Comment and Analysis @nicholaspwright
Gylfi Sigurdsson at Everton: What's behind his slow start?
Last Updated: 27/09/17 4:48pm
Gylfi Sigurdsson is yet to shine for Everton following his club-record move from Swansea. What's behind his early struggles? And is there a change of fortunes around the corner? Nick Wright looks at the stats ahead of the Nissan Super Sunday clash with Burnley.
Everton enjoyed their first Premier League win since the opening day of the season against Bournemouth on Saturday, but it was a difficult afternoon for Gylfi Sigurdsson. The £45m midfielder cut a peripheral figure at Goodison Park, touching the ball fewer times than either goalkeeper as he struggled to make an impression.
It was a continuation of a slow start to life at Everton. Sigurdsson marked his first Europa League appearance for the club with a stunning lob against Hajdik Split, but there have been few memorable moments in the Premier League. In five games so far, he is yet to register a goal or assist.
It's a far cry from last season, when he was the inspiration behind Swansea's escape from relegation. Sigurdsson contributed nine goals and 13 assists and ranked seventh in the Premier League for chances created. On the face of it, it was hardly surprising that Everton were so keen to sign him.
But those statistics only told part of the story. A deeper look at the data revealed that only 25 of the 80 chances he created came from open play. For context, four Everton players eclipsed that number. Defensive midfielders Gareth Barry and Idrissa Gueye matched it.
Sigurdsson is not the creative schemer some might have you believe, but what he does offer, in addition to his goalscoring ability, is outstanding delivery from set plays. With a target man such as the 6ft 4ins Fernando Llorente to aim for, few players can rival his accuracy and efficiency.
Swansea played to Sigurdsson's strengths last season, and Ronald Koeman seemed to acknowledge the need to do the same at Everton back in August. "We still need to sign a striker," he said. "Everybody knows that we lost Romelu Lukaku. We brought in Wayne Rooney, Sandro Ramírez and now Gylfi, but we still need another one to play the No 9."
Everton tried to sign Olivier Giroud from Arsenal and they were also interested in Chelsea's Diego Costa, but the deadline passed without another addition, leaving them with Sandro to start the season up front. At 5ft 9ins, the Spaniard is hardly the kind of striker suited to Sigurdsson's game. Last season in La Liga, only seven of his 92 attempts for Malaga came with his head.
As a result, Everton's approach has generally been very different to what Sigurdsson grew accustomed to at Swansea. The 28-year-old has gone from a team who made the third-most crosses in the Premier League last season to a team who have made the third-fewest in the new campaign.
Without an obvious outlet, Sigurdsson's threat is blunted. Everton are one of only five Premier League teams yet to score from a set play this season, and their club-record signing has only created two scoring opportunities from open play in 389 minutes.
Koeman's options are limited until the January transfer window opens, but in the meantime, he has attempted to find a solution in his squad. Sandro has been replaced by Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The England youth international showed his eye for goal with his double against Sunderland in the Carabao Cup, and at 6ft 2ins, he is far better suited to Sigurdsson's service than Sandro.
Indeed, it is no coincidence that Everton made more crosses against Bournemouth (24) - when Calvert-Lewin played the full 90 minutes up front - and against Tottenham (26) - when he replaced Sandro at half-time - than in any of their other games this season. Oumar Niasse, Everton's unlikely hero on Saturday, provides another option.
It augurs well for Sigurdsson, but the Bournemouth game showed there is plenty of work to do to strike up an understanding with Everton's new front men. According to Opta, he only exchanged three passes with Calvert-Lewis over the course of the 90 minutes. He didn't find Niasse once.
The sooner Sigurdsson can find his feet in his new surroundings, the sooner Everton can start climbing up the table. It has been a slow start on Merseyside for the £45m man, but giving him something to aim for could be the first step towards making the most of his ability.
Watch Everton v Burnley live on Sky Sports Premier League HD from 1.30pm on Sunday