Gomes – The Number 6 We Have Been Waiting For?

Some musings on why this role is so important to the side

Stephen Ferns 24/10/2018 39comments  |  Jump to last
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There has been a lot of confusion and conjecture on the position Andre Gomes will play for Everton, and that's just me. Everton have made this video on the ball which shows every touch Gomes had. So I thought, why not offer you some musings and try to articulate why it's so important to the side.

The first bit of play I have captured is at 4 minutes. Everton have their shape with the diamond 4 up top, the back four with the fullbacks pushing up and Gomes receiving the ball with Gueye parallel to him. The fact that the fullbacks are quickly level with play shows just how deep Gomes is. And this is the position he is to operate in. Very clearly, and you'll see more as we go, Schneiderlin's position.

Gomes has a brief to receive the ball deep and to take charge of getting it forwards.So straight off, we see what he's about. He strides forwards with the ball, Barkley-esque and draws men to him. He then lays it off to Gueye who is in acres of space, and pulls back into space ready for the return ball, before making his way forwards as the ball goes to the right flank.

The next period of play sees Gomes on defensive duty. He does well here shielding the ball and quickly recycling possession, albeit going backwards, but note the good weight of pass and how he's given the ball to Keane with opportunity to do something with it other than a hoof or ball back to the keeper. Note again though, classic number 6 position, particularly as the ball does go back to Pickford and Gomes moves back into his default position.

The next passage of play is unclear exactly what happened beforehand, but I believe it was a throw in on the right and that's why Gomes is over on the right flank. Note how he moves to receive the ball and puts himself into so much space. He gives the fullback something to think about before releasing Coleman and so gives Coleman a decent pass and room to operate. Note how he holds position ready to offer Coleman a pass and how he positions himself so he immediately has the ball inside. He's clearly always thinking of what he will do next and giving himself options. This is why he's such a good player, he's so aware of what is going on around him and he's trying to make the next move happen before he even gets the ball.

At 14.46 you will see a bit of the Gomes you will see a lot more of. There's the silky footwork, intercepting the ball and moving around the Palace attacker. A prime Gomes will do a bit more here to keep possession rather than go for the easy pass back. Then again, maybe he's a more conservative player following his Barcelona spell and will give the ball away less by trying less fancy stuff in his own half.

At 16.18, we can see he is very much still operating as a classic number 6. There's a few nice flicks and passes until we get to 39.30. Here I want to draw your attention to a master passer. Gomes is primarily a passer. Just admire that pass, an elite player like Digne will love to receive a pass like that, it's one you can knock on and accelerate after. That's a real Gomes pass.

At 45.30, this is the only real glimpse all game of the Gomes I know, and most of you don't, yet. He's attacked a loose ball and accelerated into it, told you he ain't that slow like some portrayed him to be. It's a lovely bit of close control, using his left foot to get a great pass off, whilst using his strength to hold off the tackle as he does so. Once he gets a bit fitter he will be able to get away from players in this position and carry the ball forwards, unless, of course, there is a pass on.

By 51 minutes, you have seen Gomes stepping forwards more than Gueye and almost taking up 8 type positions as Gueye sits a bit deeper ready to sweep up behind him. This is going to be the classic position in possession, Gueye tucked behind Gomes. But at 51 minutes, Gomes is back between the centre backs reminding us that he's playing the Schneiderlin role and taking the ball off the back four and brining it forwards. Note that when he does get it forwards it's another gorgeous ball to Digne. Note how Digne is given balls in the air to control, whacked at pace. If we received these passes, we'd mis-control them and make them look bad. Digne is an elite player with great touch and so Gomes treats him to passes like that, whilst players like Gueye get the ball to feet, on the deck. Passes are tailor made to the recipients.

At 51.20 sees Gomes come forwards from deep in midfield to receive the ball and drive at the Palace midfield, and then slip a brilliant pass to put Walcott on the ball in a dangerous position in the Palace box. This is very Gomes, and the type of passing that we've missed since Arteta.

At 54 minutes we see some lovely touches that remind me of the best little Spaniard I know in his pomp. At 78 minutes they spare him the indignity of running after the ball and falling over. I'm sure if they had, kopites would have made a few gifs of it, like they did recording the game live. What he said afterwards as that he was out of gas and just couldn't get after it like he thought he could and so lost his footing. It's clearly something he was capable of pulling off when he has more stamina and is something I promised you he would do when he came. Dribbling in tight spaces, over short distances, is a strength of his, but not quite lung busting 50 yard runs. Barkley he is not.

It's a great video by Everton. A performance made all the better on the wide camera angle. It's a real opportunity to study him at work and really see the position he will operate in. He's not quite fit yet. He will be better. He will be more adventurous with his passing once he learns his teammates like he knows Digne. He will play more through balls like he did for Walcott. And he will also carry the ball and showcase his ability to beat a man. He will certainly retain a position as a 6, which will mean utilising Gueye's strengths to cover for his own failings.

We need some balance though, so let's consider the bad. This was a revved up Gomes, with something to prove. What's he going to be like on a cold night in February when the opposition are kicking us up in the air? Can he maintain the intensity and drive he clearly had for the first time in a long time? And the most important question of all, is he in this for the long haul? If you want that to be a yes, then making him feel the love at games, and not getting on his back in bad games, is critical.


Reader Comments (39)

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Amit Vithlani
1 Posted 25/10/2018 at 06:20:51
Superb read, Steve. Thanks for this. We all realise that, with top quality players, they can actually perform very well in a few positions. Gomes may not be able to play wide but, if he is indeed good enough to play at 6, or perhaps 8 or a 10, we will enjoy a huge amount of tactical flexibility in midfield.

I really hope he stays fit so we can enjoy more of what we have seen. The great thing is that the opposition will now have their hands occupied – do they watch out for Richarlison, or Sigurdsson or Gomes, or Bernard?

I sense that, when Palace dropped deep in the last 10 minutes, Gomes would have flourished closer to the opposition area (he also seems to have an eye for goal with that curler just past the post). He was too knackered but, in future, I look forward to seeing his abilities in the final third.

However, this is a tough league to sustain your form. I hope he keeps his consistency levels and does not go the same way as Schneiderlin.

David Ellis
2 Posted 25/10/2018 at 09:40:20
The missing link... missing no longer!
Dean Johnson
3 Posted 25/10/2018 at 10:59:58
He's the type of player I love. An Arteta, a Redondo, a Xavi, a Pirlo. Players that just control the midfield with such consummate ease that you can't work out how they can do it and no-one else can.

What this article does is show you how to quantify that kind of player, so thanks, Stephen, for such a decent analysis.

It is this kind of player that everyone needs and, whilst I have been very happy with Silva's signings so far, this is the one that fills me with hope.

Aidan Wade
4 Posted 25/10/2018 at 12:43:08
Anybody know if we have the option to buy built in?

Tony J Williams
5 Posted 25/10/2018 at 12:46:16
Silva confirmed there was no option to buy Aidan, the same with Zouma.
Nick Armitage
6 Posted 25/10/2018 at 13:38:17
Gomes is always always looking for an option to move the ball forwards from central and this alone massively changes the dynamic of the team. With the onus on full backs and wide players at Everton over the last 10 years we may have lost a bit of perspective on how important this type of player is to top sides. He oozes quality and I am so excited about him (and so is my missus).
Bill Watson
7 Posted 25/10/2018 at 13:50:27
Gomes has that rare quality of appearing to have time on the ball.

Dean #3 sums it up perfectly in that nobody knows how they do it; they just do.

He looks a real class act!

Tony Everan
8 Posted 25/10/2018 at 14:32:24
Thanks, Steve... an interesting post.

Passing accurately to players in advanced positions is a rare gift. Gomes showed he has got some of this talent, but it has to be accepted it won't always come off. With the quality of Richarlison or Bernard and Walcott or Lookman anticipating Gomes's killer pass, we are a dangerous outfit. We should fear no team.

Colin Metcalfe
9 Posted 25/10/2018 at 15:18:51
I love the way he is over on the left and and Digne is out wide Gomes moves the ball a few yards centrally as to deliver the pass and the whole of the Palace defensive shape is shifting right but he plays a reverse ball to Coleman instead, giving him that extra bit of space.
Brent Stephens
10 Posted 25/10/2018 at 15:21:37
Nice analysis, Steve. A good read.

Gomes had me purring at the weekend more than anybody else. Gana was Man of the Match perhaps, but all I could think of on the way home was that Gomes performance.

John Raftery
11 Posted 25/10/2018 at 15:21:57
Steve, the questions you raise in your final paragraph are salient. He produced a decent first performance in which he reminded us of what we have missed since Arteta. But let us see how he performs in the coming months. If he proves he has the consistency and fitness to thrive in the Premier League, that will be good news for our season – even if it might mean he will ultimately return to Barcelona.
Jay Harris
12 Posted 25/10/2018 at 16:27:07
Great post, Steve.

The thing I like about Gomes is his ability to find space and keep it simple.

Unlike Schneiderlin and, to an extent, Tom Davies, he does not get flustered or pressurised and it was so refreshing to see a player always looking for that forward pass.

As others have said, let's hope he can keep that up consistently.

Jim Harrison
13 Posted 25/10/2018 at 17:19:06
A very small sample size but, from what I saw, his range of passing surpassed anything we currently have.
Alasdair Mackay
14 Posted 25/10/2018 at 17:43:03
We don't have an option to buy built in, but that doesn't mean we won't try and buy him.

I think he is enjoying his time here.

It is important to understand that this is the kind of role Tom Davies can learn. He can become this type of player. The best thing Gomes can do is rub off on Tom, that will save us a few bob, for sure.

Paul Birmingham
15 Posted 25/10/2018 at 22:04:37
Early days but a great sense of presence, calm and an eye for a pass.

Interesting to see what happens on Sunday but he looks like a key player in the midfield engine-room, and I see him being potentially one of the first players on the team sheet, if fit.

He's got vision, and a calmness and style, yes he's a very good player.

Early days but if he can play like that and regularly and he buys into the club, the City and UK lifestyle, then perhaps there's a chance he could be bought.

For now, let's hope he kicks on and the team kicks on. I'm looking forward to Sunday's match.

Tony Everan
16 Posted 25/10/2018 at 22:38:52
What about Mina?

Will he have to wait for an injury? A formation change? I wonder what Silva has in mind for him.

Keane or Zouma cannot be dropped, it would be folly to disrupt a successful central defensive partnership. When you find one, it is the bedrock of a successful team. Keane and Zouma have been formidable.

Something that Mina can bring is the aerial threat from set-pieces. Someone posted on Sunday that we have scored 1 goal from about 145 corners. Is that true? Mina will address that stat. Also Pogba, Fellaini, Lukaku, Smalling will be aerially testing our defence to the max on Sunday. If we go one up, we may see Mina late on in the match to combat that threat.

Bill Gienapp
17 Posted 25/10/2018 at 23:01:47
Tony – well, at the very least, Mina will have to play against Chelsea, because Zouma will be ineligible. And since it's probably not the wisest move to hand a player their debut at Stamford Bridge, it would probably make sense to start him the week before, home against Brighton. If he plays well, then I have no idea what Silva does going forward.
Laurie Hartley
18 Posted 26/10/2018 at 04:41:45
One of the things I like most about this player is that he passes the ball in front of the intended recipient (as opposed to straight at him). Is that an old fashioned comment?

There is real competition for places now in all positions except goalkeeper which is going to take me some time to get used to.

Stan Schofield
19 Posted 26/10/2018 at 09:39:52
So far, he looks a fine, elegant player, entertaining to watch, good sense of those around him, ability to make killer passes. If this is maintained, and we manage to keep him, he'll be in the mould of Arteta, Dobson, and Harvey.
Sam Hoare
20 Posted 26/10/2018 at 09:53:51
Laurie @18, I was about to say exactly the same thing! It's very simple but, for a long time, I feel we have had players in the middle who pass straight to feet whereas Gomes has the accuracy to often aim in front of his team-mates.

It makes a huge difference as it means we are always moving forwards. Receiving players don't have to take a touch to get the ball out of their feet as they are already moving forwards. Simple but effective way to make our transitions quicker!

It's been a long time since we've had a real ballplayer in the middle and it's lovely to see. Hope he keeps up the high standard he showed vs Palace. Won't be long till our opposition are closing him down quickly and denying him space.

Danny Broderick
21 Posted 26/10/2018 at 12:48:55
The big difference I noted between Gomes and Schneiderlin was that Gomes got himself in positions to receive the ball again if he shifted it sideways. Schneiderlin doesn't do this. He doesn't want the ball back, he doesn't want to dictate play, whereas Gomes does.

That is the benefit he offers – joining up the play in the middle of the pitch. Oh, and he spreads the play and had a shot also! It's early days but, all-in-all, he looks a much more complete player than Schneiderlin.

Tony J Williams
22 Posted 26/10/2018 at 13:03:44
"One of the things I like most about this player is that he passes the ball in front of the intended recipient (as opposed to straight at him). Is that an old-fashioned comment?"

Amen, the number of times I screamed for a player to pass into space and not to or behind when I used to go the game left me hoarse.

Gomes looks comfortable with the ball and doesn't panic and get rid when someone comes near him. Yes, he might get caught sometimes but he moves the ball and stops the pointless "to me, to you, to me" 5-yard passes.

Good debut, hope it continues.

Dave Abrahams
23 Posted 26/10/2018 at 13:35:17
Laurie (18), asking players to pass the ball in front of the receiving player (so he doesn't have to break his stride) might be an old-fashioned notion but it is absolutely the correct way to pass a ball.
John Pierce
24 Posted 26/10/2018 at 14:19:14
The lad has pass appreciation; weight, height, speed & direction.

He makes it easy for the player to continue forward with the ball rather that stop and come back.

Very decent quality that.

Rob Halligan
25 Posted 26/10/2018 at 15:35:30
Slightly off topic, but still talking about Gomes. Has anyone seen the story about Gomes, Bernard, Digne and Zouma, who were on a tour of the city, on a bus with Everton fans, stopping off at various points of interest to Everton. They were having photos taken by the Dixie Dean status when Gomes noticed a young fan in just an Everton shirt feeling the cold. Gomes immediately took the young fan to the megastore and bought him an Everton hoodie and scarf. Nice touch by Gomes.

Reminded me of a story I heard a few years back from a Liverpool fan who knew Phil Thompson. The fan was organising a charity fund raising event and wanted a signed Liverpool shirt to auction. He asked Thompson if he could arrange it for him? Thompson said "Sure, just go to the store and buy a shirt and I'll take it in and get it signed." Needless to say, Thompson was told to shove it where the sun don't shine.

Jeff Armstrong
26 Posted 26/10/2018 at 16:25:33
Tony J,

Amen indeed, when the hell did coaches forget to to teach players to pass in front rather than “at” their teammates? It's infuriating to watch and seems to be the norm.

Also, whilst on the pet hates bandwagon, when did every free kick have to become quickly taken affair that does a couple of triangles and ends up back on our 18-yard line?? Losing any advantage the original free-kick gave us???

Last one – and it's long been a moan of mine with successive managers – why do we pull EVERBODY back for corners and free kicks???? Silva is currently doing it constantly, even when we've now got pace to break.

I mean what advantage is Bernard at corners? What's he gonna do? Head someone in the kneecap? No; put him on the half-way line with Walcott and scare the shit out of defenders who are otherwise scaring the shit out of us with our zonal marking... Rant over.

Mike Gaynes
27 Posted 26/10/2018 at 17:20:46
Good writeup, Steve, and cheers to the club for providing this video. Yes, it's only one game but that was definitely the Gomes I know from Barca -- elegant is the word Stan used, and I think it's appropriate. Whether passing out of the back or carrying it himself, he's class. Better off the dribble and stronger on the ball than anyone we've had in a long time. He'll contribute to the attack without ever getting into the box himself.

My cautionary note is that against a better side than Palace, he'll be expected to provide defensive cover as well, and that's where we'll see more of the downside. He was largely adrift defensively in this game, and against a top side with quality midfielders he won't get away with it.

But as several here have said, he is clearly a vast improvement on Schneiderlin. I'm looking forward to seeing more.

David Connor
28 Posted 26/10/2018 at 17:58:48
This lad is class. It was his first game after a long injury and he looked like he slotted right in and it was his first start for his new club, albeit on loan. Let's hope his injury is behind him and he stays fit because, on his first showing, he already looks one of, if not our best midfielder. Just wait till he is match-fit.
Derek Knox
29 Posted 26/10/2018 at 20:13:59
Echoing fellow TW'ers, I thank you, Steve, for the article, which is very enlightening, and for the time and effort you have obviously put in to compile it.

I have rarely known a player to have such an impact on fans after only 82 minutes of play; most players take a while to settle in, or some have a few nightmare performances before getting it right.

Like many have said, I hope he is the missing 'Arteta-esque' player we have craved for so long. Sunday's game will hopefully tell us more, not only about André Gomes but the team as a unit.

Robert Leigh
30 Posted 27/10/2018 at 08:45:17
I share the optimism above; Gomes appears to be a real "player's player" in that he'll help others play better.

Already in the video he's making people move forward, even Gana (who looked surprised!).

And as others have said, Gomes clearly didn't enjoy his time at Barca, so every chance we can sign him.

If not, it's a shame but we know what we need.

Steve Ferns
31 Posted 27/10/2018 at 09:41:15
Thanks for the feedback guys.

Mike, interesting you say never get into the box, because this is the Gomes I will always remember from his time at Benfica, when he scored a world class goal in the O Classico, against Porto.

The young Gomes often got into the box. And you can see just how elegant he is, quick feet, lovely flick, and sublime finish. All this happened in the biggest game of the season.

Steve Ferns
32 Posted 27/10/2018 at 09:57:20
That goal looks like he scored the 3rd (and killer goal) and that's why the fans go crazy. Not so. This was the Cup semi-final, second leg. Porto won the first 1-0. It was therefore 2-2 on aggregate with Porto leading on away goals. Therefore, Gomes's goal was actually a late winner.

A really big goal in the scheme of things. I just think context should always be considered as sometimes (especially in this case) it can elevate a goal.

Mike Gaynes
33 Posted 27/10/2018 at 15:21:10
Sublime indeed, Steve. And memorable.

But that was more than four years and 160 games ago, and he has never done anything remotely like that since. All three of the goals he scored in his two seasons (78 games) at Barca were one-touch finishes off late runs into the box. I rarely saw him even dribble into the box – he generally treated the penalty-box like it had a barbed-wire fence around it.

YouTube highlights do show him somewhat more attack-minded at Valencia. Maybe he can recover that aggression with Silva's encouragement and give us a goal or two.

Steve Ferns
34 Posted 27/10/2018 at 15:59:55
Mike, Morgan Schneiderlin was a box to box midfielder who got forwards. He scored 15 goals for Southampton but since then, just two. One for us, and one for Man Utd.

As you allude to players change. Schneiderlin can't recover his earlier style because his mindset has changed. People became more conservative as they get older. So do footballers. This is why players usually drift back the pitch as they get older.

Gomes was coached into playing deeper, and clearly Silva sees him as the Number 6. The number 6 is very important to Silva let's revisit his comments in June:

"Depending the profile of my No 6, I can play one and two or I can play two and one behind the striker depending on the profile of our No 6"

Here he is saying he can play one and two:

Gk
RB CB CB LB
DM
MC MC
RF CF LW

or two and one

Gk
RB CB CB LB
DM DM
AMC
RF CF LF

It is the latter he has used almost exclusively, particularly starting with it in every game.

Silva also highlighted his desire for pressing at Everton: "I really like a pressure team and if you can do that for as long as possible in a match then that will cause problems for our opponent"

What he said about Schneiderlin makes very interesting reading. Remember this is Marco Silva in June, before he had really worked with Schneiderlin:

“If we play Schneiderlin, he is a player who likes to play more alone which gives more freedom to the other two midfielders and this is the system I use more. But my model, first of all, the team need to work all together and, if we have a clean sheet, then everything will start from there."

So clearly whilst Silva has used the second of the two formations above, it is the top one he envisaged. Schneiderlin playing alone. That is, as a single defensive midfielder. Giving freedom to the other two midfielders, that is letting them get forwards more than defend.

He was very clear on this. Yet, he has not tried it once. Why not? Well it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out he's changed his opinion on Schneiderlin having worked closely with him. It's also not as if he got burnt in pre-season. He clearly saw something in training and decided he simply couldn't risk it.

I think that it was this that led Silva to decide to go for Gomes. I don't believe that Gomes is going to be the player that Silva described. I don't believe Gueye is the player that Silva described, nor that Silva will feel that either. I also think that Sigurdsson has impressed Silva enough to decide that the second formation is better for this group of players. Gylfi further up the pitch, and two deeper to balance it out.

Gueye doesn't fit in as a single defensive midfielder for the simple reason that he is not static enough. His greatest strength and ability is the way he gets around the pitch, making tackles, intercepting and breaking up play. If Gueye does this, say he's on the right flank, he can simply be passed around and the opposition can surge through a hole he's left to get at the back four. This makes the defence look poor, and it makes us concede goals. Therefore, to accommodate Sigurdsson and Gueye we have to go with the second formation.

Gomes naturally fits into the first formation as one of the midfielders, especially given a bit more freedom to get forwards. However, he is needed deeper alongside Gueye. To sit in when Gueye goes hunting, and to do what Gueye cannot and take the ball off the defence and to move it quickly up the pitch. It seems the defensive transformation of Gomes at Barca (and before that at Valencia) means that he is actually perfect to slot into the "Xavi Alonso" role alongside Gueye.

Mike Gaynes
35 Posted 27/10/2018 at 16:34:37
Interesting theory, Steve, and I generally agree, although I would bet that it's what Silva saw of Schneiderlin in the games, rather than in training, that dissuaded him (thank goodness) from that previous idea.

The problem with Gomes in the Xabi Alonso role is that he can't handle the defensive responsibilities. He can intercept passes, but he doesn't mark well, and when he went in for a tackle at Barca, he did so without regard for his own positioning or where he was on the field. In four La Liga seasons he had more yellow cards than goals/assists combined, mainly because he was always out of defensive position and scrambling to recover by sticking a leg in. Barca didn't sour on him just because he lost confidence in attack, but also because he kept gifting free kicks around the top of the box.

He was defensively adrift against Palace last weekend as well, but it didn't cause problems because, well, it was Palace. But he won't be going up against Milivojevic and Kouyate tomorrow.

My own feeling about Gomes is that he's more of a #8 than a #6, but let's see if he proves me wrong tomorrow.

Steve Ferns
36 Posted 27/10/2018 at 17:30:22
Agreed Mike, he is far more of a 8 than a 6. But Alonso didn't tackle. Mascherano did for him. He was simply a deep lying playmaker. There's no reason that if Gomes has full commitment, and the signs are that off the pitch he is far more committed to the cause than any new loan signing I've ever seen before, then he can make a success of it.
Mike Gaynes
37 Posted 27/10/2018 at 18:09:59
True, Steve, but Alonso was also positionally flawless and always in the right position to mark runners and track back with them when necessary. Not so with Gomes.

So I'm gonna make two predictions right now. One is that Gomes loves it here (and we love him) and he signs a permanent deal. Two is that by the end of the season, it'll be Sigurdsson playing the deep-lying #6 role with Gomes in front of him playing either #8 or #10, depending on how Bernard works out.

We'll see.

Gary Edwards
38 Posted 29/10/2018 at 09:17:25
Gomes has certainly impressed in the first 2 games he's played for us after an extended period of inactivity. I'm also mindful that Leicester City and Manchester Utd have good midfields. I also like his approach & attitude; future skipper material.
Don Alexander
39 Posted 30/10/2018 at 00:27:21
To me, Gomes possesses skills that all midfielders should have, namely accurate passing in a mostly forwards direction, an ability to shoot and hit the target more often than not and, if not a strong tackler (and he ain't), an ability to at least occupy the space that the advancing opponent least wants him to occupy.

From the three hours I've seen of him, he looks suited to the part but he doesn't have the physicality as a midfielder that all the trophy-winning teams this century have displayed in at least one of their midfielders. That's not his fault either but I really hope M&M are seeking a midfield "beast" to make real the Champions League qualification Moshiri has set as his goal.

That maybe at the expense of whomever, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Davies, McCarthy, Gomes et al, but frankly none of them would be signed by the Skybabe clubs as first-teamers right now.

That's why M&M deserve at least two more windows to make their play.

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