Club Focus – Everton – Moyes’ secret weapon, Magaye Gueye, is finally revealed

The 2-2 draw Everton took from their meeting with Aston Villa on Saturday is a difficult result to surmise. On the one hand, throwing away a goal lead is never a positive, but persevering and drawing level again, and doing so when so struck down by injuries meaning David Moyes was forced to hand Premier League debuts to two young strikers, is a commendable effort.

The list of midfielders and forwards Everton were forced to do without against Villa would be enough to turn many top flight managers green with envy. Mikel Arteta, Marouane Fellaini, Jack Rodwell, Tim Cahill, Victor Anichebe and Louis Saha were all missing, and Moyes was forced to name a bench where Magaye Gueye, 20, with two Carling Cup starts this season, was the most experienced outfield player. Gueye did not complete the full match on either of those occasions, but his 40-minute cameo contained enough to suggest the Frenchman will get more game time in the coming weeks, particularly since his compatriot Saha is unlikely to appear again this season. Bulky, tricky and bright, Gueye gave Everton more threat after his second-half appearance than they had for much of the first, when chances were carved out more from Villa mistakes than anything the home side did themselves. Even Leon Osman’s opening goal came from one such error, when Kyle Walker, also the culprit when Jermaine Beckford was sent clear from a misplaced header, was easily robbed by Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Gueye’s introduction and subsequent performance was enough to have some supporters wondering why the player Moyes called his “secret weapon” earlier in the season has been held back for so long. Moyes made the comments in July last year, just after Gueye’s arrival from Strasbourg for just under £1m, but until Saturday was restricted to starts against Huddersfield Town, Brentford and 20 minutes against Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup. The 20-year-old has featured for France U-21s this season but found breaking into Everton’s first XI, even when the team was desperately short of strikers, a more challenging prospect. The left-footed Gueye could not even find a place in the starting line-up on the left wing when Steven Pienaar was sold to Tottenham Hotspur, nor on the right of midfield early in the season, a problem position before Moyes committed to Seamus Coleman, the player Gueye replaced on Saturday, in that spot. Concerns Gueye may have been another import doomed to quietly disappear – the Per Kroldrup experience – were only finally dismissed when the No 19 stepped on to the Goodison Park turf on Saturday.

It is never wise to judge a player from one appearance, and certainly not an appearance that lasted roughly 40 minutes against a side battling relegation, but Everton have little choice but to field Gueye more regularly from now on. With Saha and Anichebe missing, Beckford is the club’s only senior striker, and Gueye, fellow Saturday debutant Aposlostos Vellios and Jose Baxter, the 19-year-old forward, are bound to receive more playing time than their tender years suggest. Gueye’s playing style may be reminiscent of Saha, but stepping into the experienced striker’s shoes is another matter altogether.

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