Why Idrissa Gueye has Been One of the Premier League’s Best Defensive Midfielders This Season

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Idrissa Gueye of Everton goes past Granit Xhaka of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on December 13, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

When Everton signed Idrissa Gueye, there was a lot of intrigue surrounding the £7 million purchase. After Steve Walsh’s success with finding N’Golo Kanté, many believed that Gueye would follow in his footsteps. So far this season, Gueye has proved he has been more than worth the money Everton paid for him.

Through the first 20 games, Gueye has actually outperformed Kanté, and every other defensive midfielder, according to number of tackles and interceptions.

Displaying prem league defensive mids comparison through 20 games.png

Most teams have multiple defensive midfielders. However, these midfielders were selected due to their positioning on the field and minutes played.

All Statistics from Whoscored.com

Gueye Compared with other Defensive Midfielders

Gueye has played the joint-sixth most minutes of any defensive midfielder in the league this season. By using per 90 statistics, that playing time bias is eliminated. Also, some midfielders playing in front of weaker defences or behind midfields which get overrun more often may have more opportunities to make tackles and interceptions. Adjusting the statistic to this averages means that each player gets enough opportunities to make that bias not affect the statistics.

With regard to tackles, Gueye has made the most of anyone by almost 20 tackles. When examining per 90 tackles, Gueye has a significant lead. He is nine interceptions off Ander Herrera, the Premier League leader. When examining per 90 interceptions, Gueye is about one interception per 90 off the leaders. This difference is not as much as the difference in per 90 tackles between Gueye and the other defensive midfielders.

When examining tackles and interceptions together per 90, Gueye is still the leader. As the leader in two out of the three categories, Gueye has clearly been the most effective defensive midfielder in the Premier League this season. Overall, he has been a great signing for Steve Walsh and Ronald Koeman

How Gueye Can Improve

Even though Gueye has been magnificent, he still can improve. Everton recently signed Morgan Schneiderlin who, since 2012, has made more tackles and interceptions than any other Premier League player. Most of his success came at Southampton, where he played with Koeman.

He is younger and more athletic than Gareth Barry, but has more experience than Tom Davies. He will certainly help Gueye provide a shield of the back four, and by taking some off the burden of his shoulders will help the Senegalese improve greatly, even if this will mean that his tackling and interception statistics won’t be quite as staggering. Overall, Everton will reap the benefits of signing Scheiderlin.

Steve Walsh has been known for making shrewd signings, but other than Gueye, they were few and far between in the summer. This winter, Everton must be canny in the inflated transfer market. Ishak Belfodil could turn out to be another of Walsh’s masterstrokes. Depending on the transfer fee, Everton may have a steal on their hands. As long as they keep this work up and investing in their youth, they should begin to challenge the top teams.

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