The Toffees must now make a permanent switch to the starting side…
Everton fans will likely still be reeling from Saturday’s emphatic Premier League victory over AFC Bournemouth, despite the pre-match worries surrounding Idrissa Gueye.
Initially drafted in to start, an injury in the warm-up saw him replaced late on. Against all the odds, this turned out to be a true blessing in disguise.
How has Idrissa Gueye been playing?
Whilst the Senegal international has been a fine servant for the Toffees, having spent nearly five years at Goodison Park across two spells, and gaining them a hefty £28m fee from his 2019 sale, his powers have admittedly been waning in the last 12 months.
Whilst his tackling remains as efficient as ever, given averages 2.3 per game alongside a further 7.9 ball recoveries in the league, it is his unease in possession that makes him somewhat unreliable when starting.
To see the 34-year-old come short for the centre-backs is a worry, as he often dawdles on the ball and provides a trigger for the opposition to press. As such, he loses possession seven times per game, and given the importance of his position, this is a figure all too high.
Co-commentator Andy Townsend would seek to highlight one such gaffe back in March, as Gueye’s inability to play out saw him pounced on against Arsenal. He would tell BeIN Sports (20:13, 1 March 2023): “What are you thinking? What are you waiting for? Bukayo Saka never gave it up, he stays on the move and thinks I am going to get it back.
“Just give it back to the goalkeeper. Now his team have a mountain to climb. He’s got his back to play the goalkeeper, just give it to him. It’s really poor play, that is.”
The £80k-per-week earner remains a largely useful figure to have around the dressing room and to come on if a game needs securing, but given the performance of his stand-in on Saturday, Amadou Onana could have permanently displaced him now.
How did Amadou Onana play vs Bournemouth?
A pure force of nature in the engine room, the 22-year-old titan was as dominant as ever against a woeful Cherries side, and any threat of a counter was often thwarted by the Belgium international.
His gangly legs perhaps underplay such impressive technical prowess, which he put to good use by recording an 87% pass accuracy, one key pass and one long ball. However, perhaps more impressively was his defensive work rate, more than making up for Gueye’s absence whilst adding some creativity and assuredness into his role. Onana would add four tackles to a stellar display and actually won ten of the 12 duels he competed in at an 83% success rate, via Sofascore.
Although Sean Dyche was forced into such a change late on, it actually turned into quite a profitable one, with the 6 foot 4 maestro proving instrumental in maintaining the hosts’ domination throughout what was a perfect afternoon in Merseyside.
It seems the former LOSC Lille ace gets better with each match, becoming more confident and dynamic as he continues to acclimatise to English football. However, Roberto Martinez had predicted such development, describing him as “Everton’s metronome” and “Someone with such physical presence and dynamism.”
Surely the midfield trio that finally claimed an elusive home win cannot be torn apart after the international break. Onana must remain, supplementing the success of James Garner and Abdoulaye Doucoure.