Everton could unleash £20m man in new role after Iliman Ndiaye transfer

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Iliman Ndiaye poses for a photo with Kevin Thelwell after signing for Everton at Goodison Park on July 01, 2024 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC)
-Credit: (Image: Tony McArdle/Everton FC)

The signing of Iliman Ndiaye will provide Sean Dyche with a bonus midfield option that could further strengthen Everton’s squad.

Ndiaye officially became the club’s third summer recruit on Wednesday after joining from Marseille in a move worth around £15m.

The deal adds further firepower to a unit that currently includes Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Beto, Youssef Chermiti and the returning Neal Maupay. But it could also offer a solution to an area that became increasingly problematic for Dyche as last season went on.

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Blues boss Dyche has stuck to his preferred 4-5-1 formation since his arrival at Goodison Park in late January of last year. The threadbare nature of his squad has left him reliant on a handful of key players to make the team function. One of those players has been Abdoulaye Doucoure, whose goals at the end of the 2022/23 season and in the first half of the most recent campaign were pivotal to protecting the club’s top-flight status - none more so than his stunning effort against Bournemouth in the final day survival-clincher in May 2023.

Doucoure has signed two contract extensions since Dyche arrived and brought him in from the cold after the player fell out with former manager Frank Lampard. The new deals have showcased his value to Dyche, something that became clear when his side embarked on a club record run without a win in the Premier League last season.

That four-month streak began when Doucoure was withdrawn with a hamstring injury in the win at Burnley - the final victory before that winless stretch began. As the Mali international struggled to recover and then suffered a second hamstring issue in quick succession, his dynamism was sorely missed during that difficult spell.

The lack of cover for Doucoure was an issue Everton needed to address and in signing Ndiaye they have picked up a natural support striker who could excel in the space behind a frontman such as Calvert-Lewin, whose future remains uncertain entering the final 12 months of his deal. He has been offered new terms.

The arrival of Ndiaye, therefore, should improve the Blues in his favoured position while also allowing Doucoure to drop deeper into central midfield, where he has spent most of his career. The 31-year-old, who signed from Watford in a £20m deal, will therefore provide competition and cover to Ndiaye while competing for a spot in the middle alongside Amadou Onana, Idrissa Gueye, James Garner and new signing Tim Iroegbunam.

That benefit to Dyche is particularly useful given the uncertainty around Onana’s future, with the Belgium international sought after by several clubs across Europe, and with the departures from the club of Andre Gomes and Lewis Warrington this summer.