We heard it all week. It apparently didn’t matter that Gylfi Sigurdsson was one of the best set piece takers on earth - he didn’t dribble enough, he wasn’t explosive enough in open play, and I even heard suggestions that he should be dropped deeper into the Morgan Schneiderlin role.
The Iceland star then went out and not only attempted the most shots of anyone in the game, but also created five key passes against Fulham.
The shots are fine, and I am glad two of them went in, of course, but the real value for Everton comes week in and week out from the chance creation. Whenever we are evaluating a player, we should put emphasis on the aspects of his performance that are repeatable, and that’s exactly what these key passes are for Gylfi.
Over 20% of Sigurdsson’s pass attempts against Fulham resulted in a chance on goal. His average position was further forward than any Everton player (a product of both his position as a playmaker and the self-sacrificing role our strikers are asked to fill).
Of Gylfi’s 19 key passes so far this season, 11 have been from open play and 8 have been from set pieces. That sort of versatility is uniquely valuable. Only David Silva has more total key passes so far in the Premier League, and only Jose Holebas of Watford has more from set pieces (both per Whoscored.com). Silva only has two set piece key passes and Holebas only has two from open play.
This potent blend is exactly why Everton paid £45m for Gylfi Sigurdsson. Fans expecting him to play like David Silva or Mesut Ozil need to rethink the player we have here, and understand that his unique combination of abilities is why he’s so valuable.
Despite only attempting 24 passes (and only completed a shade under 80% of them) Sigurdsson was the most creative player on the pitch because with nearly every action he sought to advance the ball into positions to score.
The Everton fanbase needs to get past this thing where they complain about Gylfi’s price tag or put too much emphasis on his limitations athletically. We have one of the premier chance creators in England on our side and he should be considered absolutely undroppable at this point. He has fully justified his price tag in a way that has nothing to do with scoring two goals on Saturday.