Much has been made about the strengths and weaknesses in Andre Gomes’ game since Everton officially re-signed the Portguese midfielder last week, so it’s worth considering what he is, what he isn’t, and what Everton needs him to do.
Consider the following (the graphic more so than the analysis) -
I like Andre Gomes - he’s certainly a lot, lot better than some of the midfielders we’ve witnessed in the past few seasons.— Toffee Analysis (@ToffeeAnalysis) June 16, 2019
But, at least creatively, he’s not the only midfielder we are going to have to sign this summer. pic.twitter.com/4E7GjTNJMW
So here’s what we know about Gomes — he completes a lot of his passes, and keeps that consistency in forward passing as well as backward and sideways. He’s comfortable hitting the ball a relatively long way, and in everything else, his production is average or below.
Consider another radar, this time from Statsbomb.
Andre Gomes 18/19 against league average. Make of it what you will. pic.twitter.com/BfYganPZn2— Grace Robertson ♀️⚧♀️ (@GraceOnFootball) June 26, 2019
Gomes completes his passes at about an average rate, progresses the ball via the pass at about an average rate, is an above average presser, but below average winner of the ball.
In both of these quick analyses, you’re reading a whole lot of “average” with a fair bit of “lacks creativity.”
It is from this first-level reading of the numbers, data, and analytics that criticism of Gomes — and of Everton supporters for their love of it — seems to stem. Part of the Evertonian love affair with Gomes no-doubt has to do with off-the-field components.
I mean, just look at this guy’s face. Look at him. How can you not love him?
But the substantive love of Gomes comes from a real place too — one that recognizes how well he fits into the Everton midfield given its other pieces and Marco Silva’s tactics.
The primary reason Gomes works so well in the Everton midfield is the presence of Idrissa Gana Gueye. Gana, in case you haven’t heard, is pretty good!
Consider the below on Gana, which re-iterates the need for critical thinking when analyzing raw numbers and graphics.
Gueye’s defensive numbers are immaculate, but anything other than that isn’t that impressive - how there is a strange case in some of his passing stats.— Toffee Analysis (@ToffeeAnalysis) June 17, 2019
Seems he can make effective passes from deep, but once in the Final 3rd... pic.twitter.com/JJNCzQ3KNh
Gana is actually completing slightly more progressive passes than Andre Gomes per 90 minutes. Does that mean Idrissa is a better passer than Andre?
No — it isn’t all that close, and you and I both know that. So what gives on these numbers then? Consider the below from Statsbomb — the numbers are from only about a third of the way through the season, but they’re representative of Gana’s entire season.
The dude wins the ball a ton — basically better than any other player in the world, save maybe N’Golo Kante. The result? He has the ball a lot and is therefore able to pass it a lot more!
With all that in mind, let’s recall what Everton’s preferred style of play is.
Marco Silva wants his team to press high up the pitch, look to win the ball in the attacking and middle thirds, and strike forward as quickly as possible once the ball is won in dangerous areas. Often times, this means quickly working the ball to the wide area to allow the wingers or full-backs to do the quick progressive work.
It’s for this reason that Gomes is such a perfect foil for Gana.
- He’s a solid, willing presser of the ball. Even if he doesn’t necessarily win the ball himself, he forces opponents into the vacuum cleaner that is Idrissa Gueye.
- He’s comfortable in possession and capable of playing a progressive pass when needed, even if he’s not elite at it.
- His dribbling ability serves as another tool for Everton to work quickly from defense to offense, especially given Gana’s general creative shortcomings.
Safe to say Everton centre-mid’s aren’t one for feeding the final third. pic.twitter.com/FhzvGJFhEL— Toffee Analysis (@ToffeeAnalysis) June 16, 2019
Much has been made of Gomes’ relatively low goals and assists totals, and his xG (expected goals) and xA (expected assists) numbers which are also lower than the average creative midfielder. However, there is an argument to be made that for defensive-minded midfielders xGBuildup, which is basically xGChain with the final passer (‘xA’) and shooter (‘xG’) not included, where xGChain is the combined xG of all chances in which you have possession of the ball during the build up.
Now even though Andre’s xGBuildup isn’t amazing (0.26 per 90 min, just above average), but it’s less concerning than his raw xA (0.03 per 90 min, about 25th percentile). At the end of the day, neither Gomes nor Gana are in the lineup to be creative players. Their roles are to win the ball in the midfield and quickly work it to Gylfi Sigurdsson or the Toffees’ bevy of talented wide players to do most of the true progressive and creative work.
I'm excited about Andre Gomes.— Everton Graphs (@EvertonGraphs) June 26, 2019
He's a dominant passer against weaker opposition, and kept the ball well against the top three.
Interestingly, he shoots a LOT more against better teams. It's a pretty small sample though...#Everton pic.twitter.com/VB5iX79BPv
However — can you make the argument that Everton needs another central midfielder to serve as a backup to Gylfi Sigurdsson now that Nikola Vlasic has departed? Absolutely. If the Icelander got hit by a bus tomorrow, I have no idea what the club’s plan in the attacking third would be.
And can you make the argument that Everton should have another deep-lying midfielder more talented in the art of progressing the ball through a deep defensive block for matches against conservative opponents? Absolutely!
I think Morgan Schneiderlin might be a better option against very defense-oriented opponents than Gana is, but it’s certainly a discussion that can be had. But the idea that, based the on-paper creative / progressive abilities of Gana and Gomes, that Everton has a midfield that doesn’t work well together or needs additional pieces for its regular starting XI is absurd.
Marco Silva knows the way he wants his team to play, and he has a pair of midfielders well-equipped to do that specific job. It was good enough to beat a host of top-six clubs at the end of last season — there’s no reason to think it still cannot be so.