceptional footballers. There is absolutely no question for me that Andre Gomes could become an outstanding midfielder in the future, he certainly has all the attributes. There is also a strong case that Gomes must be tired from the run of fixtures he has been part of. In fairness though, so must GS!!
The one thing I am sure of from this small piece of analysis is that in order for Everton to create performances such as the Leicester and Burnley ones, on a more consistent basis, we must get back to the principles that Marco Silva seems to demand; quick, attacking football! Andre Gomes is a key ingredient in this as he builds the attacks. If he, and others around him can start to get the best from GS by getting the ball forwards quickly, then I am certain we will create the types of chances that Richarlison and the improving Lookman and Bernard will thrive on.
Hopefully this piece was interesting for the blues and gives a bit more “meat” to my brief point in episode 23 about Sigurdsson and Gomes. Please leave your comments below; good or bad!