2018-19 Everton Attacking Midfielders
Barring the occasional indulgence in a generally fruitless 3-4-3 system last year, Marco Silva stuck to his guns for most of his debut campaign at Everton with his setup.
For the most part, Silva opted with a 4-2-3-1 formation which will be all too familiar with Evertonians, having seen former managers Ronald Koeman and Roberto Martínez adopt a similar approach.
And in the number ten role - in front of two sitting central midfielders but behind the lone striker - was almost always Gylfi Sigurðsson, who started 36 of Everton’s 38 league games last term and made substitute appearances in the other two.
Having been shoe-horned on the wing for much of his debut season at Goodison Park by both Koeman and Sam Allardyce, Sigurðsson enjoyed a far more productive second year having played almost entirely in his favoured position,
Nobody made more Blues appearances than their record signing last season, and Sigurðsson is likely to be just as as much of a regular this campaign, due to a lack of alternatives for his position; if nothing else.
Perhaps that’s not giving Sigurðsson enough credit, though. After all, he was Everton’s joint-top scorer last season with 14 goals, and with better finishers in front of him than Cenk Tosun, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Oumar Niasse (who managed just 12 strikes between them), he could easily have added to his seven assists.
But there’s an issue with Sigurðsson that runs deeper than his figures. In too many games last year, particularly during Everton’s abysmal mid-season run of three wins from 14 league games, he was too passive, too ineffective, too peripheral.
Silva demands a high-octane, dynamic, pressing style of play, and while Sigurðsson delivers goals and assists, you could certainly argue that, with his age - he will be 30 in September - and evident lack of pace, he is not the ideal fit for his manager.
That said, as mentioned earlier, who is going to challenge Sigurðsson for his place? Kieran Dowell has been loaned out - again - to Derby County for the season, while Nikola Vlašić sealed a permanent move to CSKA Moscow in June.
New signing Alex Iwobi has played in this position in the past, will Silva utilize his versatility? Tom Davies has been used here for his energy and quick passing, but he isn’t necessarily a creative force.
Otherwise, you’re looking at pushing Tom Davies forward, playing Bernard in a position he has played before albeit rarely, or promoting youngsters such as Dennis Adeniran, Anthony Gordon or Antony Evans, all desperately lacking first-team experience.
Sigurðsson will probably still be a mainstay, but should not be for much longer. There are more pressing matters elsewhere in the squad which need addressing now, but he is not a longer-term solution for Silva and Everton.
State of the Position
In a way, Everton are well-equipped in this area. We have a natural number ten who supplies goals and assists fairly regularly, is rarely injured and has an admirable work rate; what more could you want?
Well, more of them, probably. For all of the reasons outlined above, Everton need more than Sigurðsson - and only Sigurðsson - as an option in this area of the pitch, and while Silva may be able to get away without making this issue a top priority for now, he won’t for much longer.