In the latest instalment of our Flashback series, Football Transfer Tavern take a look back at a certain moment in a club’s history, to see what conclusions can be drawn or lessons learnt.
The summer of 2016 saw Ronald Koeman hit the transfer market with the intentions of securing Everton’s return to the top half of the Premier League table, after Roberto Martinez oversaw an 11th place finish in what proved to be the Spaniard’s final year at Goodison Park.
In with the Dutch head coach lured to Merseyside from Southampton came Yannick Bolasie for £25million (BBC), Ashley Williams for £12m (BBC), and a Senegalese midfielder named Idrissa Gana Gueye for £7.1m (Sky Sports) after the Toffees triggered a release clause in his contract at Aston Villa.
Gueye had only been in England for a year when Everton made their swoop for his services, and at a price £1.9m down on what the Villans had paid LOSC Lille in 2015.
The then 26-year-old could have returned to France rather than switching Claret and Blue for Royal Blue, as Olympique de Marseille also triggered the clause in his Villa contract, but Gueye chose Everton, and Everton reaped the rewards for the following three years.
In a year which saw N’Golo Kante lift the Premier League trophy with Leicester City, join Chelsea and be lauded for his relentless style, it was Gueye who came out on top in terms of tackles (Metro), as he made 176 in 2016 to the Frenchman’s 157 – predominantly staring under Koeman, and making an impression far greater than that from his days in Birmingham.
Gueye retained his place near or at the top of the Premier League’s tackling charts throughout his spell on the blue half of Stanley Park, including two particular stand out performances in 2018/19 – firstly at Arsenal, when he recorded seven at the Emirates Stadium, before penning nine at Fulham (Liverpool Echo).
By the end of his maiden top-flight season at Everton, Gueye had won 135 tackles, before winning 117 the following term and 142 in what proved to be his final campaign in England (Premier League) – an aggregate total of 394 in three seasons, more than any player.
Now without Gueye after selling the Dakar-born anchor to Paris Saint-Germain for £30m (BBC), Everton are struggling, and head coach Marco Silva is facing issues blending his midfield after the Senegalese star’s replacement Jean-Philippe Gbamin suffered a thigh injury after just two appearances following a £25m (BBC) move from 1. FSV Mainz 05.
Against AFC Bournemouth and Sheffield United, in games the Blues would lose, Silva favoured Morgan Schneiderlin and Fabian Delph as his holding options in midfield, but it was not through choice, only through Gbamin and Andre Gomes being injured.
Silva’s decision was clearly one he wished he did not have to make, as he hauled Schneiderlin off just ten minutes after the break at home to the Blades, and shifted his men into a three-man core consisting of two creative types in Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alex Iwobi.
Gueye, meanwhile, was back catching the attention of football fans around Europe and being hailed by the media, with FourFourTwo suggesting PSG may finally be a Champions League contender now that they have an added dimension in midfield with the 63-cap international in their core.
If Everton still had Gueye playing the role of a hounding centre-mid, Silva’s midfield woes would be insignificant, and instead be invested in his striker’s struggles to score and an apparent inability to defend set-pieces once more.
Everton fans, could Gueye have saved your side from their recent slump? Let us know in the comments below…
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