Are the pundits missing the point with their assessment of Gylfi Sigurdsson?
After another inspirational performance for Iceland that secured World Cup qualification, Gylfi Sigurdsson can now focus on kick-starting his Everton career. He’s failed to register a goal or an assist in his first 6 Premier League appearances for the Merseysiders and the pundits have been out in force during the international break, putting the blame firmly at Ronald Koeman’s door.
However, while it’s clear that the Toffees have an abundance of number 10’s to choose from and that he might benefit from a change of position, could there be an even more valid reason for Sigurdssson’s ineffectiveness so far?
Well, one of the Icelandic international key strengths is his ability from dead ball situations. Last season, he scored 9 times, with 3 of them coming from the spot, while providing a total of 13 Premier League assists. He took 182 of the 196 corner kicks that the Swans were awarded and it’s significant that the Welsh outfit scored 17 times from set piece scenarios, a figure only bettered by 2 clubs – Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion.
Now, at the start of the current campaign each club was ranked by the height of their squad – Manchester City were comfortably the smallest at an average height of 1.79m. However, after the opening 7 rounds, stats from WhoScored indicate that the 21 players used by Koeman so far have an average height of 1.794m, with City’s 19 man roster scaling in at 1.806m.
Significantly, Everton are yet to score from a set piece, while Manchester United have already accumulated 6 goals in this manner.
When José Mourinho took over the Old Trafford hot-seat, it was clear that size mattered to him and his acquisitions this summer only served to emphasize this point, with new additions Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelöf all well over 6 feet tall.
However, it’s not just about the size of the squad, it’s also about how set pieces are executed. In his 3 seasons at Southampton, Koeman saw his side score 6 times in the first (only 1 side recorded fewer), 13 times in the second (when the arrival of Virgil van Dijk complemented Graziano Pellè’s physicallity) and 7 times from set pieces in his final season there (just 2 more than a woeful Sunderland side).
Now, even though Fantasy Premier League managers tend to appreciate the significance of set pieces, we are not convinced that every club manager does, so we strongly recommend that they take a good look at this excellent article from StatsBomb, highlighting the true value of set pieces and how important they were to Chelsea’s title success last season.
Exactly how much time Koeman spends practicing set pieces is anybody’s guess but even though Wayne Rooney and Leighton Baines are also more than adept at putting in ‘telling’ deliveries, such a diminutive squad would suggest that more than 15 minutes per week is needed!
Perhaps he should give Ted Knutson a call – it might just help rescue Sigurdsson from his Goodison Park turmoil!