Fixing Everton’s Creativity – Analysis of Potential Summer Transfers

At the time of writing it is not yet known whether or not Ross Barkley will stay at Everton next season. The 23-year-old has 1 year remaining on his current contract, and his reluctance to re-sign has triggered Ronald Koeman to react ruthlessly.

“We won’t wait until August. We need an answer… Either he accepts the contract or we sell.” The Dutchman gave Barkley an ultimatum that will soon be up, however Koeman is seemingly indifferent at the Scouser’s reluctance to commit;

“It is a long time he has been considering his future, but I am not worried… We will go on and we’re looking for players in that position. If he stays, there will be more competition.”

Koeman has made two things clear with these comments; One, he wont be bullied in negotiations by a player who he deems to be dispensable, and two, he is most certainly looking to add in Barkley’s position regardless of whether or not he stays.

Support and Alternatives

One man who has been consistently linked with a switch to Goodison Park is Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Iceland international has enjoyed a stellar season, registering 9 goals and 13 assists in the Premier League to help keep Swansea safe from relegation.

Everton’s interest in Sigurdsson is common knowledge, and Barkley’s indecision should not influence their pursuit of the former Spurs man. Despite his hero status in Wales, a fee of £25-30 million should be enough to tempt the Swans to part with their talisman. If that proves not to be the case, or more significantly, should Barkley decide to leave, then there are plenty of other candidates of interest.

Dutchman Davy Klaassen has enjoyed a tremendous season. Klaassen has guided an exciting young Ajax side to the Europa League Final, registering 15 goals and 10 assists in the league and in Europe along the way. Koeman is said to be a huge fan of the Dutch International, with a fee of £20-25 million being touted for his services.

Two other names that have been linked offer attractive alternatives to Sigurdsson, Klaassen and indeed Ross Barkley.

Manuel Lanzini of West Ham has stepped up this season, particularly since Dmitri Payet’s infamous departure, bagging 8 goals and 2 assists. A £30 million transfer has been mooted in the press, however there will be a lot of competition for the Argentine’s services, with Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal said to be circling.

The last name to be discussed will certainly be less well known, but Ryad Boudebouz may well be the most eye-catching player on the list. The Algerian international has enjoyed a stunning season in Ligue 1, despite playing in a relatively poor Montpellier team. The playmaker has steered his side towards safety with 10 league goals and 9 assists.

His style is akin to Ryad Mahrez, as Boudebouz posses a cultured left foot along with a keen eye for goal like his compatriot and namesake. The former Souchaux midfielder was close to a move to Liverpool back in 2012, but a potential deal collapsed and he opted to stay in France.

The comparison matrix below shows each of these midfielder’s key statistics from this season. Stats have been modified to show their performances per 90 minutes.

Stat Attack

As we go down the comparison matrix, we can see that Davy Klaassen averages the most goals per game this season, with an impressive ratio of 0.42. After Klaassen, Boudebouz has been the most prolific midfielder this term, closely followed by Lanzini and Sigurdsson. Ross Barkley has the lowest Goal/Game ratio with just 5 goals in 34 league games; numbers which only support Ronald Koeman’s reticence at re-signing the England man.

Assists are perhaps the most desired quality to look for in a creative midfielder, and the Swansea maestro comes out on top here. Sigurdsson’s 13 in 37 takes his ratio to 0.36 assists per game, well ahead of the rest of the contingent. Barkley, Klaassen and Boudebouz fall just short of him, however Lanzini interestingly lags well behind of the bunch, having registered just 2 assists all season. It could be argued that West Ham’s forwards are not prolific, however neither Swansea nor Montpellier boast much up front either.

In terms of chances created and key passes, i.e. a player’s ability to thread through dangerous balls, it’s the Algerian international who excels. Boudebouz has created an astonishing 3.7 chances per game, around 2 whole chances more than the rest of the competition, which is some margin. Barkley is the only one who comes close here, forging an average of 2.6 chances per game. The key passes, i.e. a pass that may lead directly or indirectly to an opportunity, tells a similar story. Boudebouz leads, closely followed by Barkley then the rest.

Take on success is a good indicator of efficiency in a player’s attacking play, and this is where Lanzini has impressed this season. He leads the group alongside Barkley, closely followed by Boudebouz. Klaassen and Sigurdsson clearly have less success in this department, due partly no doubt to their lack of express pace compared to the nimble Lanzini, the nippy Boudebouz and the explosive Barkley.

Forward passes are an underrated necessity for creative midfielders. Evertonians know all to well how frustrating it can be to have a creative man in the middle who is reluctant to pass towards goal. The likes of Mikel Arteta, Jack Rodwell and James McCarthy were (and are) prime culprits of this vexing trait.

In fairness, Barkley is more forward thinking compared to some, as he averages almost twice as many forward passes as the much lauded Gylfi Sigurdsson. Again, it is worth noting that Ryad Boudebouz comes out on top in this department once more. Comfortably the cheapest player on the list, the Algerian may not be the fan’s favourite to come in this summer, but his stats suggest that he would be more than welcome to do so. At a reported fee of £10-12 million, he may well be a shrewd option.

Final Thoughts

Sigurdsson will be most fan’s preferred choice to come in, and it would be hard to begrudge anyone for wanting him. The 27-year-old is a proven performer in the Premier League and has been on many Evertonian’s wish list for a number of seasons now. His dead ball delivery is another incentive for the blues to act fast and make his signature a reality this summer.

It would be a shame if Ross Barkley were to go, but these stats show that he can be effectively replaced. Everton would be expected to recoup at least £20 million for the England international, having slapped a £50 million asking price on his head. The Blues would no doubt be eager to use that cash wisely, and were they to bring in any player on that list, then they may find themselves in a stronger position at the end of the transfer window in September.

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