Everton have been heavily linked with a return for Idrissa Gueye from PSG in the summer transfer window.
It’s an area of Everton’s squad that is in great need of reinforcements during the summer transfer window.
As soon as the Toffees confirmed their Premier League survival last season, attention turned to how Frank Lampard was going to improve his squad and ensure another dogfight was avoided in 2022-23.
Many supporters contended three main areas needed addressing – central defense, upfront and central midfield.
The former has already been bolstered by the arrival of James Tarkowski on a free transfer from Burnley. That already looks like savvy business from his pre-season performances.
Everton still seek another striker after Richarlison was sold to Tottenham, although Dwight McNeil has strengthened attacking options.
And the engine room may soon be improved.
As things stand, there is no one who can naturally fill the number-six role at Goodison Park after Fabian Delph’s release at the end of his contract.
In truth, Everton have lacked a proficient ball-winning midfielder since Idrissa Gueye was sold to PSG in 2019.
The Senegal international got a deserved £30 million move to the petrodollar-fuelled outfit after two excellent seasons at Goodison Park.
However, replacing him proved difficult, to say the least.
His successor, Jean-Philippe Gbamin, failed emphatically. To date, he’s made just eight Blues appearances having been plagued by injury and was shipped off to CSKA Moscow on loan during the second half of last term.
Other engine-room operators such as Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure, who were signed in 2020, aren’t of a similar ilk.
But three years on, Everton are hoping to fill Gueye’s void – by bringing him back to Merseyside.
At PSG, he won two Ligue 1 titles and helped them reach the 2020 Champions League final.
But their failure to claim Europe’s elite club competition, despite spending oodles of cash, has caused a rethink this summer.
Gueye is one of several being offloaded as new manager Christophe Galtier revamps his squad.
And although he’s now aged 32, Everton will be adding to the quality and knowledge of Lampard’s squad should the deal bear fruit.
Should Gueye return this week, his ‘second debut’ could come in Everton’s Premier League curtain-raiser against Chelsea on Saturday.
The Londoners, of course, are managed by Thomas Tuchel – who brought Gueye to PSG and is a big admirer.
Speaking after a 3-0 Champions League win over Real Madrid in September 2019, Tuchel said of Gueye’s performance: “We fought a lot to buy this player. He’s a machine. He doesn’t stop. He doesn’t stop running.
“He’s gaining back the ball a lot of times, a lot. He won a lot of balls. Against a team like Real Madrid, it’s really important. And I must say that today it was a good mix between the three – Marquinhos, Marco (Verratti) and him (Gueye). It was very very strong, with a lot of intensity.”
‘He also scores goals now’
And the former Tottenham Hotspur chief revealed how the ex-Lille midfielder increased his goalscoring threat after netting in a 4-0 win over Clermont in September.
Via Goal, Pochettino said: “Hey [Gueye] is an important player in the balance he gives the team, he also scores goals now.
“Happy because what he does during the week in training is quality. He has been with us since the start of the preparation even if he had a stop with the Covid-19 and that he lost a little time.”
While Gueye hasn’t transformed himself into a prolific goalscoring midfielder, his contributions did improve in the final third at PSG.
In 107 Everton games, he recorded four goals and five assists. That’s a goal contribution every 11.9 matches.
However, at PSG, Gueye scored seven times and created six in 111 outings – making a goal contribution every 8.5 games.
Only six teams scored fewer goals in the Premier League than Everton (45) last season.
From central midfield, they bagged a total of four times. Abdoulaye Doucoure scored twice at the start of the season, Tom Davies once and Donny van de Beek on the 5-1 final-day loss at Arsenal.
With last campaign’s top-scorer Richarlison (11) no longer at Goodison, as well as second-top scorer Andros Townsend (six) recovering from a long-term knee injury, there are goals to replace.
Gueye isn’t expected to be netting every other week. Far from it. His chief remit will be yet again becoming Everton’s police enforcer and break up play.
But contributing in the final third is something he may do more frequently than his first spell.