Connect in the back of the net

After weeks of wrangling and negotiation Everton have finally got their man and for £5 million less than Swansea were initially asking.

Result! £45 million man Gylfi Sigurdsson, Iceland’s best export since fish, will now line up in an Everton side flush with new signings, some fresh faced and young, some familiar and old. 

In Farhad Moshiri, Everton clearly have an owner intent on taking the club to the next level.

With the Toffees comfortably the 7th best team in England last year, the club’s next step aim has to be breaking the top 6 and the oligarchy of the British super-teams: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham.

While Sigurdsson is by no means expected to achieve that feat on his own, to paraphrase Uncle Ben, ‘with great transfer fees, comes great responsibility’.

Fans will be looking to Sigurdsson to inspire a stronger season than Everton have ever had before, so is he the right man for Koeman’s new look Everton? Let’s take a look.

 

Pro – Excellent season with Swansea

After an incredible summer in 2016, in which he helped Iceland reach the Euro Quarter Finals, Sigurdsson and his Swansea side endured a difficult domestic campaign.

In a song of fire and ice Sigurdsson (ice) and Spaniard Fernando Llorente (fire), combined to score 53% of team’s goals. Without either it is likely the Swans would have been relegated, but they did (have them) and so they didn’t (get relegated).

Sigurdsson managed to grab himself 9 goals and 13 assists through the season. Only Kevin De Bruyne and Christian Eriksen bettered him in setting up others, while 9 goals is an impressive tally for any midfielder besides Dele Alli.

Yet, equally impressive was the way in which Sigurdsson lead his team, giving a struggling side the quality it needed to stay afloat. The mix of ability, character and leadership which Sigurdsson demonstrated last year is a strong indication that he is set for a strong season to come.

 

Con – Failed to make an impact at Tottenham

Of course to some extent, Sigurdsson has actually been here before.

In 2012 after an impressive season on loan with Swansea, Tottenham came calling, but Sigurdsson failed to make much of an impact. During his two years in North London he managed only 58 Premier League appearances, 9 full games, 8 goals and 4 assists.

In the end, Tottenham let him return to Wales in a deal which saw Ben Davies and Michel Vorm move the other way. 

Asked about his time at Tottenham, Sigurdsson attributed his underwhelming impact to a mixture of limited opportunities and him not being ready. Yet he also emphasised that 5 years have passed since that move.

In those 5 years, Sigurdsson has matured and developed as a player to the extent that last season, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said he wished Tottenham had kept hold of the Icelandic international.

Everton will be hoping Tottenham continue to rue what they might have lost, but until Sigurdsson starts firing for the Toffees there will be a lingering doubt that he is the kind of player who shines at the bottom of the League, but bottles it at the top.

 

Pro – Shared responsibility

The general logic about footballers is that the good ones need to play with better players because it will improve them and allow them to unlock their potential. That is why Lukaku left Everton and why Riyad Mahrez wants to leave Leicester.

As has been stated already, Sigurdsson had a fantastic season last year, but he had an awful lot of responsibility, the kind of responsibility that can weigh heavy on a player.

Joining Everton should benefit the Iceman because although he performed heroics at Swansea, it was very much a one (or two) man show.

However, at Everton he will be a star amongst stars. Playing alongside better players than he did at Swansea will push Sigurdsson because if he isn’t on top of his game, he won’t play.

Another added benefit is that Sigurdsson won’t be expected to carry the team singlehandedly. Despite the expectation his fee brings, sharing responsibility should prevent Sigurdsson from burning out physically or mentally.

Combined with his need to maintain a high level of performance, this should ensure that Ronald Koeman is able to get the best out of his new signing.

 

Con – A congested midfield

Although Sigurdsson will be sharing the pitch with a lot of talented players, unfortunately for him a lot of them play in the same position as him.

Everton have already signed a bona-fide attacking midfielder this summer in Dutch international Davy Klaassen who managed 14 goals and 9 assists in the Eredivisie last season. On top of that, the club have welcomed back Wayne Rooney after his brief stint in Manchester.

While Rooney has made his name as a striker, over the past few years he has regularly dropped into a deeper role and it remains to be seen where Koeman utilises the Merseyside native.

Finally, Everton still have Ross Barkley on the books and although his departure is expected, if no one matches Everton’s asking price he could quite feasibly end up remaining at Everton, which would only congest the space behind the striker even more.

However, there is no need to get too carried away.

Ronald Koeman clearly believes he can fit all of his chosen players into a well organised and efficient side. Everton could play with two attacking midfielders with full backs providing the width, as Chelsea and Spurs have done so well.

Alternatively, they could employ a fluid attack where players switch between wings and the space in behind the striker. Ultimately, Sigurdsson should have plenty of space to express himself, yet there is no denying that with so many similar players there is a risk that they step on each others’ toes.

 

Pro – Teacher’s pet

Finally and perhaps most importantly, Ronald Koeman really likes Sigurdsson.

In fact, Koeman tried to sign the Iceman while he was managing Southampton, but was told by his club that a deal would be impossible. Taking advantage of the riches of his new club, Koeman decided to take his chance and seize a player he has long admired.

Even during the long and protracted negotiations Koeman never wavered in his desire to secure Sigurdsson, nor did he baulk at the hefty fee.

Clearly therefore the manager trusts his player and when it comes to footballing success there are very few things more important than a manager’s trust and belief.

With the relationship between manager and player already so strong there is no reason why Sigurdsson can’t repeat or even better his season last year. Now wouldn’t that be exciting?

 

Verdict

Ronald Koeman is a fantastic manager who has been very clear about wanting Sigurdsson to join his side. The Iceman therefore has a key role to play this year for Everton.

Despite underwhelming at Tottenham earlier in his career, Sigurdsson has shown admirable character to bounce back, proving himself to be one of the Premier League’s best attacking midfielders and dead ball specialists.

With added maturity and in the prime of his career, expect Sigurdsson to have a strong season for Everton.

However, that is really only half of the question. Whether or not Sigurdsson can inspire a foray into the top 6 is part of a much bigger debate about where Everton are as a club.

Although they have improved dramatically it still looks like a tall order for the Toffees to usurp the big boys at the top of the table. Everton have a side capable of winning the FA Cup and doing very well in the Europa League, but when it comes to the Premier League in all likelihood they will still finish 7th.

It may very well be the best 7th placed finish in the history of the Premier League, but it will be 7th nonetheless. Therefore while Sigurdsson will be a success at Everton, it won’t count for much, in the league anyhow.

 

Written by Scott Pope

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