This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
In a fairly uncharacteristic moment from Idrissa Gueye, the Everton man was the hero for his country thanks to a bright piece of attacking play.
You wouldn’t associate the 29-year-old with any form of goalscoring instinct seeing as he failed to find the back of the net in 33 Premier League appearances last term, but he came up trumps for Senegal against Benin to send them into the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals.
Significantly, this wasn’t just a one-off burst of attacking intent from Gueye – he has been far more productive in the final third for his country in just a handful of games this summer than he was at Everton all last season.
The former Aston Villa man had just two assists to show for his efforts last term, whereas he has already grabbed a goal and an assist in four games at AFCON and matched his entire tally for goal involvements from 2018/19.
What’s different? For Senegal, Gueye plays in a midfield three, whereas he plays in a two alongside Andre Gomes for the Toffees.
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In Aliou Cissé’s 4-3-3 system, the 5 foot 9 midfielder seems to be afforded more freedom going forward, as he has Stoke ace Badou Ndiaye and Henri Saivet alongside him to help out defensively – at Everton, he has to do the bulk of the work alone as Gomes isn’t as focused on the defensive side of the game – his 1.4 tackles per game compared to Gueye’s 4.3 in the league last term proves that.
However, Marco Silva can take a look at Gueye’s impressive attacking performances for Senegal this summer and take solace in the fact that he too can use a three-man midfield and get a different type of performance from Gueye.
The former Hull man could throw in Morgan Schneiderlin or Tom Davies alongside Gueye and Gomes for games where he feels he needs to take it to the opposition a bit more than usual, and he can take comfort in seeing just how effective the Senegal international is at getting forward when he has more help in midfield.
Silva may not want to change too much too soon, but Gueye’s versatile performances prove that the Toffees boss has new options available to him if he wants to use them.