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Everton Season Preview: Attacking Midfielders

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Welp...

Stats

2017-18 Everton Central Attacking Midfielders

Player Minutes Goals Assists KP/90
Player Minutes Goals Assists KP/90
Gylfi Sigurdsson 2262 4 3 1.5
Nikola Vlasic 574 0 0 1.9
Kieran Dowell* 2698 9 4 n/a

*Championship only

Tactics

Superficially, the formation employed by Marco Silva will likely be very similar to what marked the tenures of his predecessors, a 433 using one of the three midfielders in a primarily attacking role. Fortunately, unlike last year we won’t be shunting Gylfi Sigurdsson or Dominic Calvert-Lewin into a fake winger role, and there’s no Wayne Rooney about to run slow and miss penalties.

Instead, we’ll have pace on the outside with Theo Walcott and new man Richarlison, and Gylfi and the other attacking midfielders will be expected to support them in a counter attacking press system. In theory, this should be more balanced, though if our defense doesn’t improve from the preseason it could be the most perfect system possible for our attacking midfielders and it would make no difference.

Current Players

Gylfi Sigurdsson

Of the players covered here, this is the only one likely to have more than 2,000 league minutes this season. Gyfli is coming off of a solid World Cup where he was again the leading figure, and before he was injured at the end of last season he was starting to find better form.

Of Gylfi’s 1.5 key passes per 90 last term, 0.9 of them were from set pieces. This should be of no surprise to anyone who followed his career at Swansea. He is one of the best free kick takers on planet earth, and nothing about the open play system last season was conducive to his production in open play. Whether he was forced out wide under Ronald Koeman or placed in a system where even thinking about attacking was forbidden under Sam Allardyce (David Unsworth didn’t have a system, let’s be honest) there was just nothing that an attacking midfielder could be expected to do.

Gyfli is a player of quality, and if Silva knows what he’s doing (and mercy hope he does) then he should have a good year that improves on his four goals and three assists from 2017-2018.

Bury v Everton - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

Nikola Vlasic

I wish we could have seen more of Vlasic last season. For the intelligence he showed on the pitch and the quality he clearly has, he ran into managers who were too concerned with saving their own skins to try a young player with something to prove.

Vlasic’s versatility also did him a disservice last year, as many of the rare chances he did receive put him out wide, which he can do but is also not what he does best.

I am very curious to see what Silva does with him, and if Gylfi is unavailable whether he is first choice replacement or not. I think he’s a decent enough backup but we will need to see it on the pitch to know for sure.

Kieran Dowell

Bless him. This is what developing players is all about. I will tell you this right now, Kieran Dowell, despite being in the Championship last term, is the best homegrown midfielder we own. He’s better than Tom Davies and it’s not even close.

He had nine goals and four assists for Nottingham Forest last term, he produced two key passes per 90 and they were nearly all from open play. It is beginning to look like Dowell will remain with the first team this year and I’m quite glad of it. He is a good player and looks to have a long career in he English Premier League.

State of the Position

I think we’re doing pretty well at attacking midfielder. I like our starter in Gylfi and we have two young players that have bright futures. In some ways we could probably benefit from a more proven reserve, but doing that would require finding other places for Vlasic and Dowell to develop, and I’m not sure we have time left in the window to get all that done.