To find out what type of player Everton need to fill the gap left by André Gomes, should he not return to the club following his spell on loan from Barcelona, we first need to look at what Gomes brought to the team.
He has a fairly unique set of attributes, perhaps due to his size. He's able to win aerial balls, even though this isn’t his main strength, and is a good dribbler despite not being the quickest.
He completed 1.94 dribbles per 90 minutes in the Premier League last season and won 1.81 aerial duels per 90.
He attempts plenty of long passes (6.2 per 90) with an impressive success rate of 71 per cent.
Other than the fact he’s quite tall, coming in at 188cm (6ft 2in) he doesn’t look like a defensive player, but still manages to win plenty of possession in the middle third, with his 4.8 possession wins per 90 in this area putting him seventh in the Premier League among midfielders.
An overall pass accuracy of 85 per cent helps his team stay in control of games, and at his best he exudes class thanks to the ease of which he carries himself around the field, finding space and connecting everything together.
Gomes wasn’t exactly an unknown player when he joined Everton, arriving after two seasons at one of the biggest clubs in the world, so perhaps they need someone of similar stature, though this will inflate the price.
At 25 years old Gomes is at the beginning of what is often considered the peak years for a midfielder, so looking for someone under the age of 26 would provide the long term value and service Everton need.
So we're looking for a player who:
- Is willing to try long passes, and good enough to complete a good portion of them.
- Can dribble out of trouble if needed.
- Is good at winning possession back in midfield.
- Completes most of their passes.
- Can win aerial duels.
Here’s a look at a number of players who could replace some of what the club will lose should they be unable to secure Gomes’ services next season.
Ibrahim Sangaré – Toulouse
In terms of the all-round statistical profile, Toulouse midfielder Sangaré matches up in all but one area, but it could be quite an important one.
The only worry is his pass success which last season was just 80 per cent. This could be because he tries so many long passes, only completing 50 per cent of those.
But working under Marco Silva he could learn when to pick his moments and be more selective with his long passing.
He is better than Gomes defensively and completes roughly the same amount of dribbles per game, as shown in the graphic.
The 21-year-old Ivorian has plenty of improving to do, but all the signs suggest he has the skillset to do just that. Put him alongside Idrissa Gueye and few attacking midfielders would fancy their chances against Everton.
Leandro Paredes – Paris Saint-Germain
The long-passing loan option. But it might be a long shot.
Having only joined Paris Saint-Germain in January this year, the club may be reluctant to let the 24-year-old go on a permanent deal, but could be tempted into a loan agreement as Barcelona were with Gomes.
He fits the bill in terms of a high profile name and also has the rangy, long searching passes of Gomes.
He falls down in other areas, though, especially dribbling, but maybe one keeping an eye on should PSG recruit other midfielders leaving Paredes’ place in the side uncertain.
Marcelo Brozović – Inter
Another player who fits the higher profile of the likes of Gomes and Paredes is Inter’s Croatian midfielder, Brozovic.
At 26 he is in his peak years, so this coupled with his profile will mean he’s likely to cost a fair whack, but he has all the attributes required to replace Gomes’ deep-lying creativity, and then some.
Of the 7.73 long balls per 90 he attempts he completes 70 per cent. He averages 3.86 possessions wins in midfield and has an overall pass success of 88 per cent.
He’s not a dribbler or a winner of aerial duels, but everything else would be a good fit for Everton if they could a) find the funds, and b) convince him to join. Both of which will be difficult.
Kevin Stöger – Fortuna Düsseldorf
The Austrian midfielder currently on the books at Fortuna Düsseldorf can play all through the midfield but has some key attributes which mean he could be a good fit right in the middle of Everton’s.
Again there is a lack of aerial presence, but in terms of possession wins in the middle of the park (4.07) and long passing (7.89 per 90, 73 per cent success) he looks like an ideal signing, even if just to add depth.
The 25-year-old is a good presser and a great passer with his left foot, and his vision for long range through balls is up there with the best.
Even if Everton sign another Gomes replacement, they should sign Stöger as well.
Ismaël Bennacer – Empoli
The former Arsenal youth has already been linked with a move to Napoli, and Everton would be wise to join the bidding if the player is available.
The 21-year-old Frenchman ticks all the boxes on both the creative and defensive side of the game, as shown in the graphic.
Last season no midfielder in Serie A won the ball back more than Bennacer in the midfield or defensive thirds.
Maximilian Arnold – Wolfsburg
The 25-year-old German might be the most Gomes-like of the lot, with the only difference being he favours his left foot rather than his right.
He’s tall enough to win aerial duels, and though not the quickest he’s clever enough to evade challenges.
He one of those players who’s regularly fouled because the opposition think they can get to him, but he somehow manages to get past them. He was the most fouled player in the Bundesliga last season (81), 20 ahead of the next most fouled, Thorgan Hazard.
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) May 27, 2019
He’s been at Wolfsburg his whole career, so might take some prising away, but in terms of wages and transfer fee he could still offer good value.
Orel Mangala – Stuttgart
The 2. Bundesliga is one of the more interesting leagues when it comes to scouting, with a number of players standing out, not all of who will be able to make the step up to the top division.
21-year-old Mangala is one who made the step up, as the side where he spent last season on loan, Hamburger SV, will return to the Bundesliga next season. But — and this is important when it comes to his possible availability — the Belgian's parent club went in the other direction meaning he could be looking to move on.
He will be on the shortlists of a number of clubs in top divisions across Europe.
Like Gomes, he’s good at finding pockets of space to receive the ball before shifting it on again.
He attempts fewer long passes but makes up for this with his the overall accuracy of his passing which comes in at 88 per cent over the season.
He averages 2.05 possession wins in midfield per 90 and completes 2.29 dribbles. He’s not the best aerially but makes up for this with his defending on the ground winning a total of 7.5 defensive duels per 90.
Lucas Robertone – Vélez Sarsfield
A slightly more left-field option. Still plying his trade in Argentina, 22-year-old midfielder Robertone might struggle to gain a work permit initially, but nevertheless, he is worth keeping in mind.
He doesn’t have the dribbling stats or aerial prowess of some other players, but he has good vision and can strike a ball well when it comes to passing, set pieces, or long shooting.
His midfield mindset is probably somewhere between Gomes and Gylfi Sigurdsson, but he definitely has the tenacity to play a deeper role when required. One to keep an eye on.