The 26-year-old midfielder produced some eye-popping defensive statistics during his only season at Aston Villa, but was he really as impressive as the numbers suggest?
Everton officially announced their second senior signing of the summer on Tuesday afternoon, snapping up Idrissa Gana Gueye from Aston Villa after activating the reported £7.1 million release clause in his contract.
The 26-year-old Senegalese midfielder, who has penned a four-year deal with the Toffees, only spent one season at Villa Park following a £9 million move from Lille, but the defensive statistics he produced in his 35 Premier League appearances last term make for impressive reading.
Among top-flight players, Gana finished second behind only PFA Player of the Year nominee N’Golo Kante in both tackles (144) and interceptions (141), while also ranking third in won duels (295) and making the most ball recoveries among non-goalkeepers with 344.
|2015-16 Premier League||Position||Team||Total Tackles||Tackle Accuracy||Interceptions||Duel Won||Duel Success||Ball Recoveries||Dispossessed||Passing Accuracy||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Idrissa Gueye||MF||Aston Villa||144||75%||141||295||59.72%||344||36||86%||35||3,075|
|Claudio Yacob||MF||West Brom||108||68%||117||201||51.54%||202||21||78%||34||2,854|
Those eye-popping numbers still weren’t enough to prevent an historically awful Villa side from finishing rock bottom of the table with just 17 points, but they have prompted plenty of people to hail the former Ligue 1 standout as a superb addition to Ronald Koeman’s squad.
As impressive as they may be, though, Gana’s statistics don’t quite tell the full story. The slightly-built destroyer was undoubtedly one of Villa’s better players last season thanks to his lively, all-action performances in the centre of the park, but the aforementioned figures also helped mask a fair few flaws in his game and disguised some stretches of indifferent form.
Though always admirably energetic, his determination to try to cover every blade of grass often saw him caught out of position and left Villa’s back-four exposed at vital moments, while there were also times when he seemed to have a frustrating penchant for losing possession in dangerous areas with a reckless ball or ill-advised dribble.
His occasionally questionable decision-making was most notably on display in January’s 4-0 FA Cup defeat to Manchester City at Villa Park, when he gifted Kelechi Iheanacho the third goal with a terrible backpass before committing an awful turnover in the lead-up to the fourth.
The ex-Lille man did manage to keep his passing straightforward and efficient in most other games, but with only one goal against Wycombe Wanderers and one assist to his name, that approach clearly came at the expense of any real creativity or production in the final third.
His ability to break up play and quickly push possession forward certainly helped him stand out from most of his underperforming teammates throughout the season, but to suggest that he was entirely blameless for Villa’s problems would take some substantial revisionism.
Nevertheless, despite the limitations he showed during his time at Villa, there’s little doubt that Gana’s obvious defensive strengths could make him a vital contributor for Everton. The tough-tackling new boy may not be especially flashy or offer much offensively, but it’s easy to envisage him thriving in a more defined role with better players around him. Many of his issues last season simply stemmed from trying to do too much for a struggling side, but he could certainly provide plenty of value as a complimentary piece in an already strong line-up.
He may not be in the same class as Kante as a player but, at £7.1 million, there’s every reason to believe that the Toffees have made a bargain buy who could be every bit as effective as Victor Wanyama was for Koeman’s Southampton side.