Gylfi Sigurdsson may be set for an uncomfortable ride, as Everton Director of Football Marcel Brands has hailed summer signing Alex Iwobi as someone capable of rivalling the Marco Silva mainstay, as said on The Alan Myers Podcast.
Sigurdsson has rarely missed a game for the Goodison Park natives since joining in a former club-record £45million move from Swansea City in 2017, with the Iceland international able to boast game time in each Premier League fixture last season.
Only goalkeeper Jordan Pickford – who started every league game in 2018/19 for Everton – could lay claim to more minutes on the field than Sigurdsson, who returned his new head coach’s continual faith with the joint-most goals (13) and the most assists (6) of his teammates.
The new campaign is yet to reward the 29-year-old with something to show for his efforts, however, with Sigurdsson penning an average of 2.3 shots on goal and two key balls per ninety minutes but without earning a goal or assist against Crystal Palace, Watford or Aston Villa.
Brands now expects Sigurdsson to have to fight for his place in the side more often following Iwobi’s arrival, as the former Tottenham and Swansea star previously faced little competition with Nikola Vlasic failing to meet the grade in his debut season, while Tom Davies is often deployed in a deeper role.
“Signing Iwobi was not an easy one, a young boy that played already a lot of games in the Premier League, Champions League and Europa League,” Brands said. “But in our eyes, [he is] a boy that can play in different positions. Play from the side, [and] also behind the striker.
“In our team, we don’t have much competition with Gylfi. So I think we have managed it now with Alex. He’s 23-years-old, already quite experienced and the most important thing: he has goals and assists in his game.”
During Iwobi’s time in the senior Arsenal squad following his promotion under Arsene Wenger in 2015, the 36-cap Nigeria international made 149 competitive appearances across all competitions for the Gunners, with 41 of his games played in an attacking midfield role – his second-most frequent position.
From those 41 games, he penned three of his 15 goals and eight of his 27 career assists, and Silva and Brands will be hoping the potential £34million (BBC) outlay spent to acquire his services will return similar, or better, numbers in Royal Blue. Indeed, comparing his impact there to Sigurdsson’s last season (per WhoScored), Iwobi made more passes on average per game (27.2 to 26.1) at a higher success rate (77.8% to 76.2%), as well as more dribbles (1.3 to 1) and long balls (0.8 to 0.7).
So, perhaps he can be an option to recycle the ball better and take the game to the opposition in a more direct fashion in support of the strikers. With goals a problem, those traits may come in useful and give Sigurdsson a fight to continue as the club’s established creative force.
Iwobi has so far made just the single appearance for the Toffees following his summer switch from North London to Merseyside, with Silva handing the 23-year-old his Everton debut as a late substitute against Aston Villa last Friday, a performance he was handed a 7/10 for by the Liverpool Echo.
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