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Can Everton’s Idrissa Gueye pass Manchester United audition?

01:59 SAST 2019/04/20
Idrissa Gueye Everton Man Utd
The Red Devils will get the chance to assess the Senegal midfielder up close in Sunday’s meeting at Goodison Park
Senegal defensive midfielder Idrissa Gueye, who wears the name ‘Gana’ on his shirt in honour of his grandfather, is being increasingly linked with a move to Manchester United after a January transfer to Paris Saint-Germain fell through.

Can the 29-year-old excel against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side when they travel to face Gueye’s Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday, in order to convince the Norwegian coach to shell out for his services?

Would he fit in at a bigger club, and what would he bring to the table?

Since joining Everton from relegated Aston Villa, Gueye has been a mainstay of the side despite upheaval on the coaching front as Ronald Koeman, then Sam Allardyce and now Marco Silva have all been in charge.

Their contrasting styles of play have not slowed down the sheer volume of tackles and defensive actions by the former Diambars Academy product.

It’s almost common knowledge now than Gueye is amongst the Premier League’s most frequent tacklers. This season, he is making 5.6 tackles per 90 minutes on the pitch. Slightly above him is Manchester United’s Ander Herrera, who makes 6.0.

The Everton man wins 80% of his attempted tackles though, significantly higher than the Spaniard’s 58.3%.

After PSG’s €41m pound signing of Leandro Paredes from Zenit St Petersburg in January, the club were not willing to go higher than €30m in trying to sign another central midfielder in Gueye, despite a transfer request by the player. That ship may sadly have sailed and The Parisians now look destined to sign Herrera on a free transfer instead.

This could spark a merry-go-round where Gueye is targeted by United. Solskjaer’s clearly takes much of his management inspiration from Sir Alex Ferguson, who made most of his new additions from other Premier League clubs.

This gives a greater guarantee of settling in and hitting the ground running.

Gueye has been playing as a pure defensive midfield of late at Everton, holding the fort as Andre Gomes gets forward from a deeper role. In the past, however, he has shown himself ideal for a role of the right of a midfield three or as part of a double pivot – the positions where Herrera has helped United to turn their season around.

Both players are aggressive, excellent at pressing and tackling, but also willing to sacrifice themselves for the team.

Idrissa Gueye | 2018-19 Premier League stats

After Herrera man-marked Eden Hazard out of a Premier League game in April 2017, Gueye was tasked with the same role a couple of weeks later. He did a fantastic job, even if his side still lost 3-0 to the eventual champions.

Ronald Koeman told reporters in his post-match press conference that day: “Gueye did really well.

“It is very difficult to mark a player like Eden Hazard. I thought he controlled him, he was aggressive and we stopped one of the strengths of Chelsea.

“It was an outstanding performance by Gueye.”

The question marks over the Senegal man are his age, as he nears his 30th birthday.

He would offer no real resale value or represent a long-term solution for United. There are younger destructive midfielders doing just as well in the Premier League, particularly Leicester City’s 22 year-old Nigerian, Wilfred Ndidi.

Huddersfield Town’s Peter Billing is another option for an upwards move, perhaps to either Everton or Leicester should one of those sides lose their key defensive midfielder. The other doubt is whether his passing suits a bigger club.

On the issue of his range of distribution, Gueye is indeed not a Michael Carrick nor Paul Pogba, but then neither is Herrera.

Dutch coaching great Rinus Michels said in Brilliant Orange that “sometimes only one or two players that affect the balance mean the big difference between struggling and becoming champions.”

The former Lille man is exactly that type of player.

He will win the ball and make a good first pass forward on transition to more creative midfielders, while his presence would give more freedom to those around him (particularly Pogba).

The sheer number of turnovers he makes is ideal for Solskjaer’s fast counter-attacking style.

Gueye is also no mug when carrying the ball forward either as evidenced by his 28 dribbles this season at a 75% success rate.

Ndidi, on the other hand, may offer even more.

Not only is he younger, but he has made more interceptions than Gueye this season and more tackles, albeit winning a lower proportion at 74.7%.

Ndidi is also making more dribbles (45 to 28) but with a lower success rate. His game should become more refined as he gets older though and his ceiling is arguably higher than that of the Everton man.

With the African Cup of Nations kicking off on 21 June in Egypt, Gueye will come up against excellent midfield opponents in the group stage in Algeria’s Sofiane Feghouli and Kenya’s Victor Wanyama for example.

He will hope that his future has been sorted out by then. If not, it will be another chance to showcase himself to Europe’s biggest clubs. With Gueye turning 30 in September, this is probably his last chance for a big move, and one he may need to engineer in any way possible.

Words: James O'Conners