Everton supporters across the globe woke up this morning to a bit of unexpected, and potentially unsettling news: the Toffees may be interested in securing a loan deal for Tottenham Hotspur’s Moussa Sissoko.
In case you lived under a rock last summer, the short summation of Sissoko’s status is this — after successful spells at Toulouse and Newcastle United, the Frenchman put together a series of excellent performances at UEFA Euro 2016. With Newcastle relegated into the Championship, Sissoko looked for a move back into the Premier League.
With a move to Everton all but secured, he changed his mind at the last moment, instead moving to Tottenham. He played only 903 Premier League minutes (in addition to a handful of European and domestic cup appearances), failing to live up to expectations and his £30 million transfer fee.
That brings us back to the present, where Ronald Koeman is evidently interested in having another go at securing Sissoko’s services. I know the initial reaction from Everton supporters has been immediate rejection of the idea, but a loan for the player might not be a bad idea.
First though, we have to accept and move past his rejection of the club last summer. It stung and was done unprofessionally — but if Koeman, notoriously critical of players’ attitudes (looking at you, Ross Barkley), accepts the way last summer played out, supporters should as well.
Next, we have to acknowledge what Sissoko will not be for Everton. He’s played in the center of midfield in the past, but there’s just no way he fits into Koeman’s midfield trio as things stand now. Sissoko:
- Would be behind both Davy Klaassen and Tom Davies for the role of the most advanced player of the midfield trio
- Doesn’t cover enough ground to play in the box-to-box role
- Doesn’t play enough defense to play in the deep-lying midfielder role — not to mention I’m not convinced he’s a good enough passer to play that position either.
So that leaves a wide role for Sissoko — which is a place where the Toffees need additional cover. Sissoko spent most of last season playing on the right wing for Tottenham. As it stands now, Everton’s true senior right-sided wide players are...Aaron Lennon — Ademola Lookman and Kieran Dowell have played there in friendlies but lack experience, and Ross Barkley and Sandro Ramirez could theoretically play there, but aren’t necessarily a natural fit.
“But Adam,” I hear you yell at your screen, “Sissoko is just not a good footballer — who cares what position he plays!”
While I agree, dear reader, that he was not good for Tottenham last season, and he’s certainly not a world-beater, simply claiming he’s no good is blatantly unfair.
In Sissoko’s three full seasons at Newcastle United, he started 35, 34, and 37 matches — with the club finishing 10th, 15th, and then finally 18th in 2015-16. A player good enough to start essentially every match for a mid-table (yes, then bottom-table) club surely has plenty of redeeming values.
Sissoko also put out a strong showing at Euro 2016 on a French side stacked with talent — so he’s clearly got solid ability buried somewhere within him.
In fact, his desire to keep a place the French national team may be one of the biggest reasons a loan move for Sissoko makes sense. With the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia fast approaching, Sissoko will need to play some very strong football in order to remain in Didier Deschamps good graces and earn a spot in his country’s team for the tournament.
With Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, and N’Golo Kante all present in the center of midfield, Sissoko has no chance of seeing the pitch at that position. And with the emergence of Ousmane Dembele and Thomas Lemar in the wide positions, in addition to the presence of established attackers like Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet, Sissoko is going to have to work very hard to keep a place with his national team.
His motivation and work rate have rightly been questioned in the last 12 months, but he’s going to have plenty to play for in the coming year.
In all, a loan move for Moussa Sissoko makes more sense than it might appear at first glance. His position of preference is a position of need for the Toffees, he needs to play well to prove that he fits into his national team, and Ronald Koeman seems to have continued faith that he can get the most out of the player.
If it is going to cost the club nothing but the player’s wages to bring him in, what is there to lose?