Before I begin, I stress that this following piece is about the on-field benefits to Everton’s team should Idrissa Gueye return. I am fully aware and respectful of the views held by some surrounding the player’s decision not to wear rainbow laces in support of LGBTQIA+ rights, and in no way is this article taking sides. This is strictly football related.
So, at time of writing, the former Everton and Aston Villa man is currently being strongly linked with a move back to Goodison. The midfield, much like the defence and forward line, needs improving and Frank Lampard seems to have a clear plan in steering The Toffees away from another relegation battle. James Tarkowski, Ruben Vinagre and Dwight McNeil look set to be followed by further additions to boost the ranks for the season ahead.
The above three have received a mixed reaction from the fanbase. Some underwhelmed, others disappointed, while some pleased and optimistic. I think it is fair to say, that the return of the Senegalese star who Everton sold to PSG in 2019 for £30m has been met with largely widespread approval. Gueye was a cult figure at the Old Lady; his no nonsense style and bounds of energy ensured his popularity was high with supporters.
I could write around 20,000 words if I were to dissect last season’s frailties within Everton’s starting XI. Lack of ideas, cohesion and organisation were just some of the problems that led to a relegation battle that was too close for comfort. Easy to play through and even easier to stop, the team’s greatest weapon was the loyal and vociferous crowd that often got them over the line.
Focusing on being easy to play through, Gueye offers a solution. He did it before and must have done reasonably well, as the mega-rich French outfit were dogged in their pursual of him. Replacing him has been tough. Abdoulaye Doucoure suits being further forward, while Allan has shown glimmers but has been inconsistent, there has been no real natural successor to the protector the backline, which has been one of the many areas that has seen the team suffer.
Should the deal come off and the 32-year-old return, it is an attacking aspect of Everton’s game that I also feel will benefit with his presence.
The days of the full back is now one that sees the position more as an attacking threat than a defensive barrier. Credit where it’s due, Liverpool does a very good job of utilising their full backs as two of their most potent forms of attacking threat and, while Trent Alexander Arnold did not invent the role of attacking full back as the media would have you believe, both he and Andy Robertson are very effective.
For me, the key to their attacking freedom, though, lies with midfielder Fabinho providing that layer of cover to their centre backs. Often a role that goes unnoticed, the Brazilian does a crucial job of being a third centre-back, if needed, which ensures that added bit of protection from the counter attack. With the emergence of Nathan Patterson and the continued progress, and finishing prowess of Vitali Mykolenko, Everton may well have two attacking threats that could be utilised in the same way. Gueye’s discipline, energy and ability to read the game will go along way in ensuring that The Toffees have two potent wide threats, who can be safe in the knowledge that cover is there when needed.
Lampard has a plan and knows what he, and Everton, needs. His list of targets will go a long way to providing flexibility, guile and a plan b for the long season ahead. I do believe, however, that should Gueye be one of those achieved targets, he will be one of the first on the team sheet.