Two twenty-seven-year-old creative forces from two different leagues, both on the radar of Everton Football Club. Gylfi Sigurdsson has been valued by his club at £50m, while Jonathan Viera has a buyout clause of £30m. Is the Icelander worth the higher amount because of his experience in the English Premier League? Or is it the Spaniard who would be better powering the Toffee offense next season?
We can see their performance from the same statistical categories in the AM/FW template below.
If you are looking for a dribbler, it is by far Viera who you want out on the wing. He is also the more accurate passer, and the man who generates more key passes and through balls. Do not let Viera’s total of seven assists fool you - Swansea City had far better talent up front than Las Palmas last season.
On the other hand, Gylfi Sigurdsson is a dead ball mastermind. Of the key passes you see above, all but 0.5 were from set pieces. Of course that cuts both ways - it also means he’s only giving you 0.5 key passes in open play per 90 minutes. However, Sigurdsson takes care of the ball extremely well, he’s basically never dispossessed, he shoots the ball more than Viera, but he shoots with just as much accuracy and that efficiency is worth something.
So what should Everton do? Simply put, it depends a great deal on what other business they plan on doing this summer. It is no secret at all that Everton needs another striker.
One of the rumored targets has been Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman has scored 18 goals with his head in the last three seasons, which is a tremendous number. Giroud would join Michael Keane on the Toffees’ roster as aerial threats - the defender has scored five of his seven goals in the last three years with his head.
Adding Sigurdsson and Giroud to this current Everton roster would make them arguably the best set-piece team in the entire Premier League, which would leave them with a real advantage over every single opponent they would face. It would allow Everton to go into any of the top six stadiums where they have experienced such futility with an ace in the hole, which is no doubt an appealing prospect.
Now, let’s say the striking target is someone like Joshua King, who can flat out move in open space. Viera then becomes far more interesting. We still have options from free kicks, with Keane still here and Wayne Rooney on board.
This direction could give Everton an athletic edge that it currently lacks, and a dynamic in open play that Sandro and Seamus Coleman (once healthy) can blend into nicely. A free flowing offense is also something that Davy Klaassen played in last year, and would accentuate the ball playing skills of someone like Morgan Schneiderlin.
Everton has more options than just Viera and Sigurdsson. They have money, a good degree of prestige, and forward momentum as a club. Neither of these men could work out and the Blues could still go find another viable creator to be a part of their bright future.
However, these men are representative of two potential ideas for filling out the style of this Everton team. Are they going to be a set piece phenomenon in the likeness of Atletico Madrid? Or are they going to play free flowing attacking style that the Koeman’s Dutch background is known for?
Either of these options could be successful. Frankly, I do not think there is an obvious wrong answer here. However, set pieces are singular moments in games and the number and potential of those moments is not really controllable. If we focus on what benefits the open play then we have something that impacts the full 90 minutes, and avoiding Sigurdsson also ends up being cheaper for Everton.
Here is another important fact to consider. Jonathan Viera is not in the picture of the Spanish national team, whereas Gyfi is the heart and soul of Iceland.
Very few teams in Europe know better than Everton the dangers of international breaks. Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy, illustrations of those complications and frustrations, would simply not be worries as far as Viera is concerned. While he is a delightful player, Viera is not going to unseat the attackers for the Spanish national team.
However, for Iceland, Gylfi Sigurdsson is going to be on the pitch every single time he is fit. Their World Cup qualifying group has four teams between 11 and 13 points because Finland and Kosovo have one point each and are hopelessly out of reach.
Iceland is in a dogfight to get into the World Cup, a competition they have never made it to before. Which would you rather do, check into Iceland games and wince at every hard challenge on the Iceman or tune into a Spain game with the comfort of knowing that no matter how hard anyone gets tackled it isn’t going to hurt Everton FC?
The Blues should pass on Sigurdsson, and get the open field playmaker.