It took over a year from the first reported bid to the moment when he signed a five-year contract to seal a £40m-plus transfer from Swansea City but Gylfi Sigurdsson is finally an Everton player.
It says a lot about the midfielder and the role that he is expected to play at Goodison Park that Steve Walsh and Ronald Koeman were so patient and so persistent in pursuing him, to the point that they allowed the saga to drag past the start of the both the Europa and Premier League campaigns in order to get a key transfer target through the door.
Not only that, Farhad Moshiri and the Everton Board were content to sanction a club-record fee to sign Sigurdsson, smashing the previous record that the deals for Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane of just a couple of months earlier would likely have ended up setting had they not been surpassed so soon.
It is a head-turning transfer fee, even in this hugely inflated market. After all, Sigurdsson turns 28 next month and his last attempt at making a name for himself at a big club didn’t really go according to plan. He left Tottenham Hotspur three years ago never really having fulfilled his expected potential and Christian Eriksen has filled the brief impressively since his departure.
Plenty of water has passed under the bridge in the interim, however, and current Spurs boss Mauricio Piochettino has admitted that he would have been very happy to have inherited Sigurdsson when he took over at White Hart Lane. Since his return to South Wales where he had spent a successful loan spell in 2012, Sigurdsson has ascended to Talisman status for club and country, guiding Iceland on their rousing run to the Euro2016 quarter-finals, helping to preserve Swansea’s top-flight status last season and being named the Swans’ player of the season for the past two years.
Fernando Llorente may have scored a clutch of vital goals towards the end of a campaign that had looked under Bob Bradley as though it was destined for disaster, but Sigurdsson was his key provider. Including the nine he scored himself, the Icelandic star was involved in 52% of the Swans’ goals last season which explains why they were so reluctant to let him go and stalled for weeks over accepting Everton’s offer, even after the player himself had signalled his desire to leave once the Blues’ firm interest was revealed.
That reliable offensive production would be evidence enough of why Koeman clearly wanted him so badly but there is more to Gylfi Sigurdsson than set-piece wizardry and an eye for goal — according to whoscored.com, he had as many shots on target last term as Romelu Lukaku — even if Sky Sports columnist Adam Bate asserts that his chance creation has been heavily reliant on dead-ball situations.
“[T]here are doubts about the robustness and repeatability of what Sigurdsson achieved at Swansea … [T]he quality of chance being created by Sigurdsson was not particularly high,” Bate writes, citing corners and free kicks being inherently difficult chances to convert. “This is largely because an extraordinarily high number of them came from set-pieces rather than open play [which] owes much to the abilities of his targets in the penalty box.”
While it may be true that Llorente, Alfie Mawson and Federico Fernandez were those prime targets, Bate’s analysis doesn’t account for the higher quality of player with which Sigurdsson will be surrounded at Goodison. With the kind of movement and space creation that the likes of Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen — see the goal against Stoke last weekend for an example — Kevin Mirallas and Sandro Ramirez can potentially offer, the Icelander should have more to work with than was the case in a struggling Swans team last season.
And it would seem that Sigurdsson does have the talent to thrive in that kind of setup. As Stuart James explains in The Guardian, “There is a misconception about Sigurdsson that he is no more than a set-piece expert … [H]e is comfortably top of the pile for chances created from set-plays (106, more than twice as many as any Everton player), yet the 27-year-old has much more to his game.
“An intelligent player who likes to roam and link play, Sigurdsson is at his best when he finds pockets of space to open teams up with a first-time pass or clever backheel. That bright football brain makes up for the fact that he lacks pace … For that reason Sigurdsson needs to play through the middle as a No.10, where he can have the biggest impact on the game.”
That will come as music to the ears of Evertonians for whom the acquisition of a player to fill that role behind the striker(s) at Goodison Park has been a high but unfulfilled priority for a number of years now. Ross Barkley was the “great white hope” in that role but has flattered to deceive since bursting onto the scene in Roberto Martinez’s first season in 2013-14.
Koeman has been unconvinced by Barkley’s ability to consistently produce in an advanced role and while Martinez very occasionally deployed him in a deeper-lying role, the short-comings in the defensive side of his game have thus far undermined his chances of making it as a more conventional central midfielder. It’s hardly surprising — he is more apt to play as a striker than a defensive holding player.
Sigurdsson won’t provide all of the natural flair, skill and pace that many feel the side still lacks but his consistency, eye for a pass and the threat he provides from dead-ball situations should significantly improve the Blues in the final third. It’s just a shame that the member of last season’s squad who stood to benefit the most, namely Lukaku, is no longer at the club and it increases the urgency in signing his replacement.
The biggest questions in the wake of his long-awaited signing is where Sigurdsson fits into the current side or what changes to the formation Koeman will make to accommodate him. Under the Dutchman, Everton have, more often than not, operated with a three-man forward line and if that is to continue with the current personnel and the new man as a central “10”, it could demand more of Rooney in a striker’s role than expected.
Yet Koeman told the media before the start of the season that he was looking to sign a centre-forward, a left-sided centre-half and a player to play wide on the left. It was assumed that last position would be in addition to Sigurdsson but recent suggestions from the likes of Sky’s Jim White have it that the Reykjavík-born player was the one ear-marked for left side of an attacking three.
James’s piece contains a warning for Koeman in the unlikely event he is planning on using Sigurdsson as a left-winger, however:
“At Tottenham Hotspur, where Sigurdsson spent two seasons after joining from Hoffenheim in 2012, he was frustrated with how much time he spent on either the left wing or the bench. He made 58 Premier League appearances across two seasons with Spurs, yet was on the pitch from start to finish in only nine of those matches.”
Rooney, Sigurdsson and Barkley — if he stays and has a regular role in the side once he recovers from injury — would all be vying for a similar position which might prompt Koeman to experiment but there is a difference between left wing and something more akin to the old-fashioned inside-left in terms of positioning relative to the centre-forward. There is every possibility that if Gylfi is deployed in a withdrawn role off the forward line with a left-side bias, he could bring the best out of Leighton Baines for the first time since Steven Pienaar was helping to run the show in Everton blue.
And if it’s an assignment to which he isn’t suited, it will become apparent in fairly short order. You would hope Koeman wouldn’t undermine his marquee signing by persisting with a flawed system for long.
Once you get past the enormous fee — rationalise that in this market, Sandro, a 16-goal striker from La Liga, could easily have gone for £15m to £20m rather than a mere £5m and you’ll start to feel a lot better about it! — it’s hard not feel excited about what Sigurdsson can bring to this Everton team.
There is always a nagging fear that a new signing, particularly one so expensive, won’t fulfil expectations but Koeman will argue that you pay a high premium for a player with a proven track record in the Premier League. Gylfi Sigurdsson has shown himself to be one of the most valuable players outside of the top six and has deservedly secured a move to a team intent on breaking into that group of clubs.
Add a new No.9 of the ilk that Koeman has said he is after to take advantage of those talents from set-pieces and crosses and he could be the ideal addition.
Reader Comments (43)
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1 Posted 17/08/2017 at 06:59:52
There's an undeniable pattern that's been established here... Klaassen, Keane, Rooney and now Sigurdsson, all recognized and respected leaders at their previous clubs, all high-character people of the type that you want to build around. One of our most obvious -- and least-discussed -- issues last season was the absence of inspiration leadership on the pitch. The players who most often wear the armband, Jags and Baines, are quiet lead-by-example types. Our best players last season, Rom and Barks, are not leadership material. Koeman clearly isn't just building a side here, he's building a culture.
2 Posted 17/08/2017 at 07:13:51
3 Posted 17/08/2017 at 07:15:23
4 Posted 17/08/2017 at 07:20:47
A plan I would say that may well stretch way beyond most people's expectations of his tenure.
5 Posted 17/08/2017 at 07:32:36
Great link Dermot. Thought the wall and keepers look a bit dodgy on a couple of them though! And the best news of all? We should never have to sit through Mirallas trying to take a free kick again!
6 Posted 17/08/2017 at 07:34:18
7 Posted 17/08/2017 at 07:45:04
8 Posted 17/08/2017 at 07:46:49
9 Posted 17/08/2017 at 08:15:15
excellent point I totally agree. Half the team seem to be captain material now. Lack of leaders was something that needed addressing.
Craig @ 8
He did run further though that's tempered slightly by the fact he played nearly every game and wasn't substituted. Impressive and surprising fact though.
10 Posted 17/08/2017 at 08:46:01
11 Posted 17/08/2017 at 10:00:27
12 Posted 17/08/2017 at 10:04:50
13 Posted 17/08/2017 at 10:11:36
14 Posted 17/08/2017 at 10:26:42
People on other threads saying no to Costa, I'd love him for a year, a player like him on form could really give us a chance at top 4, angry man that can score, give me that all day!! No defender likes him and that suits me fine.
15 Posted 17/08/2017 at 13:01:41
The only way I can see us playing is by signing a target man (Pelle type) who holds the ball up and brings others into play through movement and vision - not pace. I know we are looking for a centre forward but why have we waited so long to sign a No.9?
16 Posted 17/08/2017 at 13:23:05
17 Posted 17/08/2017 at 13:28:26
I'm optimistic about the way things are going.
18 Posted 17/08/2017 at 13:41:17
. OK, I'm going!
19 Posted 17/08/2017 at 13:49:27
Koeman wants players to defend as a team. It's very rigid. There's no room for passengers. Now we know Sigurdsson would not be a passenger as he runs more than any player, or so topping last season's running states tells us.
But this point of being allowed to roam goes to the very heart of my reservations. Let's consider the side that started the second half against Stoke because that seems to be Koeman's preferred side, despite 532/352/343 experiments :
Martina Keane Jags Baines
Gueye Klaassen Schneiderlin
Rooney Calvert-Lewin Sandro
Where does Sigurdsson come in? Does he take Rooney's place on the right? Does Rooney move into the middle for Calvert -Lewin? What about when we sign the no9 we so desperately need?
Klaassen, Sigurdsson, Rooney, and to an extent Sandro, all want to drop into that space behind the front target man. Klaassen is a bit different in that he wants to link up with the target man. He will lay it into him and run beyond playing a one-two. His desire to go beyond the front men creates space behind him for others to exploit. When Rooney was dropping deep, it NEEDED Klaassen to be taking Rooney's position higher up the pitch to stretch the defence and to stop them nullifying Rooney by simply pushing up and eliminating the space.
Sigurdsson also wants to play in this space. So we still need a target man to play off, and a Klaassen to push forward with his quick one-twos and stretch the defence. Sigurdsson is not this player. He would be far less effective in a midfield three. It's not his game to be that deep, not does he have Klaassen's skill set.
For me it's a straight choice, Rooney or Sigurdsson, and that's baffling. Rooney cannot be a bit part player, Sigurdsson is too expensive to sit on the bench. Maybe it's Sandro to drop out of the side and for Sigurdsson to play left of the front three with Rooney still on the right or vice versa. This makes the most sense.
We cannot play a 4231. This formation suits Sigurdsson best, no doubt about it. But here we would sacrifice Klaassen, and we would need Bolasie and Lookman on the wings and so would lose Sandro and Rooney (presuming we have a no9). The 4231 requires wingers, or wide midfielders, it puts the anchors on the full backs and so the width comes from midfield. Rooney cannot provide width. Sandro will run the channel well in a 433, but he can't play as an out and out winger.
Perhaps we can go for a narrow 4231, here we could have Rooney, Klaassen, and Sigurdsson off a target man. They would all have to work hard tracking back. There's then no width at all, which is why I don't like the formation. Any width comes from the fullbacks, which means the two defensive midfielders are very much anchored to the centre halves, with both the centre halves and the defensive midfielders having to cover for the fullbacks when the moves breaks down. This leaves the side very disjointed as effectively we have no midfield with 4 attackers, 2 wing backs and a central defensive four. Of course, the formation can be extremely solid as there is so much congestion in the middle, and if the attacking midfield trio play with an eye on defence, then it's just so hard to get through. But then we have gone away from what we want to do in accommodating three attacking midfielders, and instead ended up with a defensive formation with no width and an isolated front man.
I just can't see how this pans out. Not unless it's either Rooney or Sigurdsson and the no10 plays from an inside forward position.
20 Posted 17/08/2017 at 14:45:18
I am of the opinion that 2 defensive midfielders that Koeman plays, makes us far too defensive. We need 1 ball winner, and 1 deep-lying MF who can start the attack. Last week's Man U team against West Ham was a perfect example Matic and Pogba were playing deep, but as soon as Matic won the ball, he fed the ball forward freeing Pogba to maraud forward. Assuming Schneiderlin is our Matic (when he comes out of his honeymoon!), Gana is now-where creative/lethal going forward (or vice versa, if you reverse Schneid and Gana).
My favourite Everton Front 6 and what I imagine its equivalent today:
The Water carrier = Carsley = Gana
The Deep-lying Creator = Arteta = Sigurdsson
The Left & Right Sided 'harriers' = Pienaar & Osman = Davies & Rooney
The 'jack-in-the-box' = Cahill = Klaassen
The point man = Yakubu = Calvert-Lewin
Back-Ups: Schneiderlin, McCarthy, Sandro, Lookman, Bolasie (sell Besic or McCarthy, Lennon, and Mirallas). I would keep Barkley, if there is any chance of him staying. Davies, Rooney, Barkley and Sigurdsson can be rotated.
My 'best' XI present Everton players, when everyone is fit:
Coleman, Keane, Funes Mori, Baines;
Davies, Klaassen, Rooney, Sigurdsson;
21 Posted 17/08/2017 at 14:48:09
22 Posted 17/08/2017 at 15:03:21
That would be the default stating XI - its one of the options you mentioned and the one that needs the least messing about with the second half line up against Stoke.
It does make our lack of pace even worse because I would say that both Rooney and Siggy are undroppable to start with - so who would make way for a Lookman or Mirallas in the front 3?
But looking forward to seeing it all click together and as others have mentioned there could be several ways we will set up depending on the opposition and in particular the extent to which Klaassen and Sandro adapt to PL life and the speed with which the youngsters develop (particularly Lookman and Calvert Lewin)
23 Posted 17/08/2017 at 15:52:42
I've been saying the same with every signing this summer.
There is leadership qualities in pretty much every one of them, in addition to most of them having a bit of 'nark' in 'em as well.
The Championship sides of the 60s, 70s and 80s had plenty of those qualities. In the PL era, the usual trophy winning suspects have it in spades.
You can have all the ability (or potential) in the world. To make it to the very top of the mountain, you need to have a touch of the mean nark in you also.
And on another note, all the examples of Siggy's free kicks that Dermont @ 2 posted are very, VERY similar.
This is evidently (as reported) a man who has put in 100s of hours of practice on the training ground to perfect this art. The shape he displays on striking the ball demonstrates 'muscle memory.'
Look carefully and time and again as he strikes the ball he is NEVER leaning back, which would lead to the ball balloning over the bar. Striking the ball with his right foot, his left arm extends forward whilst from the waist up he leans forward, often also dipping his head forward also.
This does a number of things: it helps him be balanced, keeping his standing foot firm when striking the ball; it ensures there will be no air shoot, that his strike will be on target; it allows him to adjust the angle and striking position of his right foot to place his shot either side of the goal, as desired.
A very, very solid - and effective - technique.
24 Posted 17/08/2017 at 16:03:47
6 = Sit in front of back 3/4
8 = Box to box
10 = Behind forward with license to roam.
Rooney, Sigurdsson, Sandro and Klaassen will not all be in same starting eleven when he has bought his centre forward.
We as Blues have been programmed. "What the fuck is Koeman doing, all these signings can't start"
He is building a squad, folks!
25 Posted 17/08/2017 at 16:21:57
The template and model Koeman has used to date was largely dictated by first the personnel he inherited, then tweaked a tad with the arrival of Schneiderlin in January who even then was similar to, but also different from, Gareth Barry.
I have seen clear evidence in pre-season of Koeman being more experimental as new arrivals are bedded in than simply following a single template.
Hopefully we will progress to the group stages of the EL, as well as have a good run in both domestic cups. Added to the 38 games of the PL, we are facing an extremely congested fixture list.
The club's recruitment to date (with the glaring exception of replacing the most prolific and consistent goalscorer we have had in 3 decades) has brought better quality and more competition to the squad in the majority of positions (and I am aware there are still other 'cover gaps' at full back and central defence).
We will not play the same XI every game. We will not play the same tactics every game. Different personnel and tactics will be employed over the season, determined by the opposition.
I'm prepared to 'wait and see' how this improved squad all comes together under Koeman.
26 Posted 17/08/2017 at 16:26:08
Doesn't the best 11 depend on who we are playing ?
27 Posted 17/08/2017 at 17:21:07
28 Posted 17/08/2017 at 23:17:12
29 Posted 17/08/2017 at 23:28:21
30 Posted 17/08/2017 at 23:35:19
The important thing is th new players adapt quickly. Pickford and Keane have been outstanding so let's hope the others will develop quickly. Sigi is a brilliant signing by the way!!
31 Posted 18/08/2017 at 21:02:28
I'm expecting this to be the key difference when it comes to breaking down stubborn teams and playing the bigger sides.
Decision making has be a quality Goodison has been without for years, only punctuated with a dose of Pienaar and Arteta.
The cerebral is so important, and ironically I actually think we have enough in the team that would engineer a place for Barkley, namely the decisions are made for him, and his natural instincts would flourish.
I'll give Koeman and Walsh a lot of credit for the incomings so far. Clever players, I like clever.
32 Posted 19/08/2017 at 10:07:01
The simple answer to all that is Sigurdsson can play all across - left, central & right - effectively and probably will do as the season progresses.
We have badly missed an attacking mid who can do that.
Have a cup of tea.
33 Posted 19/08/2017 at 12:53:55
Rooney has played as the post player in lieu of a more conventional No.9.
Koeman wants options for every situation.
34 Posted 19/08/2017 at 17:34:36
I'm not sold on the minutiae of stat analysis but for Gylfi to have been directly involved in over 50% of Swansea's goals is mega-impressive and surely unique in the whole league.
Additionally, in one less season than the fabled free-kick maestro David Beckham (who was an ever-present playing in a team awarded way more free kicks than almost everyone else, unlike Gylfi who in two seasons at Spurs only had 9 full games) Gylfi has already out-scored him in that regard. Indeed nobody has out-scored him from free kicks in PL history according to the BBC.
In the words of the philosopher Hannibal, "I love it when a plan comes together!"
35 Posted 19/08/2017 at 20:17:36
If he stays and competes for the #10 role, he is currently 4th choice and potentially 5th if one of the youngsters progresses this season.
36 Posted 19/08/2017 at 21:42:15
He wants a new challenge? Well, there it is and no cost, except maybe an adjustment to his wages. If we are paying Rooney shitloads of money as a one-half player, then we can extend a handshake to a player who has the youth and stamina on his side.
37 Posted 19/08/2017 at 22:00:42
39 Posted 22/08/2017 at 13:23:54
40 Posted 23/08/2017 at 02:02:28
As for formation, I still like my 1-2-3-4 formation from my years playing Championship Manager, just for kicks. (LOL)
Holgate (speedy defender for offside trap and last ditch tackling)
Gana Schneiderlin Davies
Sandro Rooney Sigurdsson DCL
#9? Do we really need a #9?
John 24, expertly said.
41 Posted 23/08/2017 at 18:48:31
About as much chance of Ron trying that out as trying Niasse.
42 Posted 28/08/2017 at 08:55:27
The fixtures at the start of the season are tough but Koeman is making them appear even tougher with his team selections and subs.
Stoke at home was a joke with 4 at the back but no right back. We had a massive slice of luck at city but he then brings on 2 attackers and takes off 2 defenders when defending a lead at Man City.
Yesterday's game was dreadful: no guile pace or direction. I am getting the feeling that Rooney is turning himself into a player manager, he is the only one who seems remotely arsed. Williams and Jags should be taking more responsibility but I am just not seeing it at all.
There will be calls for Koeman's head if we continue with this lack of direction.
43 Posted 05/09/2017 at 17:26:07
44 Posted 05/09/2017 at 22:45:32
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