Jean-Philippe Gbamin joined The Toffees nine months ago now, but since his arrival has played just 135 minutes of football. Them minutes being a half on the first day away at Palace and a full ninety at home to Watford on the second matchday of the season.
Shortly after the Watford game he sustained a quadriceps injury in training which was expected to keep him out for eight weeks. However, when his time on the sideline was coming to an end he suffered a setback in his rehabilitation which would result in surgery on a tendon in his right quadriceps muscle. This injury was expected to halt his return to playing for a further three months. When we finally thought that we would be seeing Gbamin in blue at the end of January, news arose that the Ivorian midfielder would need a further round of surgery, this time to clean the scar tissue on his injured right thigh.
This second set-back for Gbamin meant that it would be highly unlikely that we would see him in action again in the 19/20 season, and obviously due to unforeseen circumstances it’s looking unlikely that we are going to see any players playing for the foreseeable future. So, this should mean that when the Premier League does return that we will *might* finally get to see Gbamin play.
He will have a big expectation on him, many of us have been eagerly waiting for him to come in and hopefully solve our midfield woes, but the majority of Evertonians would not have seen Gbamin’s playing time at Mainz 05. So, what will he bring to our squad? Where will he play? Ththe remainder of this article I will delve into his Mainz 05 days and will break down the player that is Jean-Philippe Gbamin and will answer all the questions within.
I think a good place to start is to too address our current midfield. The central areas of the pitch have been an issue for Everton this season. You hear the same shouts from the fella behind you most weeks calling them every name under the sun after Schneiderlin has just turned round to pass it back to Michael Keane. We lack a player that can progressively move the move ball forward and create from midfield, also one who can protect the back line and win the ball back while doing so. The latter being an issue due to the hole left by Idrissa Gana Gueye.
People would argue that Gomes is the player that creates and keeps us ticking, but he isn’t when he is playing next to someone who offers no defensive protection (someone like Gylfi Sigurdsson) as Gomes himself is very suspect on the defensive side of things. It is particularly important that we have stability when playing Carlo Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 as the two in midfield need to have a good balance of both creativity on the ball and the ability to protect the back four.
This is the complete opposite to what we have seen when coming up against stronger sides, most notably our last outing in the Premier League against Chelsea where we saw our midfield get completely over ran by the opposition. Our midfield lacked compactness, leaving acres between the lines, as well as plenty of passing lanes for Chelsea’s defensive line to exploit.
How does Gbamin compare to our midfielders?
First of all, you’ll notice that I have used data from Gbamin’s 17/18 season at Mainz and not the data of his most recent season in Germany being the 18/19 campaign. The main reason for this is that during the 17/18 season Gbamin played as a 6 compared to his final season at Mainz where he played as more as an 8.
It is most likely that Gbamin will take up the 6 role in our midfield so by using the numbers from the season where he played that position it gives us a better review of his defensive abilities as he only averaged 1 tackle p90 and 1.6 interceptions per 90 when playing as an 8 throughout the course of the 18/19 season because he was obviously positioned higher up the pitch and had less defensive actions to partake in.
Gbamin isn’t one to go hunting for the ball much unlike Idrissa Gueye who would chase down every single ball, tackling everything that moves. Therefore, Gbamin isn’t the same type of player as Idrissa Gueye and certain Evertonians will be massively disappointed if they think that Gbamin will come in and contribute as much defensively as Gueye did.
Instead Gbamin will most likely play as a 6 who sits just in front of the back four and sweeps up loose balls to begin attacks, he is much more positionally disciplined than Gueye and this is a good asset to have when setting up in a 4-4-2. He doesn’t half love a tackle and is strong when going into a challenge averaging 2.6 tackles p90 at Mainz and winning 56% of his duels. Gbamin is also good at screening the back four and reading play to intercept passes which then presents him with the opportunity to start a counterattack for his side.
Another quality that Gbamin possesses is his ability to move the ball up the field, whether that be by taking long strides with the ball or playing progressive passes forwards, something which is really impressive about his game. This was a recurrence when I was watching him play as he often won the ball back on the edge of his box and then utilized the space ahead of him well. He completed 1.6 dribbles per 90 for Mainz which is a great amount for a 6 and this will help him towards becoming an important figure for Carlo’s 4-4-2 as we seriously lack someone who can link play between defence and attack.
You may think that his progressive passes per 90 numbers are particularly low, but you have to take into account that Mainz are particularly poor on the ball and I would expect those numbers to definitely improve for Everton. He is much more comfortable on the ball than any of our current defensive-minded midfield players and has a decent passing ability, able to spread both long and short passes through the passing lanes or spreading diagonal balls to the wide areas.
Where will Gbamin fit in?
Gbamin in the number 6 role will allow Gomes to play more freely and creatively without having to worry about his midfield partner alongside him. However, we still have not seen enough of Gomes playing in a 4-4-2 and we do not know how he will adapt to it. Gomes is poor defensively, (just look at his defensive numbers on the first graph) which will not affect us too much when playing against poor teams but when we our playing stronger sides, I don’t think he is strong enough defensively to be able to cope in a two man midfield, this is what we saw at Chelsea away.
Therefore, I think Carlo Ancelotti will have his eyes set upon a central midfielder in the next window, whenever that will be. A box-to-box midfielder to be specific, someone along the lines of Ibrahim Sangare or Boubakary Soumare. The two mentioned would add athleticism to our midfield especially when partnered with Gbamin and would give us the chance to deploy a different combination of three different players in midfield who all have a different role; Gbamin the player who provides a defensive shield, Gomes the deep-lying playmaker and then one of the two suggested who are the engine of the team.
As well, this creates solid competition in the midfield, something which we seriously lack and gives us the opportunity to switch systems to a three-man midfield if it were need.
Though Gbamin has had horrific injuries and so far his move to Everton hasn’t went as he would’ve expected, he is still only 24 and can grow to have a very important role in Carlo Ancelotti’s squad over the next few years.
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