|Denotes stats from 2016/2017 season
In Ronald Koeman’s oft-used 4-3-3, the nominal “attacking midfielder” rarely plays as a true number ten. Indeed, that idea bears itself out when we review the players at Everton’s disposal in that position.
Each player can be considered more of an “8.5”, that is, a midfielder who is positioned closer to Idrissa Gueye than the striker, but is comfortable winning the ball as well as getting forward in attack. Much of Everton’s creation comes from the wide areas of the pitch, be it Kevin Mirallas, Yannick Bolasie, or one of the fullbacks.
That does not mean, however, that there is not an important role to play in the upcoming season for these three players.
The favorite son, Davies has shown an eye for the incisive pass (see Sandro’s goal against Sevilla), and is an extremely willing runner in the center of the park. What Davies lacks in end product and composure, he makes up for by having an unsurpassed work rate.
The Everton-bred teenager is perhaps the Blues’ top young prospect (and there are a lot of them), but the best role for him this season may be as the first midfielder off the substitutes’ bench.
The new boy arrives from Ajax for a fee in the region £24 million. Klaassen probably bears the least amount of expectation among Koeman’s summer signings, but don’t let that deceive you - Davy could have a huge impact on Everton’s success this season.
More than anyone else, Klaassen reflects the idea of Koeman’s “8.5” in midfield. The 24 year old Dutchman has shown a splendid eye for goal throughout his career, but is equally adept at dropping deeper to retrieve the ball and distribute to his teammates.
In truth, there is not another player quite like Klaassen on the roster, and you can expect him to have a regular spot in the starting eleven from the word go.
The wantaway of the group, Ross Barkley is incredibly unlikely to be at Everton when the window closes. The SkyBet odds that Barkley stays are 4/1, and we’d wager the truth is that they’re even longer than that.
Even still, there’s an outside chance. Barkley is injured, his wage demands are too high, the fee Everton are allegedly requesting is too expensive, and there are too few suitors.
If Barkley does make it to September 1st as a Toffee, it’s doubtful he retains his role on the right side of Everton’s attack. Sandro Ramirez looks like a serious threat from that area of the pitch, Yannick Bolasie should be back by the new year, and the Blues need incisiveness down the middle in a bad way.
The Wavertree-born attacker has the build and the talent to return to a true midfield position, but adjustments would have to be made. The wayward passes, inopportune turnovers, and meandering runs on the ball have to stop. Could Koeman and Barkley make amends in order to make progress?
There’s no questioning that Ross could have a role to play this season if he somehow manages to stick around. The fog hanging over that role, though, seems too thick to overcome.
State of the Position
Meh. Davy Klaassen and Tom Davies are very capable players, but neither of them are going to step in and run a Premier League match in the same way that Kevin De Bruyne or Christian Eriksen might.
In truth, that might be fine with Ronald Koeman. Pending arrival Gylfi Sigurdsson is likely to play wide left of the striker, and when Seamus Coleman returns, he’ll bear a fair amount of creative responsibility, too.
Morgan Schneiderlin will retain his role as the side’s passing fulcrum. Klaassen, Davies, and maybe Ross Barkley will be relied on to support the striker, harry opponents, and make timely runs into the box.
Everton’s attacking midfield is not their greatest strength, but it’s certainly not a serious weakness, either.